211 of 211 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Well, stating that this is the best mid-range camcorder is quite a claim, but to be fair, it's not my assertion - that award was just bestowed on the M40 this week by CamcorderInfo.com ...and by mid-range, they mean video cameras priced between $500 and $1000. What makes this camera an even better deal is that you can get all three versions (M400, M40, and M41) for under $500.
Keep in mind that most reviewers of camcorders look at specs and then make a subjective judgment about the quality of the video. The CamcorderInfo.com folks (with whom I am not affiliated) do extensive lab-based testing to measure, for example, color accuracy, noise, and low-light performance in controlled and consistent conditions. The fact that they rate this camera so highly is high praise indeed. They also have a great 11 page review on the M40 if you are interested.
So why did they like this camera so much? Put simply, its sensor. This camera's sensor is larger and more optimized for HD video than the competition. Most of those other cameras use a quarter inch sensor, while this camera has one that is one-third of an inch size. When you calculate sensor area, that is a heck of a difference. Canon has also optimized the hardware and software to focus this sensor on HD resolution...so it does it well. Many other cameras not only have a smaller sensor, they integrate it so it can record HD *and* higher than HD resolution still pictures. Canon did not do so here. Yes, you can take still photos with the camera, but at full HD resolution only (1920×1080) - not larger. Canon appears to have decided to not sacrifice video quality to get a higher megapixel rating for still pictures. Hey, you are buying a *video* camera...right? :)
So what are they then doing with such a large sensor? Grabbing more light, suppressing visual noise, and getting better color accuracy. Even more impressive is that this camera has the exact same sensor as CamcorderInfo's "price be darned" consumer camcorder of the year - Canon Vixia HF G10 ($1499). Yes, buy an M400, M40, or M41 and you will get a sensor that is in the best consumer video camera of the year.
So what do you sacrifice? Primarily, 60p. This camera shoots at 60i...with modes for 30p and 24p. Some other mid-range cameras shoot at 60p. Does that make them better? Well, that depends on your usage. If filming indoors is important to you (e.g., birthday parties, school plays, indoor sports), then 60p of dark video isn't all that useful...and bright 60i video with accurate colors cannot be beat. Personally, I have filmed my daughter's gymnastics in a moderately dark gym and even with the fast movement, the video was jaw-dropping.
You also give up the aforementioned high-resolution still pictures, but frankly, I think that's a gimmick. The zoom is also limited to 10x...which is another concession Canon made to otherwise bring you a top notch video camera at this price. For me, 10x is overkill even from the cheap seats at my daughter's events, but your mileage my vary.
Frankly, I think that this camera is getting discounted because many consumers purchase either based on price alone or by looking at specs. Specs like 60p jump off the page. The fact that this camera's sensor is so superior to much of the competition is a far more subtle advantage...that perhaps may hurt the sales of this line. Well, hey, that's good news for you. When I first started looking at the M41, it was $799. I just picked it up for $499...and an M40 for $449. Awesome stuff. Get a camera that beats the rest of the mid-range and its price is below the mid-range. :)
So what's not to like?
1) The software. You get two packages - a video transfer utility and a video browser/editor that also includes a transfer capability. You can only choose to install one. I opted for the video browser/editor, which installed fine on Windows 7 Pro 64bit, but then would not work....and I am apparently not the lone ranger. Thus, I uninstalled and just installed the transfer utility...which just moves the files. It's also not very configurable. Of course, you can also just connect the camera to your PC and drag the files off yourself, but that's a bit more work...and the transfer utility does a good job of keeping track of what you have already copied off.
This software issue really disappointed me, but to be frank, the software included with most cameras is pretty bad. Sony sells a fantastic video editor - Sony Vegas (multiple editions), but does not bundle it with the Sony cameras that I considered. In fact, the software that they do bundle is apparently also not compatible with 64 bit OSes...so factor in that you will probably need to buy editing software if you want to play around with the video. Actually, the M400/40/41 line allows you to cut videos, introduce fades, and add titles in the camera, but I'd prefer to do it on my PC with more capable software. No worries, you have your choice of a wide range of very capable video editing packages for well under 100 beans...and most of them trump anything that would ever be bundled with a camera.
2) The battery...which is very small. In fact, it is significantly physically smaller than the recessed cavity into which it fits. I smell Canon's marketing and sales departments at work with this decision. Oh well, the included battery works well for my use (i.e., 60 to 90 mins of filming), but I could easily see how someone else may feel compelled to get a second larger capacity battery.
3) The lens...which maxes at 10x, but some folks claim suffers from vignetting at greater than 5x when the aperture is wide open. It's also not very wide. You can address some of these issues with an aftermarket wide angle lens (bulky) and by playing with F stops in manual mode when you are shooting against a monochromatic background, but Canon could have done better. That said, these issues don't really bother me and the camera's low-light capabilities are perfect for me...so I am in a forgiving mood. ;)
4) The LCD screen...which is resistive (not capacitive), so it takes either a firm push or you must use a fingernail. On the positive side, you can use it while wearing gloves. Also a plus - it's bright. Brighter than the LCD on the more expensive G10, albeit with fewer pixels.
5) The Menus...which are not very intuitive. I had to read the manual cover to cover to see what the camera could do...and now that I know, I'll plod through menus looking for what I need. Amazing, because the menus on my Canon 40D are awesome.
So, if I didn't scare you away...and low-light is a big deal to you...which model should you get?
That depends. If you have plenty of high-speed SD cards, the M400 may be the ticket. It has no internal memory. Instead, it has two SD card slots and supports relay recording between the cards. Actually, all three models have two such slots...and support relay recording. The M40 adds 16 GB of internal memory and the M41 ups that to 32 GB and gives you a viewfinder, which is nice for sunny days.
I originally bought the M40 since I didn't want to find myself in the stands and realize that I didn't have an SD card in the camera, but then returned it and picked up the M41 since my wife seemed to miss having a viewfinder. That said, I hear many folks who have the viewfinder still end up using the LCD most of the time. Whatever you choose, you essentially get the same camera otherwise...with the awesome sensor from the HF G10.
On the other hand, if you shoot almost exclusively fast moving action in decent lighting conditions, you may be better served by a camera that supports 60p and/or suffers less from vignetting...but check the CamcorderInfo web site to see how each camera does shooting video rather than relying on specs alone.
So why 5 stars with these warts? Because I just don't see any other option anywhere near this price that will give you such a fantastic low-light sensor and the resultant high-quality video. It's the current mid-range low-light king...and I feel that it's only fair to rate it based on the current competition in the price range. If low-light capabilities are not a priority for you, then I would drop the rating to 4 stars. If you were familiar with the term vignetting before this review and look for it in the corners of your pictures and videos, you probably would rate lower.
BTW, if you *do* decide to buy either an M400, M40, or M41, do yourself a favor and switch the camera off AUTO mode. AUTO mode is locked to 1440x1080 at 7 Mbps...and this baby can do 1920x1080 at all the way up to 24 Mbps...but not in AUTO mode. Many other useful menu items are hidden in AUTO mode...like the one that changes the powered IS from "push and hold" to "toggle on/off".
255 of 257 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Well, I have had this camcorder now for a week and tested it in many lighting situations and locations and I must say I'm very impressed. Outside filming my niece and dogs in the yard the videos are crisp viewed on my 40" Sony HD LCD TV. I would give it a 5 out of 5. In my eyes, looks broadcast quality. Indoors with varying light was also impressive although I did notice a little graininess. I'd give low light a 4 star rating. Being as anal as I am, I did a little test. Take it for what it's worth.
Now I am the most anal person you will probably meet and maybe set my expectations too high at times, but I started flipping through some of the HD channels on t.v. to do a little comparison and noticed too a bit of graininess if I stood right up to the television. Now I know nobody watches t.v from three inches away, I just wanted to compare what was being broadcasted to what I was able to film with this camera. I must say, this camera's footage is nearly spot on in many instances (TNT in HD, FOX in HD, USA in HD) I'd like to believe I have a good signal from my cable provider into my television, so in overall video quality, I'd give this camera 5 stars.
So why not 5 stars overall for this camera? Well, maybe I'm used to my iphone's touchscreen too much, but the touchscreen on the viewfinder drives me nuts. I might be old school (34 years old), but I really prefer actual buttons to navigate menus and such. I used to own a Canon Vixia HF100 and really enjoyed the navigation stick and buttons. I would say I have average sized hands, and find it a bit hard to get the right menu selection with my finger at times.
Now I did go with the 16gb version and have no regrets though I can't ever see myself opting for using its internal storage. I like to be able to pop out my sd card and just watch my videos on my PS3 or computer for editing instantly. Don't like the hassle of transferring images via usb. Also, wanted a black body as opposed to the silver one. Yes, I'm that picky. LOL. I like the fact it has two sd card slots, so storage should never be an issue.
I also like that canon took a chance on just making it lower megapixel for ideal HD recording. Let's be honest, if you want to take pictures, use a real camera. I'd much rather have better video quality and sacrifice still photos. I know a lot of people complain about this, but it seems to make sense. You're getting "larger" pixels for higher quality low light recording. It's also nice that Canon included the HD CMOS Pro censor in this model. The same one found in the higher end G10, saving you quite a few bucks.
Overall, I'm very pleased with my purchase and feel Canon has put out a very competitive product with great results. I've already bought a lens hood and extended battery to compliment the camera. (Stock battery is too small and leaves a noticeable gap at the edge. A BP819 should fit the bill nicely. I hope this review was helpful. I know a lot of reviewers commented on its other features, so that is why I omitted some of the other points. Thanks for reading.
135 of 137 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Don't listen to the negative comments. People always have something to complain about and their own preferences. However, this Camcorder has the lowest lux rating I've seen. I have the Canon HF M41. A viewfinder is a must have for me. I looked at more expensive camcorders. They all have their strong points, but for me, getting good footage in low light is the first priority. All those nice features the other brands have are great but not a must have. The low light of this camcorder is nothing short of Amazing. It has the same sensor as the XF105, a $4300 professional camcorder, . If someone tells you the difference is small and not a big deal, don't believe them. How many times have you been disappointed with low light grainy recordings ? I bought a $39 shoe mounted light and works beautifully. This is my 5th camcorder. My first was the original Hi8 from sony. That one and the 3 that followed gave me grainy low light video. We all hate grainy video. Now I don't have to deal with that anymore.
If you're on a budget and the viewfinder isn't a must have then consider the M400 or M41. The M400 has no built in memory. Personally, I would find myself ready to shoot and realize I have no SD card with me. Who took my SD card??? follow me...
One bonus to having the M4xx series over the G10 is the M4xx camcorders have a lower resolution LCD but it's brighter than the G10. I have no problem with viewing the LCD in direct sunlight. Go to the avsforum website. Camcorder section under "other interest". Look for the "Canon HF M4xx Owner's Thread" or the G10...Owner's Thread. good info and links to uploaded videos made with these camcorders.
Some of my video in low light situations actually looks brighter on screen then it did for real. and not grainy. I bought a $13 wide angle lens on amazon. It works well but don't zoom with it.
Another important issue for people new to SD cards and speed requirements, A class 4 card is fast enough. Many people confuse MB with Mb. 1MB = 8Mb. this camcorder records up to 24Mbps which equals only 3MBps. I've seen many posts with people using the wrong terms. B=byte / b=bit.
I spent too much time researching this camcorder. Hopefully, My comments will help.
56 of 56 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
I have had the Canon HV20 HD camcorder and other MiniDV based camcorders before that. I wanted to finally make the jump to a non-tape based camcorder, and this new sensor with reported better low light capabilities seemed to fit. So I bought the Canon M41 (all three M4XXX models have this new sensor), and wow am I impressed with my first footage. I will post a more detailed review at some point, but I wanted anybody who is considering an upgrade from something like the HV20 to know that based on my personal experience and looking back at comparison footage that this M41 is definitely better. The colors are more accurate, and the overall video quality justs looks much nicer when comparing footage. And of course without even using any of the alternate frame rate options to improve the low light capability any further, the default out of the box low light performance on 60i was clearly much better than my HV20. And as expected I am already in love with the tapeless workflow. Due to the straight mapping of the sensor size to the HD video (which means no additional compression or processing needed to 1920X1080), it is not going to take high resolution still pictures (I use my DSLR for that and don't care). The touchscreen could be higher resolution, and the menu interface is a little awkward as some have mentioned. But video quality was my #1 priority with a new camcorder, and Canon sure seemed to get it right with my initial testing. So definitely buy this camcorder if video quality matters to you.
4/29/11 UPDATE: Well after using this camcorder on vacation for almost a full week I love it even more. The HD video at full 1080p is really incredible quality, with every video quality attribute superior to my old HV20 HD camcorder from what I can tell. And let me say that the low light performance really has to be seen to be believed for a consumer camcorder at this price point, as I have taken some video in some pretty challenging low light situations that looks just amazing with barely a hint of any noise and accurate colors being maintained. I am sure that there are other nice camcorders, but this meets and exceeds everything that I hoped for.
82 of 89 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
I bought the M41 as an upgrade to the lower end R10. Low light image quality is impressive, and overall image quality is excellent. However, I have experienced an image flaw called vignetting that is annoying. Vignetting is a darkening of the image corners or even a tunnel effect of image darkening. With some zoom lenses for SLR cameras, vignetting usually occurs at wide angle and wide apertures. With my M41, vignetting starts to become visible at about 50% tele and gets worse at max tele. Scenes with a nice blue sky create the most visible effect. It's not being caused by a filter, etc. Canon tech support didn't seem knowledgeable. Any one else experience vignetting with this camcorder? The touch screen is irritating and not very response except for "touch and track" and "touch for exposure". It's not nearly as responsive as a smartphone touch screen. Also, the included battery is a low powered version that leaves a hole in the back of the camera. Spend $70 for a full battery. Too much telephoto and not enough wide angle. More wide angle can be obtained with a heavy and bulky adapter. Full manual (you need it) is only on the CD. Canon- Charge $2.00 more and give me a printed pocket size manual... this is a $800 item after all. Sent the M41 to Canon for a check. They reported that all was normal and upgraded the firmware...hmmm! Shooting in the aperture mode at f 5.6 or f 8 (bright light) will reduce the vignetting. Overall, a mixed bag. This could have been a great camcorder... improve the usability of the touch screen, fix the vignetting issue, more wide angle even if telephoto is somewhat less, provide a full size battery and compact printed manual.