Canon Vixia HF M300
The Canon Vixia HF M300 is part of Canon’s latest mid-range lineup of camcorders in 2010. As the direct successors to the HF2x series last year, they are not by any means a revamp of its previous mid-range series, only featuring a new control interface that sees Canon join the touch screen party as latecomers. Nevertheless, the HF M300 still packs a brilliant blend of automatic features with high-def quality recording at a relatively low price.
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Design and Interface
The HF M300’s portability is accentuated by its lightweight body, weighing just 380g with memory card and battery in tow. The adjustable grip belt provided also comes in handy to allow firm handling of the camcorder. Although manufactured in a plastic body, the camcorder is assuredly well-built and solid enough to bear its fair share of knocks. This has much to do with the device’s compactness, diminutive yet not too small to grip firmly.
The most significant upgrade from the HF2x series would be the move from mini joysticks to a 2.7″ Touch Panel LCD Screen. Canon being the latest advents of touch screen technology probably tells as the interface is slightly cumbersome to navigate and will take some getting used to. While the menus are set out in a straightforward enough form, the greatest discomfort lies in its scrolling conception. The relatively small 2.7” display makes selection difficult when you are moving through the options as your view will be blocked by your scrolling hand. Responsiveness issues could also be another point for improvement on the next series of camcorders Canon lays out.
While menu selections are slightly let down by the less than satisfactory touch screen controls, it does afford users a new Touch and Track tracking feature. Touching a subject as displayed on the LCD display will allow you to get precise focus and exposure on said subject as it moves across the panel. It is also when using this feature that the high screen resolution is utilized to its maximum. The sharp detail displayed on the 211,000-dot display allows efficient playback monitoring, especially without an electronic viewfinder. Genuine Canon Face Detection is also transplanted from the Canon digital cameras, tracking up to 35 faces automatically, although only 9 of those can be displayed in detection frames at one time.
“I have used a Panasonic combo digital camcorder/camera for the past 5 years and wanted to upgrade to HD. Its amazing what 5 years of technology creep will do. This Canon produces superior HD 16X9 at about 1/4 the size and about 1/3 the price of my old Panasonic. It is easier to use, and it is much easier to load video into my computer. No wires, no moving parts, just plug the memory card into the computer and go. In short, very happy with the Canon.” – D.Miller (Virginia,USA)
The HF M300 comes with the proprietary Genuine Canon HD Video Lens that offers up to 15x optical zoom and maxes out at 300x of digital zoom. The lens is protected by a built-in cover that closes when the camcorder is not in use. Zoom performance is pleasing with the Dynamic SuperRange Optical Image Stabilizer correcting motion throughout the entire zoom range. The zoom switch is conveniently located at the top of the camcorder where your forefinger would rest, making it easy to regulate a steady rate. Additionally, there is a Powered IS mode that can be activated by pressing the Powered IS button on the LCD. This is for shooting at the telephoto end of the zoom range, where even the smallest hand-shake movements are compensated for. The Powered IS button also doubles up as the web upload button when in playback mode.
Other Canon proprietary imaging technologies that remain from the previous series include the 3.89-megapixel HD CMOS Image Sensor equipped with the DIGIC DV III Image Processor which aids in the reproduction of color tones for both videos and photos. Video captured at the Full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 is accurate in detail with colors solid, safe for the overly saturated reds and purples. For optimal results, video should be recorded at the 24 Mbps bitrate, the better to utilize the full potential of the AVCHD format. Recording with the HF M300 can also be made with 3 different frame rates, including the 24p and 30p progressive mode, as well as the 60i interlaced mode. Both the 24p and 30p modes convert to 60i frame rates before saving to the removable storage.
Improvements in the point-and-shoot capabilities of the HF M300 are made with the intuitive automatic mode called Smart Auto. With the aid of the DIGIC DV III Image Processor, the camcorder automatically selects the optimum settings for the scene by first detecting the brightness, color, movement and distance of the intended subject. There is a physical switch to toggle between auto and manual modes. Menu settings are blocked from user access when in full auto mode, however, only lifted when the auto mode is. Even so, settings determined before entering the Smart Auto mode will remain. The Dual Shot function allows you to seamlessly switch between taking photos and videos. Still images, which are taken at a resolution of 3-megapixels, can also be captured from recorded footage by simply pushing the shutter button to capture a photo to the removable memory card.
Overall video recording quality of the HF M300 is satisfactory in its price class. Recording both indoors and in dimly-lit environments is boosted by the built-in flash. The wind filter could be better though, to minimize unwanted noise. Canon’s Instant AutoFocus mode is highly competent in differentiating the subject from the background, thus adjusting the focus and exposure of the subject to the environment accordingly. A nifty feature of the HF M300 is the Advanced Video Snapshot function that allows you to make a 2, 4 or 8 second highlights reel from already recorded footage. Audio tracks from an external MP3 player can also be played along with the Video Snapshot for added customization.
Canon has also simplified the video sharing process. There is a HD-to-SD Down-Conversion feature on the bundled Pixela Software which converts a copy of your recorded footage to a standard definition file while preserving the original HD file. This makes it more conducive for uploading and editing purposes as an average-performance PC would suffice in managing the video files. Mac users may also be encouraged by the HF M300’s compatibility with iMovie.
The camcorders in the HF M3x series essentially offer the same features, with the differences allayed to internal memory storage capacities. The HF M31 includes 32GB of internal flash memory whereas the HF M30 includes 8GB of the same. The HF M300 however, is completely reliant on the external SD/SDHC memory cards, with video recorded directly to the cards stored. As such, the HF M300 would appear to be more suited to the cost-efficient buyers, with the SD/SDHC cards’ support up to 32GB of HD footage. That equates to nearly 3 hours of footage in the MXP mode (24 Mbps), more than enough to meet the needs of the average camcorder enthusiast. Using removable storage also purportedly increases the shock resistance of the device, lowering the chances of data loss due to damages in the moving parts of the camcorder.
The Canon HF M300 is feature-rich and offers a portable device with excellent recording quality in its price range. Touch screen maneuvering could warrant some improvements though, especially when using in conjunction with manual modes to adjust the controls. Compared to the HF M30 and HF M31, the M300 represents greater value for money as the internal memory can easily be compensated with a higher capacity memory card. Useful features like the tracking and down-conversion functions make this a competitive buy at the consumer level, a simple device for point-and-shoot purposes.
Average User Rating:
“I’ve only had this for a couple of days, but I wanted to try out different scenarios that I might be working with. I bought this to have video documentation of my older kids in sports and special occasions as well as of my soon to be born son. The camera is feature rich with so many options, that I an not likely to use many of them. Having enjoyed the quality of Canon in my DSLR, this seemed like the logical choice.
Image stabilization – fantastic stabilization! Every video turns out smooth as silk with canon’s stability feature
Color – It seems to be very true to life with natural colors
HD video – with today’s HD tvs, it would be a shame to have anything else
Zoom – large enough to get close from a moderate distance and the variable speed is nice too. Better than some, not as good as others.
Mini hot shoe – great for adding accessories such as a flash, though I don’t have one yet
light weight – I can’t believe this is only 11oz!
Lens ring threads – Filters/protective lenses can be added” – Sam(IA,USA)
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