For about a third of the price of the elite Canon Vixia HF G10 (*Est. $995), experts say the Canon Vixia HF M40 delivers similarly spectacular HD video quality. Both camcorders use the same CMOS Pro image sensor -- lifted from Canon's pricey entry-level pro video cameras -- for outstanding low-light prowess.
The budget-priced HF M40 keeps a lot of the HF G10's best features. It boasts the same terrific optical image stabilizer to quell hand shake, offers a hot shoe and external microphone jack, and it can shoot in film-like 24p -- though it's saved in a lower-quality format. (It's encoded as 60i, unlike the HF G10's true 24p.) The HF M40 does substitute a cheaper lens (still a 10x optical zoom, though), leaves out some advanced controls and omits the viewfinder. You'll have to frame your shot and access the camcorder's menus through the 3-inch LCD touch screen, which testers say can be frustrating because it doesn't really respond all that well to touch commands. One drawback that both camcorders share: The 2.07-megapixel image sensor shoots pretty low-resolution still photos that are only good for small prints or web sharing. However, experts say that's a small price to pay for the sensor's rich video quality.
The HF M40 also pares down to 16 GB flash memory (versus 32 GB for the HF G10), but it can still hold an hour and 25 minutes' worth of best-quality video, and you'll get dual memory-card slots to add even more memory just like on the HF G10. In the HF M40's product family, Canon also offers the otherwise identical Canon Vixia HF M400, which has no built-in memory and records only to the dual memory cards, as well as the Canon Vixia HF M41, which includes 32 GB of memory and an electronic viewfinder.
CamcorderInfo.com's review of the Canon Vixia HF M40 is briefer than usual, but it's still based on a thorough test, as are the reviews at CNET, ConsumerReports.org and Macworld. Owner reviews at Amazon.com reflect on the camcorder's real-life performance.
With the same image sensor -- and "virtually the same stellar performance" -- as Canon's flagship HF G10 camcorder at about a third of the price, tester Kaitlyn Chantry concludes that "the HF M40 is a sure thing."
Review: Canon HF M40, Kaitlyn Chantry, May 20, 2011
Lori Grunin recommends the entire Canon Vixia HF Mxx series. All of the models in this lineup (they vary by memory and whether there's a viewfinder) use the same image sensor as the top-rated Canon Vixia HF G10, but with a smaller, cheaper lens.
Review: Canon Vixia HF M40 (Black), Lori Grunin, May 3, 2011
Editors compare the Canon Vixia HF M40 with more than 50 other full-featured HD camcorders, ranking them from best to worst based on their performance in video, photo and audio quality tests, as well as ease of use and other measures.
Review: HD Camcorder Ratings, Editors of ConsumerReports.org
Thanks to its great image sensor, the Canon Vixia HF M40 is the top-rated full-featured camera at Macworld. This Apple-centric review notes that the touch-screen interface "is neither as responsive nor as intuitive as an iPhone," though.
Review: Canon Vixia HF M40, Jim Feeley, Sept. 8, 2011
With over 40 owner reviews posted, the Canon Vixia HF M40 averages 4 out of 5 stars. Reviews do include criticism, and negative reviews are posted.
Review: Canon Vixia HF M40 Full HD Camcorder with HD CMOS Pro and 16GB Internal Flash Memory, Contributors to Amazon.com