"Excellent low light camera, but there is always more!"4.0 starson by D-Holmes
Pros: See at summary
Cons: See at summary
Summary: I have used a lot of different cameras over the years, and just wanted to get a basic review of 24 hours of trying out this camera, and comparing it to some recent cameras I have used. The cameras I will compare to are the Panasonic SD600, TM700 (both of which are basically the same and will be referred to as Panasonic). Again this is a quick review, general scan of the manual, and usually I'm good to go, and yes there may be some finer points that are missed, or just poorly implemented out by Canon, that it takes more time to figure them out. This review is evolving as I have more time to check the two cams out.
First off, this camera performs nice in low light situations, I would give the camera 5 stars for this aspect. I just shot inside at a live performance, and yes their is much better detail in low light, but I must say the Panasonic on this shot had slightly better color performance to my eye. The Canon also looks much better then the Panasonic with any gain on. When using gain up in lower light, the Panasonic basically falls apart in anything usable as picture quality. This is in very low light, and if you manually use the camera and control the gain on the Panasonic, it can be avoided, but the Canon is better overall in low light.
Field of view, how wide the lens is. Panasonic, has a significantly wider image. This is a big deal, as you can fill the frame with much more subject matter, and closer up. Definite plus to Panasonic on this one. If you get the Canon, plan to add the cost of a wide angle for many shots. I believe it's 43mm for Canon, and 28mm for Panasonic. You may want to review the specs of each, to confirm these numbers.
Sunstars, the Canon has a 6 blade iris, the points of light have a six star pattern, the Panasonic has a 4 blade iris, and have 4 point star patterns. These cameras all use a small chip sensor to capture the image, and thus bright light sources, and every shinny thing (car lights, chrome, jewelry, you name it) is going to give little sparkles of light. I am beginning to think the Canon suppresses this slightly over the Panasonic. I am still out on preference to six or four point patterns, initially six points seem more distracting. They both suffer from this, I don't think either one has a preference in what I think of this. This aspect is one place a DSLR like a Canon T2i is much better, the larger chip does not show these annoying sunstars all over a bright sparkling image. This alone can make the picture very amateur looking.
Operation and control. Hands down, so far the Panasonic I prefer much more. The battery charges in a separate charger, then on board the camera, and charges faster from what I can tell. Touch screen control is more responsive on the Panasonic, and the menus are easier and much faster to work with. The Canon is awful for me to try and operate manually. Even with the SD600, which has the smallest screen of these cameras, my big fingers can control things with far less tapping, and the Panasonic's are much more responsive. The layout Panasonic uses is also makes much more sense to me for manual control. Focus, shutter speed, white balance, and iris, are the four controls I care about and are very easy to pull up in the bottom of the screen. On the Canon it's like target practice to hit the screen at the tiny point of control.
Another big thing here is Panasonic offers all manual control of shooting, shutter speed and iris, I can set it to what I want. As far as I can tell it's one or the other on the Canon, and then no info from the camera on what the shutter speed is doing if I select the F stop. The Canon will lock the exposure, but it does not tell me where everything is at, also no Zebra and luminance exposure info on the Canon.
I like the feel of the Panasonic better, it's slightly smaller and fits in my hand better.
Sharpness. The Panasonic is super sharp, maybe to the point of stair-casing issues, and perhaps should have sharpness dialed down. I need to play more with this issue. The Panasonic is sharp, and the Canon I now find sharp too, on later review, the Canon looks very good, and now maybe a little sharper. All of this is under review, and I will be changing the review as I discover differences. In many shots the Canon is starting to win the sharpness test, but it's all very subjective as to what is sharp.
Motion blur, trailing, and stabilization, haven't had enough time to fully test. The Panasonic and the Canon both suffer from vibration, thus image shake. When the Canon shakes, to me it looks worse, it looks like a wobble.
Color. The Canon has less of a greenish tone, the sky looks blue, and the color of my car was more accurate. However I have one shot, that the Canon is more washed out then the Panasonic. This probably relates to the fact that for me as stated, the Panasonic has better manual control operation then the Canon. The Canon has some guessing as to what the camera is actually doing, I have not found a way to manually set both Fstop and shutter speed both to manual at the same time. The display will show me Fstop, but so far I can not tell what the shutter is doing when I manually set the Fstop.
60p/30p. The Panasonic shoots 60p, that gives me a wide range of playback options, and it is progressive, the Canon is 30p in a 60i wrapper. The Panasonic, at this point has a difficult work flow. This alone could be a deal breaker for many people, as it requires a more extensive post production time investment. I also had to buy a third party software to work with it on my Mac, this may change soon with Final Cut 8 around the corner. For non professional use (which of course these cameras are for), the Canon might be easier, but comes at a price of some things the Panasonic does better.
Early and incomplete conclusion. The Canon has better low light performance, and somewhat better dynamic range, sharpness I am still testing. There are many things I like about the Panasonic, further testing shows a very good image now on the Canon. In some situations, this might be the reason to keep it. I will probably keep both, as each has distinctive functions and performance. (if you will buy this Camcorder I suggest you have to compare prices before you decide at: "Lowest-pricing.info/Canon-VIXIA-HF-M40" ) I just wish the Canon had the function of the Panasonic wide lens, menus and form, I would easily then give it five stars.