Canon Legria HF M406
First impressions of this camcorder are favourable. Apart from an SD card (there's no internal memory) this comes very well equipped with all the leads required to get this hooked up to any output you may need (RGB, HBMI and USB). I used an 8GB Class 2 SDHC card and after initialisation the camera recommended that I keep the quality settings low to ensure smooth recording, advice I promptly ignored so far without any apparent issues.
My 8Gb card records around 43 minutes of footage at the highest quality setting. The two memory card slots is a good idea if you've got a large number of low capacity cards dotted around, and it's possible to copy files without having to hook it up to a PC. Long recordings will be split into 2Gb files on the card so if you want to have a single large file then a binary copy at the command prompt will work around this without any skips in between clips (e.g. copy /b file1.mts+file2.mts+file3.mts joined_file.mts).
If you want to do a little more than just point and shoot then you're going to have to navigate some fairly deep menus, and the interface isn't as slick as you would perhaps like when you're in the heat of capturing a potential prize moment. The screen, while touch sensitive is not very responsive, so look out if you've got big hands as you'll be hitting a lot of the wrong menu options.
The video quality is excellent, especially when viewed back on a decent HD display, and the sound capture is also well detailed. There is some slight motion blur evident on fast action shots although the image stabilisation does a good job of ensuring any panning shots are smooth and even and the optics handle low light conditions better than any other camcorder I've owned.
Overall this is an excellent piece of kit and with an impatient family the 2-3 second time from off to shooting footage is a definite plus. There's also the added bonus of a mini remote control which was a very pleasant surprise. So, a thumbs up from me!
As a static camera for eg making rant-to-camera Youtube videos this is wonderful overkill but provides lush raw footage to work with. It even comes with a discrete remote control to make this even easier. This is probably the one reason I would ever use the selection of effects overlays for video, giving, for instance, a sepia effect. Honestly that's the sort of thing, along with the editing options, which are more appropriate for post-processing software on your PC or MAC. If you want that instagram effect, you'd be using your iPhone not a more technically advanced camcorder. But it's there if you want it.
When used in the field, so to speak, the only thing I really dislike about it is the use of an on-screen photo button. With you right hand wrapped in a typical camcorder death grip, the zoom and record buttons fall into place perfectly, though there is a temptation to rest your thumb in the recess where the battery lies but that makes it unusable one-handed. But if you want to take a still photo you have to touch the view screen - however any number of still photos can potentially be extracted from the 1080P video in post-processing mode so it's not a great problem.
There is no carrying bag provided, not even a more robust lens cover, which seems a bit cheap. Nor is there a standalone charger. This aside it's a worthy piece of kit with a smooth and responsive 10X optical zoom that sets it in a class apart from typical mobile phone video.
I've been transferring all my old Sony DCR HC-53 camcorder Mini DVTapes that's basic 4:3 PAL 640×480 resolution and I couldn't help but notice video, sound and handling (e.g. smoother zoom) is noticeably superior via a dedicated video camera, compared to using the likes of my Canon SX50 HS stills camera in video mode. So I took Which's advice and went for their best buy hi-def camcorder below £1,000, as now our two kids are older teenagers the camcorder isn't so essential (the kids now scatter when a camera comes out). Which tested the sibling Canon Legria HF M41, which is identical to this Legria M406, except that this M406 has no on-board memory whereas the M41 has 32Gb built in (and an EVF). So you have to buy a fast SD memory card to use in one of the two available SD slots. Buying a 64Gb SDHC class 10 card is far cheaper than the difference in model prices, so I opted for this better value M406 camcorder at around £500. Although not compact by pocket camcorder standards, the camcorder is small enough for easy carrying. It weighs 407g and is 8.0x7.0x13.5 cm. My old low-def model was perhaps better proportioned for one hand, but this Canon is still easy to hold comfortably. The supplied BP-808 battery lasts 2hrs 10mins, so you need spares or the optional larger BP-82 battery that lasts 6hrs 55mins.
This Canon M406 camcorder has a large 2.37 megapixel 1/3inch CMOS sensor, two SDXC/SDHC/SD card slots (no memory supplied), and optical image stabilisation, plus an integrated stereo microphone and an accessory shoe. The maximum recording time on a 64GB SD card is 24hrs 30mins (LP mode, which isn't bad quality - at highest XP resolution you only get around a fifth of the recording time and it takes 5x the file space). The 64Gb SD card isn't supplied, I use a £60 SanDisk 64GB Extreme HD Video Class 10 card (must be Class 4 or faster for XP video). The camera image's `effective Pixels' are 2.07 megapixels 16:9 widescreen. The camcorder has manual adjustment of Brightness, Sharpen, Colour Depth and Backlight. Video colour and image quality is pretty good in bright light, and it takes good movies in the gloom (down to 1.3 lux, with 'Auto Gain Control limit adjustment'). There's no inbuilt video light illuminator. The autofocus works very well (far better than my stills camera video mode), and there's a manual focus option (and focus assist magnification area), and face recognition, plus manual white balance control, and a selection of 11 scene modes, with creative filters and exposure control options - all great to see as I use the still camera equivalents. There are 5 video recording quality modes: XP: 1920x1080, 24Mbps, FXP: 1920x1080, 17Mbps, XP+: 1440x1080, 12Mbps; SP: 1440x1080, 7Mbps; and LP: 1440x1080, 5Mbps.
Audio quality of the HF M406s recordings is generally good (for a HD camcorder, ie. far superior to a compact stills camera and my old MiniDV camcorder). There's an internal stereo microphone, and you can also attach a £150 Canon external microphone but only via the accessory shoe as there's no microphone jack (the more expensive M41 has a microphone jack as well). It can record to 5.1ch surround sound via the optional Canon SM-V1 microphone. Sound features include a zoom-microphone feature, switchable microphone sensitivity and a wind-noise filter. Being HiDef, the camcorder has a 10x optical zoom lens, not the 40x optical megazoom of my old my low-def MiniDV Tape camcorder, but it works smoothly and is fine for family video. While the zoom lens has optical image stabilisation, Which say it just does an average job of limiting the effects of shaky hands (it's still miles better than my old un-stabilised camcorder, so I find it fine - I have steady hands). The more expensive Canon M41 has a 260,000 dots electronic viewfinder (EVF) at the rear, whereas this HF M406 has no EVF. My old camcorder had a viewfinder, although I often used the pull out screen in preference as you can lift the camera up to get a better view and you get fed up constantly seeing the world through a viewfinder (although I didn't need reading glasses with the viewfinder as I can adjust it to focus onto my eye). However the EVF is a rare feature on cheaper camcorders, but if it's a feature you value you have to pay more for the 32Gb M41 model with the EVF. This Canon M406 only has the 3 inch 230,000 dots LCD touchscreen, which is bright and clear, and ideal for reviewing video and minor video editing (there's a built in speaker to hear sound on replay). The camera can also take 2MP still images of reasonable quality and you can manually set exposure and shutter-speed, although having dSLR and megazoom bridge cameras to hand I never use the option (the kids like it though). In price this Canon HF M406 is bottom of a range of three Canon M camcorders with no built-in storage (the more expensive Canon Ms have 32Gb M41 with mic jack & EVF, or 16Gb storage M46 no EVF - buy one of them in preference if it's the same price as the M406). There's also a self-timer and remote control option.
In tests PC Pro magazine preferred a Panasonic camcorder, saying the identical Canon M41 is "an excellent camcorder at a reasonable price, but we prefer the greater flexibility of the slightly cheaper Panasonic HDC-SD90". However Which marked down the Panasonic HDC-SD90 as having "No built-in memory, awkward handling, average sound" and rated the Canon Legria HF M series a bit higher, so I opted for this Canon M406 (no doubt I would have been just as happy with either). Which only marked down the Canon Ms for poor LCD display visibility in bright light. They praised the Canon for very good video image quality, fast autofocus, compact, and 10x zoom - all of which I have to agree with. Anyway I'm very happy with my new Canon Legria HF M406 digital camcorder and being solid state I'm sure it will last longer than my old video tape versions. It's also very easy to pass the video on to the PC via USB2 and then onto DVD (I use Adobe Premiere Elements 10 as it just shunts the video to the hard drive ready to burn, and I don't tend to edit much as I'm careful when filming). Being HD video it fills up the DVDs & hard drives very quickly, so I tend to use the lower quality SP mode at the moment. Fortunately I don't take so much video now the kids are older. Our flatscreen TV is 32" and the video at SP looks OK on that - I guess I'm comparing it to my old MiniDV's poor video quality. The camera also has a mini-HDMI out for TV viewing. Amazon didn't have the camera in stock, so I got it cheaply elsewhere. Overall I rate the camcorder 4.5*.
on 7 September 2012
Having purchased this camcorder for a fantastic price, Out of the box with all leads,(HD Lead discs) & (Remote). Battery charged turned on the unit & a quick set up of time & date away we went. First thing I like about the canon is the grip & feel, having tried other models they tend not to feel as comfortable. sat in the garden & did a little filming on FXP mode, took it in to the lounge, plugged it into our 42"HD Tv & the picture quality is amazing. Having owned a slightly less canon product HR 106 Also Hd the vast difference is the cmos pro sensor, touch screen with a touch pen included. Menus are simple to follow & even a touch of creativity all thrown in.
I have read many reviews & I disagree with the picture quality these are amazing results that I have seen. No lens noise when zooming great not to see hand shake when held steady, lens cover that opens when switching on the machine.
Its a lovely size me big hands!!!! but the wife has also tried it & she was happy with the feel & weight aprox 400 gms Battery included.
Battery states that it will last 119 minutes & it does last a fair while, 2 sd card slots is also ideal I use the Sandisk extreme 32gb class 10 & a Fuji 16gb class 10 & they both work just fine. Auto focus is pretty responsive & I have not see any evidence of the lens being sluggish. Obviously if you zoom in too far then any of these products will go out of focus!!!!
10x optical zoom is plenty for garden parties or close up. 40 x digital works great around & upto 100 mtr mark. then 200 x digital for on & beyond is plenty for everything.
Added options of an External mic. Mic port at the top of the camcorder. or wide angled lens or 43mm filters can be added to this unit. A fantastic all rounder.
Why did I choose this camcorder???? Having read about the newest model the only difference is that its wifi??? 3 minutes to send a 30 second clip to the hard drive? 27 seconds to do the same by usb.
Priced at sub 300 made this the perfect choice.