Canon VIXIA HF M400
Any devices that are capable of recording video generally cost more than the ordinary cameras. But various manufacturers including Canon brought video recording to the mainstream by offering basic capabilities in just about all of their digital cameras. These devices are inexpensive but the recording quality leaves much to be desired and finding an inexpensive device that records high quality video can be tough. But Canon came up with an approach to feature a digital camcorder that has no internal memory at all to minimize costs. It started with the Canon VIXIA HF200 followed by the M300 model. An SD card is required so the device can save any recordings for use on the TV or computer. The new 2011 model, which the Canon VIXIA HF M400, is no different but it offers some attractive improvements that may cause buyers to stay away from the older and cheaper models and get the M400 instead.
Design and Interface
The Canon VIXIA HF M400 is grey unlike the other black models in the new 2011 M-series. But it still sticks to the winning formula in keeping the device both compact and comfortable. It weighs nearly 15 ounces and the hand strap is large enough for anybody to get a firm grip for steady long-term recording.
This is no surprise for M300 users but the LCD Touch Panel display has a size increase with a 3.0-inch screen to work with. This is a nice addition since most of the controls have moved onscreen when the M300 was introduced. The slight resolution increase to 230,000 dots also means that previewing videos and images look better. The Powered IS button is still available as a separate button if some added stability is needed and all of the familiar controls are found on the top of the camcorder. Rather than using a mode dial which is confusing to some, the M400 offers a switch that toggles between the Dual Shot and manual modes. The power button doubles as a function that closes the lens so a separate cover isn’t needed for protection.
Although the Canon VIXIA HF M400 does not feature any form of internal memory like the M300, the M400 offers some great improvements in the storage category. It finally joins its M40 and M41 siblings in offering two available SD card slots instead of one. This means that anyone who has a couple of spare low-capacity SD cards can finally make use of both of them.
The Relay Recording technology makes sure that both cards are utilized with the hassle. It works by automatically storing excess data while recording if the first SD card is full and no recording data is lost during the transition. If the available memory serves as a limitation, users can purchase high-capacity SDXC cards starting from 64 GB to 2 TB. Previous generation models do not support SDXC making this a nifty improvement even in the long run when SDXC prices will go down. The lack of a hard disk means lower power consumption because it doesn’t have any moving parts inside and it also makes the data safer and quicker to transfer to other storage mediums. In fact, the M400 consumes less power than its predecessor.
The included image stabilization technologies make this compact camcorder very accessible for first time users. All the user needs to do is hold down the Powered IS button located near the touchscreen to activate the Dynamic SuperRange Optical Image Stabilization feature. This way, the camcorder is negates the effects of handshake which is generally very common when using telephoto settings.
It still uses the DIGIC DV III image processor which is nice for low light situations but the real improvement lies on the image sensor. The M400 is one of the first devices in the M-series to use the HD CMOS PRO image sensor and it offers a wide dynamic range and makes the low-light performance even better.
The new sensor may not solve the color accuracy issue completely, but the Smart Auto feature can at least analyze the scene and apply some optimizations that may improve the overall look. Results show nicely when the face recognition features come into play. The Cinema-Look Filters is one of the newer additions that allow more creative options in shooting video. Combined with the Story Creator and Touch Decoration, movie making is a lot more fun.
Canon has this habit of making their products $100 more expensive than their predecessors. The M400 is no exception but $649 price tag of the M400 means about $50 savings to those that have spare SD cards and do not mind the storage limitations.
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