Canon Legria HF M406 review
Just falling within our £500 cut-off, the Canon Legria HF M406 sports a chunky, mostly plastic, width that stretches the palm. However, the extra bulk enables a larger optic, accessory shoe and pro-level CMOS sensor, so what you lose in portability you gain in quality, especially recording in low light when twinned with a bright f/1.8 maximum lens aperture.
This optical image-stabilised camcorder powers up almost instantaneously, with smooth and silent zooming and auto-focus taking only a moment to catch up as framing is adjusted. The rechargeable battery clips into place at the back with ease. The zoom control is operated by a chunky lever on the top plate or swiping a finger over the touch screen, and framing is via a flip-out, widescreen 3in LCD with clear 230k-dot resolution, so operation is simple and intuitive with it. There’s no electronic viewfinder: that’s on the £648 HF M41.
Full HD video in AVCHD format is offered along with 2-megapixel stills capture, recorded to dual SDXC card slots. A comparably modest 10x optical zoom range provides a 35mm equivalent of 43.6-436mm. A powered IS button at the side of the LCD lens added stabilisation when shooting handheld at the telephoto end, not that we needed to rely on its subtle enhancement. Conversely, the Canon can focus as close as 10mm.
A switch on the opposite flank allows users to switch from auto to manual or ‘Cinema look’ with a forefinger flick, while the thumb lingers over the record button just underneath. Subtly varied, there are eight Cinema filters to choose from that can be applied in camera and previewed before recording, including Vivid, the soft-focus Dream, or Cool for Minority Report-style bleakness. Alternatively via the default Smart Auto setting, users can just point and shoot, the M406 comparing whatever’s before its lens with 38 settings and selecting the most apt – no need to fiddle with settings.
Despite its fast f/1.8 lens, pro-level CMOS sensor and stabilised 10x zoom, its chunky build means the fashion conscious may be put off
Detail is stunningly clear in terms of both image and sound, with colours natural if a tad warm when left on default settings. Bluetooth wireless microphone and underwater case are optional extras for the more serious videographer.