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on April 5, 2012
Just got the camera today so I thought I'd jot down some initial impressions.

The build quality is good, classy black with chrome. I bought an extra battery and noticed it wiggled slightly but no big deal. The cam is definitely light. The touch screen has a nice sensitivity to it. Had to turn up the brightness to get it to work okay under bright light.

The menu system will take a little time to get used to. It's not the sort of system you can can just goof around with all the options and figure it out. If you know what functions your looking for you'll have to spend a little time in the manual figuring it out.

Naturally, everyone would be wondering about the image quality. The video quality is very good. I took a little video of a friend of mine doing yard work in fairly strong daylight. I noticed that the lens is quite sharp, rendering lots of detail. Color is good. Image is perhaps just a tad overexposed but I was throwing it into a tough situation with the harsh daylight right out of the box. Zoom is smooth.

The microphone worked well, even with a little bit of wind. Not overly sensitive, but it can pick up some low volume details in the scene.

Bottom line, for the price you'll be happy with this camera. If you want to take some high quality HD without paying an arm and a leg for $1,000 plus professional camcorder, then this is the camcorder for you.

FOLLOW UP (2 MONTHS LATER)

Okay, now I've had lots of experience with this cam. Submitted some footage to the local access television station. So here's the scoop. The image quality, in low light, is superb for a camera of this price. Image quality is very good under normal lighting conditions. The cam tends to overexpose a little, however most people wouldn't notice it. However, if you want to "dial in" a "semi-pro" look, then definitely get acquainted with the exposure compensation. Definitely compensating one or two stops (darker) will make your image look really, really good, coming close to a pro look.

The built in mic is superb. I took some footage of a music performance at the local high school and I was shocked at how good the sound was. I've been using an external shotgun mic for a few events and the cam handles that beautifully, just set the volume level to 50 out of 100 and I'm getting pro sound. Only minor annoyance is the external microphone volume is conveniently placed under the easily accessible "function" menu but the volume for external headphones is buried under another menu. Luckily the headphone level is "set and forget" because I always use the same headphones.

The build quality is good but not top notch. But realistically most people aren't going to use this cam forty hours per week on the job. I'm using it about 10 hours a month videoing various programs for the local access station and I don't have any qualms about the cam standing up to that level of use.

This cam is a serious amateur to semi pro rig for short dollars. If you know how to dial in exposure compensation you can really make the image shine. I was videoing an event beside a pro with a $3,000 camera and quite seriously, the images I was capturing, in my opinion, were very close in quality to the pro's cam.

No camera is perfect, but your getting 90-95 percent the quality of a serious semi pro rig for about 1/4 to 1/6th the price.

ONE YEAR LATER

I've been using this camera about 10-20 hours a month for one year doing local access tv footage. This cam never ceases to amaze me. Really good low light images. We've used other far more expensive cameras than this one (won't mention the make/model) and this one still outshines in the low light department. Canon should have charged WAAAY more money for this cam (lol). I bought it when it first came out at $500 and now the street price is $350 which is an unbelievable deal.

Super nice light rig when I match this cam with the Canon monopod. I use it on a light Velbon tripod as well. The shotgun I mentioned earlier in this article is hanging in there recording some nice sound.

Couldn't be more pleased with this camera. Yah, it overexposes occasionally but no camera is perfect. The low light performance seals the deal.

UPDATE, FIVE YEARS LATER

This cam is still going strong! I use it to video all day conferences. I bought a 256 GB SD card for it so that it can record for 24 hours straight at maximum quality. I set the cam up for a conference using aperture priority, wide open, 24P, to get the most light, and just start the video at the beginning of the day, and let it run all day. No problem catching a 12 hour day of continuous conference footage. That way, I don't miss anything or have to sweat it about swapping out SD cards in the middle of the conference. Later on, I edit out the gaps and break up video for each speaker and post to youtube.

This cam just keeps ticking and ticking. So reliable. Video quality still great for youtube.

For sound, I sometimes take a sound feed from the conference sound board. Or, I will run a shotgun microphone up to the podium. Or, record sound with the onboard built in mic.

I've been thinking about upgrading to a 4K cam, but this cam has just been so reliable I just keep relying on it. I really don't want to deal with the size of 4K footage after, either.

Probably recorded 3-400 hours footage with this cam and it works as good as new.

Only minor niggle is that a lot of these conference centers have the lights turned down low to save money. I have to open up the aperture to F/1.8 (all the way open, depending on zoom range) and 24 frames per second to get the most light in possible. In post production, I bump up the brightness by about one full stop to get up to decent levels.

If you can get this cam used, you'll be happy. What a great, reliable cam.
232 helpful votes
233 helpful votes
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on March 31, 2012
I received the Vixia HF M500 camcorder yesterday and am so far very happy with my purchase. I'll try to keep this review relatively short.

Overall the camera is very simple to use. The menu navigation is rather intuitive. You can hit the home button on the inside panel to bring up selections for a number of important settings. General camera settings and functions are all accessed from here. On the touchscreen, depending on how the camera is set up, you will see other options available. For instance, choosing the "cinema mode" brings up filter selections on the main screen which you simply scroll through to select. Very easy to use!

The included software isn't much, Pixela Transfer Utility. I can't complain, it gets the job of transferring files from the camera to the PC done. For reference I'm using Windows 7 and had no problems with installing the software or getting files to load.

Pros:

Video Quality - Excellent for a camera in the sub $600 price range. The colors overall were all very accurate with very good hue and saturation. I filmed a Sandhill Crane in automatic mode and then manually set the white balance using a photo grey card and the compared results were very similar. Many people probably wouldn't even notice the subtle changes. The sharpness and detail of the video is outstanding. Not once under proper lighting conditions did the video appear grainy or lacking in any way. I did notice a bit of degredation in very poor lighting, which is found below as the one con for this model.

Very small and incredibly light weight. The camcorder fits very comfortably in my hand. The controls are easily available for one handed operation.

Battery life is pretty good and better than I expected at a full 120 minutes. I'll end up getting a spare just to have but to start it's nice to know you'll have 2 hours worth of recording time.

10x optical zoom. There's no degredation of the video at full zoom, unlike digital.

Optical Image Stabilization. Like the optical zoom, this is the best option available. It doesn't degrade the picture and produces a very steady shot.

Cinema filters...Ok, so I really didn't think I would like them but it turns out that I do. To my surprise I actually can see myself using a couple of them from time to time. If nothing else, they provide some artistic options without having to edit them in to the video in your software program of choice.

Audio quality. You're essentially getting cd quality audio from the internal microphone.

Available hot shoe. In the event you'd like to add a light or external microphone (5.1 surround mics are available) you simply attach the accessory to the hot shoe and you're ready to go. I know in the future I will be adding these capabilities. This is one of the features that made me choose this model.

Cons - A little lacking in the low light area but nothing that is a deal breaker. I've seen far worse and was generally impressed. It isn't pro quality but if that's what you're looking for, $550 isn't the price range you should be looking in.

Conclusion:

From my couple hours of experimenting and using this camera I can without hesitation say that the quality is exactly what I want and need for my own personal use. There are plenty of options for video quality and general aesthetics right in the camera that make it everything I need. If you're looking for a "step up" model with some bells and whistles and excellent overall video quality then take a serious look at the HF M500. I am extremely happy with the purchase.

EDIT: 03/31 - I detailed the video quality and battery life as I have yet to be able to load a short sample clip.

EDIT: 04/01 - I finally got some test footage up and available in 1080p on YouTube. I hope you'll find yourself as happy as I am with the quality of the video this little beauty produces. I am completely satisfied in every way with every aspect of this HD camcorder. Search YouTube for the model number and it should pop up (mine is the "jaysdroid" video), if not here's the address:
[...]
71 helpful votes
72 helpful votes
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on April 20, 2012
I upgraded from a Samsung MX-100...I only use a camcorder occasionally to capture candid moments and family events. So far...completely impressed. I originally was going to get the R300 for $350, but once I found out that Canon ships that camera with the smallest of its 3 batteries (BP-709, BP-718, BP-727) and that other users were getting about 20-30 minutes of video recording with the BP-709, I knew I would have to purchase a second battery. The medium size battery (BP-718) was $75 and the large battery (BP-727) was $110.

Factor a second battery into the equation and your price point is no longer $350, but about $450.

Given that the M500 comes with the medium size battery (BP-718), for an extra $100 it was a no brainer to upgrade from the R300 to the M500. I get incredibly awesome low light performance (the video, at least for someone who just wants to capture occasional indoor scenes, is 1000% usable...very low noise and grain and the colors are true); I get a much better lens and sensor; and I get an shoe accessory (mini).

Also, with respect to the maximum record time on the battery:

I just fully charged my M500, put it in auto mode, set it on the counter and zoomed to the widest setting, then pushed record.
Initially, the M500 display stated I had 1 hour 24 min of battery.
Result, I recorded a full 2 hour and 6 min video clip at full AVCHD MXP quality and the battery displayed 4 min left.

Please note: the zoom never changed, the camera never had to refocus...it was simply stationary on a counter. I would assume constant zooming (and the new IS system having to work) and focusing would decrease the battery life...probably why initially the display stated 1 hour and 24 minutes because it included those factors in its estimated battery life.

Also...you can turn the camera on, push record, then close the LCD screen into the camera (as if you are going to storing it) and the camera keeps recording. The purposes of recording this way are limited, but it is an option, which I would assume would let you record way more than 2 hours and 6 min.
68 helpful votes
69 helpful votes
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on January 16, 2013
This little Canon Vixia HF M500 is a solid low-light performer. The camera can shoot indoor concerts and sports WITHOUT grainy image quality. Indoor shots are clear and have good color accuracy, even with the full *optical* zoom. I bought it primarily for its low light performance.

The M500 works great outdoors. It was recently used after a heavy snow using the "snow" image setting. Motion recording was great, images were accurate and bright, and there was no problem seeing the images in the LCD screen during recording.

The M500 does not have Wi-Fi or onboard memory.

It does have:

Beautiful, professional HD video quality.

One SD card slot.

The M500 has a great "Auto" setting; I find that I often use Auto instead of switching to manual controls. If you like to take more control of your recording the M500 has the capability of giving you manual control of things like White Balance, Shutter, and Aperture.

In-between the "full auto" and "full manual" settings, the Vixia HF M500 also has a range of built-in light settings (Outdoor Snow, Indoor Flourescent Lighting, Indoor Tungsten Light, and several more) that you can access via the menu system on the LCD viewer. Did I mention the beautiful, professional (to me, at least) HD video quality? I can't fully describe the beauty of video recorded by this camera. I recently transferred some home video of a band concert to an AVCHD disc via my editing program (I do not use the Canon-provided software; tried it, but prefer two other third-party editors). When displaying the AVCHD video on a 46 inch LCD TV the reaction from viewers was "wow! It looks like you're right there!"

I get better video using a tripod or a monopod.

The M500 has the capability to record either AVCHD or MP4 video.

Frame Rate: The M500 records AVCHD at 1080 60i, or 30P or 24P. It can also record MP4 at 24P or 30P. I have only used MP4 24P 9kps one time, but it looked very nice.

If you plan to shoot a lot of indoor video, this camera is a great choice. Of course it does a great job recording outdoor video in bright sunlight too. In really bright sunlight the LCD viewfinder is sometimes a little hard to see.
10 helpful votes
11 helpful votes
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on January 19, 2013
There are several digital camcorders on the market in the two hundred dollar price range....this one is far superior, as you might expect given that it is almost double the price of an entry level model.
I would consider this to be money well spent, as the ability to shoot indoors without any extra lighting is truly impressive, that means you will get the intended result, not a lot of grainy, poory exposed footage.
There are some comments about the limited optical zoom (10x) this is a result of the large sensor in the camera requiring a commensurate increase in lens diameter = great video. The camcorders that offer the thirty times zoom range, or there about, are able to do so because they have such tiny sensors.Ten times optical zoom is also about the limit for being able to hand hold and get acceptable results with image stabilization (longer would require a tripod)
One feature that I find very usefull, is the ability to record while the flip out viewing panel is closed. This is not a common feature among competing models, It allows the user a greater amount of flexibilty in certain situations. This feature is not pointed out anywhere on the description of the camera, but it does have this most usefull function.
Canon offers this series 3 ways, m500 this reviewed unit, m50 and m52 both have WIFI and internal storage. I had previously the m50, and returned it do to the WIFI being incedibly difficult to manage.
Save your money, get this one and a 32GB class 10 card.
10 helpful votes
11 helpful votes
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on July 23, 2012
I own a Canon T3i DSLR camera and had been doing some shooting with that over the last year prior to wanting to buy a camcorder. The reason for buying a camcorder is that I wanted a simple easy to operate point and shoot kind of camera when I have less time to plan exposure and play around with proper focusing. I debated between the Panasonic model that was in the same price range as this one but had 60p recording capabilities. I went back and forth several times and ended up deciding to purchase this one. The reason for the decision was the features this camera had which included a headphone jack, 24pf and 30pf recording modes, MP4 in addition to AVCHD recording, and better low light performance then the Panasonic. I am sure the Panasonic is a great camera as well but if you do not want to record in 60p there are not a lot of other options to shoot with and it does interlaced video at a lower bit rate then this camera.

I have not been disappointed with this camera or my decision. The resolution and video quality that comes off of the camera in 24mbps AVCHD recording mode is awesome. It is better then broadcast quality but that is because of the down conversion of the source material on TV programs versus this camera being better then a professional camcorder. The quality of video however is very close to what you will get with Canon's higher end HG-G10 and XA10. The sensor on this camera is actually identical to Canon's professional models. The difference will be that the higher end models have better lenses, XLR Mic outputs, built-in ND filters, and features like 4-2-2 color sampling, focus rings, and multiple C-MOS sensors. At this price point you cannot get everything but you can come awfully close for a lot less money.

This camera is not a professional camcorder but it does have the capability to shoot some high quality material straight out of the box. This includes decent audio along with a very good image. It is meant to be a point and shoot type of camera but has a lot of manual options as well. The manual options are accessed through the touch screen which means they are not as easy to work with as say a XF100 with more buttons. It is nice that Canon gives a lot of manual options since I know a lot of people will buy this camera and never take it out of Auto mode. You can stretch your creativity a bit if you wish or keep things simple point and shoot in auto mode. The good news is the camera takes great images in whatever mode you are in.

MP4 recording is a nice feature as well if you are the type that uploads a lot of your videos to share on the net. The bit rate is quite a bit lower then AVCHD but it is recorded in true progressive 720P at either 24 or 30 frames per second and still looks very good. I like having that recording option available even if I shoot most of the time in AVCHD at the highest bit rate. The advantage to MP4 direct is reduction in uploading times to sites like YouTube that will convert your files to MP4 format anyway.

The last thing to mention may be the most important and that is this camera's low light performance. Canon designed the sensor to use the minimal amount of pixel's needed for full HD. This means that the pixels that are used are larger which allows more light to pass through. It also means this camera outperforms all camcorders in this price range and above for low light performance. It was the biggest thing that pushed me toward this camera above all others. If you are looking for a great camcorder with near pro performance without the pro price this is one of the best out there.
35 helpful votes
36 helpful votes
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on January 9, 2013
I've been wanting this camera for months. When the previous model was discontinued I had hoped it would drop in price to a point where I could justify buying it. Alas, the 400 series only went up in price. I checked in on this camera every few weeks to see if the price would drop and it never did; until November 2012. I waited to see if Black Friday would see a further reduction, but it stayed at $349 (which was fine) so I snagged one. I did see the following week a price of $299 when they had 2 left so I still felt good about what I paid. The one negative going into buying this was that it didn't come with a remote like the previous model, and the actual Canon remote has been unavailable in the states almost the entire year (2012). I had found several places that stocked it in September so I knew this camera was going to be the one.

I placed my order for the remote about a week before Black Friday in order to get the timing close. The camera arrived quickly being a Prime member. It was smaller than I expected, but I wasn't disappointed in that. I waited to actually use the camera for about a week as I didn't have a wine review to do just yet. In the meantime I had to find another supplier for the remote (bought the Rainbowimaging Infrared Remote Control for Canon Legria/Vixia Camcorders here on Amazon), and my white balance and exposure cards arrived from Wilson Art (these are free BTW, including free shipping). The remote showed up just before I took a winery tour here in Texas and it worked perfectly fine.

I've used the camera about 10 times since buying it. I'm still learning how to properly use it but have been impressed with the quality of the videos so far. In both natural light, and the NEEWER® 160 LED CN-160 Dimmable Ultra High Power Panel Digital Camera / Camcorder Video Light, LED Light for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Panasonic,SONY, Samsung and Olympus Digital SLR Cameras lights I've used the camera has performed superb. Almost any issue has been me not understanding a setting properly or just user error, but that has been rare. The camera is easy to use, and if you know what you are doing (did I mention I was still learning), the manual modes give you plenty to tweak.

I've shot in bright light and very dim. As long as I didn't screw up my settings, the video is excellent. I did have one sunlight shot of a vineyard where I went partially auto and didn't use my balance and exposure cards that came out super washed out, but that was really the only bad footage I had. I had a hard time seeing the LCD screen but from what I did see I should have known the settings were off.

Battery life is basically what everyone else says. I've gotten almost an hour from the battery. I did buy 2 higher capacity batteries Replacement BP-727 Battery Packs for Canon Vixia HF M50/ HF M500/ HF M52 Camcorders on Amazon that performed perfectly. The caveat is that these aren't official Canon batteries, so you get an error when turning on the camera and there isn't an indicator as to how long of a charge you have. The camera is super light and barely adds to the weight in my backpack.

Audio. I don't use on camera mics anymore, so all I can tell you is that it's about the same as any other camera. I only use it to sync my audio from the Zoom H1n Zoom H1 Handy Portable Digital Recorder. It's fine for home movies or the equivalent, but if you are doing a web show like mine, you need to use off camera mics.

For those that need to know, videos import just fine into Final Cut Pro X in AVCHD format. I use that format as mp4 has time limitations (per "scene") that I can easily run up against. I shoot in SP mode to keep the file size manageable, have plenty of time available on my 16GB SD card (the higher the bitrate the less time you can record), and still have excellent quality. BTW it's 7Mbps for the bit rate which is plenty for what I do. I shot test video on SP, XP+ (12Mbps), FXP (17Mbps), and MXP (24Mbps) and played it back directly from the camera on an 70" LED TV. While I could tell there was a difference in quality it wasn't enough for me to change from SP. This is because I do web video that ends up being 720p. My bitrate for these videos ends up being between 2500-4000 so the compression is going to really kill the slightly better quality anyway. If I was going to change it, I MIGHT use XP+ but I doubt there would be enough of a difference. If I was going to do some serious shooting that was going to end up being 1080p in the final product, then I'd go all the way to MXP.

I can't say enough good things about the camera. Again, any issues are user error in using the camera or even in lighting the set. If you are trying to figure out which camera to get, you can't go wrong with this one. I'd pick it over the two higher models since I don't care about the wi-fi or having internal memory. I'd rather determine how much memory I'm using by changing the card anyway.
8 helpful votes
9 helpful votes
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on July 13, 2012
I've been using compact HD cameras - the Kodak Zi8 & PlayTouch. I wanted a camcorder that would give me real optical zoom, better image stabilization, and the ability to manually set focus & white balance. I needed it to have a stereo mic input (like the compact Kodaks have) but also wanted to have headset output so I could monitor sound level & quality. This camera has met all my wants & needs, in a very compact package, at an excellent price/value. THE BOTTOM LINE: I like the Canon HF M500 camcorder & recommend it to amateur videographers that want to step up their game.

THE DETAILS: This HF M500 has the same CMOS Pro processor that the higher-priced Canon's have, and with this model you're not paying a premium for things you don't need - WiFi and on-board storage. Just get a 64GB SDXC card for $49 and you can easily move it between the camera and your laptop (If it's Windows 7 & has a card reader, it will read SDXC cards). I edit all my stuff, so I have no interest in posting videos from the camera straight to YouTube.

I must say, the inexpensive (~$100) Kodak cameras can create very crisp HD video, so the video from this (~$550) camera is not stunningly better (in situations with good lighting). But the optical zoom, the ability to manually adjust focus & white balance, and the ability to monitor your sound with a headset all put this type of camera in a different league than the little Kodaks (& other inexpensive compacts). This camera will allow you to do new things and get better shots in a lot of situations.

Last, the on-board mic is impressive in that, as you zoom in on someone, it picks up their voice. But it's still an on-board mic with all the associated short-comings. I use an Audio-Technica ATR-6550 shotgun mic (~$60) and 6-ft extension cord to capture pretty decent audio right into the camera.
8 helpful votes
9 helpful votes
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on November 6, 2012
I produce a television program each week. This little camcorder gives me a good product.

I connect a remote mic, which gives greatly improved sound over using the built-in mic. That may be fine; I have not used it. I only mean that having the mic several feet from the speaker never gives the best quality. A volume control only adjusts the built-in mic, which disappointed me.

My cameraman also uses headphones which gives me a check to be sure sound is working. Recording a speech without sound is disappointing!

The file produced is large, almost 2 gig for 35 minutes. Of course you can choose other quality settings resulting in larger or smaller files. This is the least I want to produce for broadcast.

There are many adjustments on the menu and that takes a while to digest before you are comfortable operating the camera, but they are well labelled and our operators are confident in using this camera after a brief introduction from someone who has read the instructions.

I would make the same purchase again...if the technology had not progressed by that time.
7 helpful votes
8 helpful votes
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on October 21, 2012
comparing to 3MOS panasonic that i have returned this canon is no match in sharpness of picture or smoothness of motion, and the zoom range is abysmal at the "wide" angle - it's like the camera is stuck in zoom and you can't zoom out - but it's not broken - that's just the optics it has.

BUT ! when it gets dark it is magical. it can capture accurate color in ANY light no matter how dim or bad. it's almost as if it actually works better the worse the lighting is.

it also has superb ergonomics - fits my hand like a glove, and the weight is very nice too.

the colors are not particularly saturated, but they look fairly accurate - a bit on the warm side as is typical of canon.

should you get one ? it depends on what you need. if you expect to be shooting a lot of footage in poor lighting conditions this is the ticket. otherwise you may consider Sony which has better wide angle capability. i can't recommend Panasonic because mine had poor skin color reproduction in 9 out of 10 videos.

the two biggest reasons NOT to get this camera are 1 - abysmal zoom range at the "wide" end ( like watching through a keyhole ) and lack of 60P mode which both Sony and Panasonic have and which, depending on your playback system, may result in much smoother video during fast panning. if you understand these limitations and are fine with them - then get this Canon.
17 helpful votes
18 helpful votes
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