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Canon Legria HF M41 review

Verdict

An excellent camcorder at a reasonable price, but we prefer the greater flexibility of the slightly cheaper Panasonic HDC-SD90

Review Date: 13 Apr 2011

Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray

Price when reviewed: £540 (£648 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
5 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

Panasonic has ruled the high-end camcorder sector for some time now, and its recent HDC-SD90 and HDC-TM900 models recently reinforced that position. Canon is aiming to topple Panasonic from its perch atop the PC Pro A List with the Legria HF M41.

It’s one of a range of three M-series camcorders with very similar specifications. The HF M41 we tested is the most expensive at £648, with 32GB of built-in storage; there’s also the HF M46 with 16GB at around £526, and the HF M406, which has no on-board memory and costs around £487.

Canon Legria HF M41

The cheaper models have the same optics and sensor, but miss out on the viewfinder and 3.5mm microphone input of the HF M41. Of these, the HF M406 would be our pick, as the HF M41’s viewfinder is too small to be practical, and at that price it goes head-to-head with the slightly cheaper Panasonic HDC-SD90.

The M-series’ core specification makes impressive reading. It has a large 1/3in CMOS sensor, dual SD card slots and hybrid optical/electronic image stabilisation, plus an integrated stereo mic and an accessory shoe.

It falls short of the Panasonic in a few key areas, though, with a shorter 10x zoom and significantly bulkier chassis, measuring 69 x 136 x 69mm (WDH), plus only 1080/50i shooting compared to the HDC-SD90's 50 progressive frames per second.

Performance is good. The Canon has a larger sensor, so its low-light performance is slightly superior to the SD90’s, with noise kept to a minimum in our tests, and we found colours to be a little more accurate and well balanced in a variety of conditions. Critically, however, motion wasn't handled as smoothly, thanks mainly to that slower frame rate.

Neither can it quite match the HDC-SD90 for image stabilisation technology. With the Panasonic's hybrid system we were able to maintain a rock-steady picture even fully zoomed into a subject at 21x; we struggled to do the same with the Canon at only half the magnification. Autofocus was also slower on the Canon.

That puts the Canon M series in a somewhat awkward position. For raw image quality it’s marginally better than its main rival, but with its inferior stabilisation, a shorter zoom and a bulkier chassis, it’s significantly less flexible. It’s a good camcorder, but on balance we’d recommend you opt for the Panasonic HDC-SD90 and save a few pounds in the process.

Author: Jonathan Bray

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