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Canon VIXIA HF M31 Full HD Camcorder w/32GB Flash Memory (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
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- Records up to 12 hours of crisp high definition video to a 32GB internal flash drive or directly to removable SD memory cards
- Genuine Canon 15x HD Video Lens delivers unsurpassed image quality
- Canon 3.89-Megapixel Full HD CMOS Image Sensor captures video at 1920 x 1080 resolution
- Canon DIGIC DV III Image Processor provides the ultimate in color and imaging performance
- Dynamic SuperRange OIS corrects a full range of motion
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|Screen Size||2.7 in||3 in||3 in||2.7 in||3 in||3.5 in|
|Optical Sensor Technology||CMOS||CMOS||CMOS||CMOS||CMOS||CMOS|
|Video Capture Resolution||1920 x 1080||—||—||1080p_hd||1080p_hd||1080p|
The Canon VIXIA HF M31 Dual Flash Memory Camcorder features a 32GB internal flash drive and an SD memory card slot in an ultra-sleek, compact and lightweight body - it's a brilliant blend of capability and convenience. Canon's advanced imaging technologies, including a Genuine Canon 15x HD Video Lens and 3.89-megapixel Full HD CMOS Image Sensor, help to deliver high definition video and 3.3 megapixel photos with incredible detail and lifelike color. Sophisticated features such as Smart Auto "reads" the visual components of the scene you're shooting and chooses the best settings. Touch & Track allows you to achieve sharp focus and precise exposure for any subject, simply by touching the 2.7" Touch Panel LCD. And to complete the entertainment picture, 5.1-Channel Surround Sound ensures your audio is every bit as impressive as your video. Another plus is the VIXIA HF M31's low power consumption rate, allowing your battery to last longer. 2.7-inch Touch Panel Widescreen color LCD Canon DIGIC DV III Image Processor Dynamic SuperRange OIS corrects a full range of motion Canon Face Detection ensuring razor-sharp focus and natural, accurate exposure Built-in flash USB Terminal - USB 2.0 Hi-Speed Video Terminal - Component (output), composite (output) Dolby Digital 2 channel (AC-3), 5.1-channel (with optional Canon SM-V1 5.1-Channel Surround Microphone) Television System - NTSC Dimensions - Approx. 2.7 x 2.4 x 4.8in. Weight (not including battery pack and memory card) - Approx. 11.3 oz.
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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.
The Canon BP-827 Lithium Ion Battery Pack for Vixia HG, HF S & HF M Camcorders, after a fresh charge, shows 314minutes (5hrs 14 mins) worth of battery. The same cavet applies from above, and one could expect a solid 4hrs of recording time during real usage. Yes, the battery is pricey ($120) but the fact is: You ARE going to run out of battery when you consider how long most events you'll be recording are. Soccer games, European trips, weddings, high school graduations, etc. 1hr of battery is just not going to cut it for the majority of situations. But, the included 1hr battery will make a great backup battery to give you an extra hour of recording when your "main" battery dies, so it's not a complete waste. Get the bigger, extra battery. I got the Canon brand battery despite there being "generic/cheaper" ones out there.
The larger battery does weigh a slight bit more, but not too noticeable as the camera is already ultra-light in the first place. It also sticks out from the back of the camera about 2", but doesn't impeded any of the functions. To start/stop recording, your thumb, which would normally glide right across the back to the button, does have to go "around" the larger battery, but it's not a big deal.
Also, some may think the larger battery jutting out doesn't look as "sleek" or "cool". I think it looks fine. The battery is a nice matte black, with rounded edges and fits well, in my opinion. What doesn't look sleek or cool to me is having to carry around 3-4 extra batteries and stopping to swap out your dead battery every hour just so it looks "cool". That's gonna get old, really quick!
I also got the external charger, Canon 2590B002 CG-800 Lithium Ion Battery Charger for 800 Series Batteries, also a bit pricey for my tastes at $50. From what I've read, the charger cuts recharging time down about an hour. Besides, as you're battery is off to the side charging, you can still walk around and record with your backup battery. Otherwise, you'll be tethered to the wall as your battery charges directly inside the camera.
On the upside, if/when you upgrade the camera, if you stick with the Canon Vixia line, your batteries and charger will still work.
I also picked up a SanDisk Ultra 32Gb card for extra recording space. As long as you get a class 4 card, you'll have no problems. Class 6 is overkill and way more expensive.
Now back to the camera and how the amount of memory may be important.
There are two HD modes MXP(24Mbps) and FXP (17Mbps). As far as I can tell, the visual difference between the two are minimal, if there is a difference at all. MXP mode is most likely for "prosumers" who want/need bigger files for heavy post-editing of videos. In the camera world, I would relate this to a camera with 8 Megapixels vs 10 Megapixels. Is 10MP better? Yes. Are we ever going to print a billboard sized photograph? Probably not. So, if the extent of your video "editing" is maybe importing it to a program to do some fade in/outs, re-arrange scenes, etc, FXP is most likely just fine for you. However, if you want to do some George Lucas type filming with green screens and do some heavy post-processing than you'll probably want to film in MXP. But then again, if you really plan on doing things that extensive, you'd probably be better off purchasing a pro-camera, especially to get better low-light resolution.
Also, if you're recording in MXP, you'll only get about 2hrs 55 mins worth of recording time from the 32Gb internal memory, or 5hrs 50 mins with an extra 32Gb card. Recording in FXP mode will extend your record time to 4hrs 10 mins with the internal memory alone and an extra 32Gb card will get you a full 8hrs 20 mins recording time.
I eluded to the low-light resolution earlier. If you want a small, compact camera, the CMOS sensor (this is your image sensor) has to be small as well. The smaller the sensor, *usually* the worse the low-light recording capability. The M31 is 1/4 inch in size, typical for most camcorders of this size. It actually does pretty well in low-light situations and I am very satisfied. As the lighting situation decreases, the resolution for most cameras will start to get a tiny bit grainy (think slight static). As the light decreases more, the picture will get more and more grainy. To counter this, simply make sure the room is well lit. Also, zooming during low-lit locations will enhance the graininess, so avoid this when possible.
Or, you can spend nearly twice as much ($600) and get the Canon S21 (64Gb internal memory, touch screen, 3.5" viewing screen and a 1/2.6 inch CMOS sensor). The S21 will have better low-light performance, but at some point, as the light gets dimmer and dimmer, graininess WILL start to creep into the image. If you need/want pure perfection in all lighting conditions, then you're looking at spending $4K and up for a pro-camera. The S100, S10 and S11 also have larger image sensors, but don't have all the features of the new S2x or M3x lines.
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.
The HDMI/Component output is hidden beneath some faux leather, on the left side of the camera where you hold the camera. It took me awhile to find it (No, of course I didn't read the manual!) but I do like how it's in an inconspicuous location. It has connections for a mini-HDMI(cable not included), USB(cable included) and component out (cable included to RGB connections).
It's a little difficult to access the power button control with the fingers from your right hand. With a little adjustment to the hand strap, all the buttons on the top can be reached, it just took a little messing with.
The touch screen display takes a little while to get use to. My fiancé has an iPhone so I'm use to scrolling around the touch screen. However, when I tried to scroll around on this screen, it kept selecting the various functions. Again, once you get use to how to scroll around, it's pretty easy, just a bit of a learning curve. Probably more so for the technologically challenged.
Powered IS works well when zooming/zoomed, however I think using two hands to hold the camera probably helps just as much.
Relay Recording seems like a no brainer feature, I can't imagine why this wasn't incorporated in previous models/brands. Automatically and seamlessly records to you your SD card when the internal memory is full. HOWEVER, Relay recording is automatically DEACTIVATED when the camcorder is turned off or you switch from MXP to FXP or any other number of reasons. There should be an option to enable this ALL the time. Maybe this feature can be added with a firmware upgrade. This is actually the only annoying thing I could find.
Finally, I'd like to dispell a "negative" that I read in past reviews about the Vixia's shutters 'rattling' because they were loose. Yeah, it rattles, but seriously, if this is the only thing you can pick out as a "negative" for the camera, you're really reaching!! I can barely hear this "rattle", it's not annoying, it would be drowned out by the simple scuffing of your feet on the side walk, a gentle breeze, or breathing. It only occurs when it's OFF and absolutely does NOT impact the function of the camera. I wouldn't even have made a note of it, but because someone else had mentioned it in other reviews on other sites, I wanted to address it. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being a deal breaker, this "rattling" is a 1. I can't even believe someone mentioned it.
To recap: Overall, I'm very happy with this camera and would highly recommend it!! I'll try to give an update after using it at my wedding at the end of May.
The only thing I don't like is the fact that relay recording disables after you turn the camera off or change operations.
From an accessory standpoint, I wish it came with an HDMI connection cable, but I may have one lying around here somewhere anyways.
None of the "negatives" are deal breakers in my opinion. This is a solid camera!
Also videod fireworks for New years. The video came out surprisingly clear, a good even contrast for the colors, smoke and darkness.
Besides that I think the interface is decent, it has a few menus it goes into, although I think they could be arranged better. It has the basics plus some that you would desire in a camcorder, but I refused to buy it brand new for 400+ and I honestly don't think it's worth that buck. Advice for anyone - test your possible camcorder choices out before going with a "higher end" model. I can almost bet you're paying a higher buck, just because it's "new".
This is a much smaller camcorder than the HV20; getting rid of all that mechanical junk for the HDV tapes really shrunk it down! But I have to admit I'm still getting used to the much smaller size. The M31 does not "nestle" into my hand as well as the HV20 did, and it's a little more awkward to reach the zoom. I'm sure I'll adapt.
Picture quality is great, but I expected nothing less; I haven't been a Canon fan for years for no reason. I like the fact that these flash memory cameras shoot in 1920x1080, vs. 1440x1080 like the HDV cameras do. For some reason I could not get Adobe Premiere Elements 9 to recognize the audio in the AVCHD (.MTS) files that the camera creates, but Premiere Elements 7 has no problem. Weird, but I can live with it. (PE7 is a better program anyway, IMHO.)
The included software for getting movies off the camera is pretty weak, not to mention unnecessary. At least with Windows 7, just plug the camcorder into a USB port and Windows will automatically copy the files off for you. YMMV if using older versions of Windows.
Some people don't like the touchscreen controls, and I saw them complaining about it on CNet too. Granted, the touch screen requires a little more pressure than people with iPhones might expect; but it's not hard to use, at least not to the degree that CNet makes out. Now if you want to do manual focus or that sort of thing, I have no idea how that would work well on this touch screen. For me, that is irrelevant. If you really need those kind of advanced controls, maybe you should be looking at prosumer grade camcorders?
The M300 is actually a better deal, but it has no internal flash memory. Buying enough high-grade flash memory for ~3h of 1920x1080 footage would bump it up to a similar price point as the M31, so I just went with the M31. But from what I've read, the M300, M30, and M31 are all 100% identical except for the included memory.
My only complaint, and the reason I'm not giving five stars, is the well-worn issue with the included battery. It's just too short. I just ordered a BP-819 and the external charger for an additional $130. These really should be part of the base package, maybe for an additional $50 or so; but making us spend $130 over and above the original camcorder purchase is pretty lame.
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I need to send it for a repair though… It was refurbished so I should probably expect some issues. The headphone output doesn't work.