Canon HF M41 - A Review... of Sorts at

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Old June 26th, 2011, 10:14 AM   #1
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Canon HF M41 - A Review... of Sorts

Picked up a Canon HF-M41 a couple days ago, and it's not too bad for a consumer-grade camcorder. I'm a bit disappointed that Canon downgraded some of the camera's features. For instance, last year's HF-S200 is roughly comparable to the HF- M41 in terms of general features and capability. However, where the HF-S200 has a 3.5", 921,000 pixel LCD display, the HF-M41 has only a 3", 230,000 pixel display. In actual practice, though, the lower-res LCD display is quite sufficient for focusing and framing and is reasonably bright.

The HF-M41 also lacks a manual focus wheel - although I never found the focus wheel on the HF-S200 I had to be all that useful or easy to use, anyway. Native 24p is also gone, replaced by 24p recorded in a 60i wrapper. 30p is also recorded in a 60i wrapper.

One additional feature not found on the HF-S200 is the inclusion of a switchable 'cinema' mode. Although I prefer to colour-correct and create a cinematic look in post-production, the switchable cinema mode will be a useful feature for users who want to add a cinematic look to their videos quickly and easily.

The LANC terminal that was found on last year's HF-S200 is missing from the HF-M41. Fear not. Canon will gladly sell you a RA-V1 LANC adapter that fits into the mini advanced shoe found on top of the camera, although this will mean not being able to attach an external mic using the mini advanced shoe.

On the other hand, the HF-M41 features several improvements that make it a better camera than the HF-S200. The first is the HD CMOS Pro sensor which is a full third of an inch in size, where the HF-S200 sensor was only 1/2.88". In the couple of days I've had the HF-M41, I've noticed a significant jump in image quality compared with the HF-S200. Colours are snappier and overall images are a bit brighter. I understand that part of the increase in quality is due to the fact that the lens in the HF-M41 is better than what was found in last year's crop of Canon consumer-level camcorders.

The viewfinder is a welcome inclusion, although it's so small that it's really not usable for critical focus. As a means of framing or composing shots, it's fine, and I find using it over the fold-out LCD display makes framing certain kinds of shots easier. I'm looking forward to testing the camera in low light conditions to see how well the HD CMOS Pro sensor performs in such situations.

Audio quality is much improved as well. When I had a HF-S200, I found I could not plug in a Rode Video Mic without getting quite a bit of hiss. With the HF-M41, I can connect a Rode Video Mic and get very little hiss - although a slight hum can be heard on silent parts. Fortunately, I can eliminate the hum in post using Sony Vegas, and the end result is somewhat better sound.

When the camera's internal mics are used, sound quality is quite good. I have the feeling that in addition to improving the overall sound using better circuitry, Canon added some better quality microphone capsules. One other reason why the audio seems to be better is that the mics are are mounted underneath the lens, and face directly forward. This way, the sound pick up is direct rather than indirect, which was the case with the HF-S200 mics, which were mounted on the sides of the camera body.

Finally, the HF-M41 comes with 32GB of onboard memory and two SD Card slots that allow you to increase memory capacity and recording time. For me, this is a real bonus because I'll never have to worry about forgetting to take along a memory card when I'm heading out to shoot some video!

One major issue I have with the camera is the design of the mini advanced shoe well that is found on top of the camera. Last year, I bought an adapter so I could mount a Rode Video Mic on the HF-S200 that I owned. On the HF-M41, the well is too short length-wise to allow me to use the same adapter. As nobody seems to be making an adapter that fits the HF-M41, I'm off to the hardware store today to get a file so I can shorten the adapter base so it fits (I hope!)

It's hard to say whether the design of the well was an oversight on Canon's part or something deliberately done in an effort to motivate consumers to buy their proprietary (and fairly expensive) DM-100 and SM-V1 mics that are designed to connect directly to the camera through the mini advanced shoe.

So far, the HF-M41 seems to be a fairly decent consumer-grade camcorder, although it also appears to be a mix of gains and losses compared with previous HF-series offerings from Canon. I suspect that the removal of some features was an attempt by Canon to offer better image quality, sound, memory capacity, and a built-in viewfinder and still be able to sell the camera at a price that's palatable to its target market.

As much as I'm finding the camera enjoyable to use, it's a stop-gap to tide me over until I can afford a camera with more capability - possibly something like an XA10 or Sony's new HXR-NX70 - sometime next year.
Steve Struthers is offline   Reply

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