The camcorder autofocuses quickly and accurately, even in dim light, though like all camcorders it occasionally chooses the wrong subject or jumps into face-detection mode when you don't want it to. Its metering and exposure decisions are mostly correct. You can always turn IA off and use touch focus or touch exposure to force it, though I rarely found the need to. If you find yourself working out in the last 90 percent of the zoom range or tend to hold the camcorder with outstretched arms, you probably want to keep the camcorder set on Active Steady Shot all the time, but overall the standard image stabilization seems to work pretty well.
The LCD is on the small side--as befits the compactness of the camcorder--and like many is hard to see in direct sunlight. It's serviceable as a touch screen; not wonderfully responsive, but there's so little to navigate that I didn't mind too much.
The most notable feature of the camcorder is, of course, the small projector built into the LCD door. It delivers enough throw and brightness for casual home viewing, and the slider on top of the door makes it easy to focus. While I would have liked the touch screen to function during projection--you have to set everything up in advance, because you have limited navigation in projection mode--it's straightforward enough to use. You don't notice the relatively low-quality video while viewing this way rather than on a big-screen TV, in part because the resolution of the projector is only 640x360 pixels. (Other specs: up to 10 lumens, 10 to 60 inches of coverage, throw about 20 inches to 10 feet.)
|Canon Vixia HF M400/M40/M41||Panasonic HDC-TM90/SD90||Sony Handycam HDR-PJ10|
|Sensor (effective video resolution)||2.07-megapixel HD CMOS Pro||1.9-2.6-megapixel CMOS |
(depends on zoom)
|1/3 inch||1/4.1 inch||1/4 inch|
|Closest focus (inches)||0.4||n/a||0.4|
|Min illumination (lux)||recommended: 100 |
low light: 0.1
|standard: 1,400 |
low light: 4
Color Night View: 1
|recommended: n/a |
low light: 3
|None/None/ 0.24-inch 260,000 dots||None||None|
|LCD||3-inch 230,000 dots||3-inch 230,400 dots||3-inch 230,000 pixels|
|Primary media||0GB/16GB/32GB internal; 2 x SDXC||16GB/0GB flash; SDXC||16GB internal; 1 x SDXC|
|HD recording||AVCHD: 1,080/60i @ 24, 17Mbps; 1,440x1,080/60i @ 12, 7, 5Mbps |
(also encodes 30p and 24p as 60i)
|AVCHD: 1,080/60p 28Mbps; |
1,080/60i @ 17, 13, 9, 5Mbps
|AVCHD: 1,080/60p @ 28Mbps; 1,080/60i @ 24,17Mbps; 1,440x1,080/60i @ 9, 5Mbps |
|Manual shutter speed||1/6 - 1/2,000 sec||Yes||No|
|Audio||2 channels (5.1 via optional mic); |
mic, headphone jacks
|2 channels||5.1 channels; mic and headphone jacks|
|Body dimensions (WHD, inches)||2.9x2.8x5.2||3.1x2.3x4.4||2.4x2.6x5.1|
|Operating weight (pounds)||14.3||7.7 (est)||12.9 (est)|
|Ship date||April 2011||March 2011||March 2011|
On top of the camcorder are the mode and photo buttons, which feel too close together. The zoom switch wasn't nearly as loose on this model as on the CX130, which leads me to think there's inconsistency across the products. A tiny captive USB cable tucks into the strap and comes in handy when you're on the road.
While not fully automatic, the camcorder comes close. You have a choice of four shooting modes: movie, photo, Smooth Slow Record (3 seconds of motion played back at 25 percent speed), and Golf Shot (2 seconds of motion captured as multiple frames). The "manual" settings are white balance, spot meter/focus, and exposure compensation. But they're in the menu system and not accessible enough to be very useful. The camcorder is really intended to be used in auto, and it fares pretty well from that perspective. Its other notable feature is the relatively wide-angle lens, which starts around 30mm-equivalent.
Though more expensive than its projectorless siblings, if you're one of those folks who like to share their vacation vids and school graduations with everyone--and if you have the bad habit of leaving all your videos in the camcorder--the built-in projector provides a nifty way to do so, and using it is easier than hooking up to strange TVs. But if you don't think you're going to use it that way, you're better off saving money and opting for the CX130, or spending it on a better camcorder, like the Canon Vixia HF M400.