Canon VIXIA HF M31
Digital cameras are becoming more popular as their optics and internal technologies see fresh enhancements, including the ability to record HD video without any special attachments. The video quality of these recent cameras is decent for people that enjoy doing home videos or amateur videos outdoors. Professionals may want to pass if they need better video quality or better zooming capabilities. Now Canon has a new midrange offering known as the Canon VIXIA HF M31 and it is designed to succeed the HF20 introduced last year.
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Design and Interface
The Canon VIXIA HF M31 retains most of the design elements that were present in the older HF20 model. The LED light is slightly moved closer to the lens while the AF sensor, built-in stereo microphone, and built-in flash stay in the same spots which is good. Although it uses the exact same lens as the HF20, a built-in cover is present which automatically opens or closes.
The uncluttered design of the HF20 is also improved, replacing the mode dial with a simpler switch that toggles between Dual Shot mode and manual mode. Also, found on the right side is a large comfortable hand strap for easy handling. The back side reveals a convenient record button. The DC-input and battery back is found there as well.
The mic and other inputs are moved to the left side which can be seen when the 2.7-inch LCD display door is open. The rest of the controls on-screen display controls are present, along with the card slot that accepts SD and SDHC formats. The display panel is much simpler with only the Powered IS button present as the 2.7-inch display now uses a touchscreen interface. The Powered IS button also doubles as the web upload button when playback mode is activated. The top of the camera has the same familiar controls with a new addition of the video snap button which allows 4-second clips to be taken. Overall, the M31 is lightweight and compact for beginner users to enjoy.
The M31 features a 15x HD video lens and a 3.89-megapixel CMOS Image Sensor. These lens specifications allows users to take high definition 1080p video or images with good saturation levels even in bright light. The color accuracy is average, but it performs a lot better than other HD cameras when it comes to sharpness and motion performance. This is because of an improvement to the Dynamic SuperRange Optical Image Stabilization technology which compensates for subtle hand movements. With the Powered IS button being held on the LCD display, better stability is achieved. The noise levels are a bit high as well, but it isn’t a problem in low light situations.
The DIGIC DV III image processor plays a role in nicely reproducing blue and purple tones. Like the other new VIXIA cameras, the maximum 24 Mbps recording is supported to make the most out of the AVCHD format. In addition to the support for SD and SDHC card formats, the M31 also has 32 GB of flash memory built into the device.
The speed and accuracy of the auto focus system is also improved, thanks to the Instant AF feature where an external sensor is used alongside Canon’s usual auto focus system. This allows fast moving subjects to be captured accurately when the surroundings are very bright or very dark. A Focus Assist feature provides a nice professional touch when focusing on key subjects.
“I purchased my Canon Vixia M31 several weeks ago and was drawn to it because it records in HD and has a 32 GB built in memory. I understand the only difference from the M30 is that it only has 8 GB of memory. Anyway, this is not my first camcorder, so I opted to explore the features of the M31 before reading the manual and discovered it was quite easy to operate at a glance. Overall, the M31 is excellent for me. The video footage I have taken thus far is awesome! There are five different recording modes. The length of storage and battery life depends on which one you use. Based on my needs, I do not think I’ll be using anything lower than the FXP mode. The camera is so small it is easy to handle especially when using the zoom feature. I decided to use the zoom feature to capture the Ken Burns effect (gives the effect that a still shot is moving). So, for practice I took a still shot and zoomed in real close, then started zooming out until the entire photo was in view. It worked like a charm and I was able to steady my hand throughout the entire process.” – C.Mitchell(Washington, DC)
The face detection technologies are significantly improved in the M31, allowing up to 35 faces to be tracked even if they are turned sideways or downwards. The feature works by continuously tracking a user-selected face serving as the main subject while displaying 8 other detection frames to show that natural and accurate exposure enhancements will be applied. The main face will be searchable so individual frames of that face can be displayed in thumbnails. The compact camcorder can also be waterproof to 40 meters if the optional WP-V2 case is purchased.
The Canon VIXIA HF M31 has some advanced features that don’t reach too far in the professional domain which explains the reasonable $700 price tag. Owners of older Canon camcorder models will appreciate the increase in image quality and touch screen interface which adds nicely to the comfortable compact design that made the VIXIA series so popular.
More user reviews:
• “The size is perfect for my reasonably good sized hands, it fits in a small canon digital camera case I had bought some time back for a still camera. Touch screen seems very good… not too sensitive and doesn’t require a lot of pressure to work…
One of the main reasons I bought this model is because I can “downgrade” the recorded HDV recordings (from the internal memory) to standard definition video for editing. I produce/edit a local television show on public access and they broadcast in standard definition. I can record in a quality HD mode, save what I want in HD, then download directly from the camera to my computer in SD mode. Now, I haven’t done this yet… BUT I will keep you posted.
I was also told by a Canon representative that I can simply transfer the video files from the internal memory of the camera to my netbook by simply using Program Manager (or similar) in Windows. Just drag and drop from the camera to the PC. This will really help on long trips, and will save me from having to buy multiple SDHC cards once the 32mb internal memory is full.” – S.Burton(USA)
• “Like most of the latest HD cameras for consumers, the camera is small and fits perfectly in my hand. It’s very light when matched with the battery that comes with it and even with the BP-827 battery, it’s still light enough to barely notice.
Speaking of batteries, the battery that comes with the M31, when turned on after a fresh recharge, shows 98minutes of battery time. The actual “real world” time you’ll get will be dependent upon how much your zooming, re-playing recordings and overall “on” time. One could expect to have, safely, 60 minutes of recording time. With that said, the quality of the video is spectacular, especially when in a well lit environment or outdoors.
The 15X zoom is pretty impressive. I also like how the zoom speed varies depending on how much pressure is applied to the control. I can make it slowly zoom in/out or quickly…full control. Definitely a plus. Overall, I’m very happy with this camera and would highly recommend it!!” – Dennis R. Birchenough(USA)
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