Pros + Resolution and video quality is awesome
+ Decent audio along with a very good image
+ MP4 recording is a nice feature
+ Good performance all around, especially low light
Cons - Plastic tripod mount
- Larger than a compact camera needs to be
Summary 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.
PS: for best price of the "Canon VIXIA HF M500" I suggest you have to check at: Stabilizedcamcorders.blogspot.com/p/canon-vixia-hf-m500.html
Hope this review is helps, Enjoy!
Pros Low light performance makes up for all the cons
Decent access to manual controls
Small and light (could be a con for some)
Cons Not enough zoom for some
Powered image stabilization (the most powerful IS setting) turns off whenever powered down or unit put on standby.
Not very rational menu setup on the home key.
Ergonomically not great
Low resolution still pictures 2 mp
Summary Too bad Canon is phasing out its consumer level models that have these great large sensors. The HF "M" models are going away. Snap these up before they are all gone.
Image quality trumps all other attributes of a camcorder, and this one produces because of 1920 by 1080 sensor. This necessarily reduces zoom capability (due to size of senor) and still picture resolution.
60p recording is overrated, and so is full 1920 by 1080. I just shoot 60i 1440 by 1080 and it looks exactly the same, smaller file sizes. I have even used the very low bit rate settings (5 mbps versus the regular 12 mbps) and it still looks great.
Ergonomically it is pretty bad, as it is hard (impossible) to hold with the start/stop button right under your thumb, my larger old HV20 was better.
My particular need was manual exposure adjustment on the fly, and this model works well. Using touch screen, you can toggle manual exposure and and off, adjust it up or down, and touch parts of the scene to set the manual exposure to that part of the picture, all simultaneous to shooting video without too much screen clutter to obscure the view. You have to do this with 2 hands; one holding camera, other touching LCD screen. HV20 could do it with the hand holding the camera.
Overall, I am excited about shooting family videos in challenging lighting situations; dance performances and spotlit(or not, or intermittent) ice skating.