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The Canon Vixia HF M31 is a low priced high definition video camcorder. When those two items are combined, it might cause fear that the performance of the camera will suffer based on the low price range. In my Canon Vixia HF M31 review, the camera held its own against more expensive products and produced a picture quality that was surprising for the low price.
When shopping for a new video camera, I was looking at replacing my Canon XL-1s. I had reached a point where I needed HD video to progress in my vocation and I shopped around trying to find the right option for an affordable price. I finally decided on the Canon Vixia HF M31.
The first thing I discovered when working with the new camera was the amazing quality of video it presented when working at the highest quality setting. Even at night, with only one light, the camera produced a clear, concise image that surprised me when editing it.
This camcorder is also very small in size which means it takes work to keep it steady while shooting. After working almost exclusively with the Canon XL-1s, using the shoulder brace for stability, it is a task to get used to holding the camera in the palm of the hand and keeping it steady. That brings up another area that the Canon Vixia HF M31 is decent, the stabilization mode. I know I don’t have the steadiest hands in the world, but the video I have shot with it remains decently static and moving shots have never appeared that jerky.
It is important to understand that the video quality mode must be changed prior to starting. Shooting the highest quality video will take up the most memory on the camcorder but it is necessary to get the best looking picture. The default mode is low quality video and the results are far from satisfactory. Always use the highest video modes to ensure the best possible results.
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One new feature that the Canon Vixia HF M31 offers is a touchscreen. One aspect of the touchscreen is a negative when it comes to a review of the camera. The screen is not very easy to operate and it is through the touchscreen where many of the important menu items are located. When wanting to white balance, change F-stops or switch video modes, the touchscreen is where to go. The problem is that the screen is not easy to navigate.
Anyone with large hands will have trouble navigating through the menus and it is also important sometimes to press hard on the screen to get it to recognize the touch. The scrolling design is also a pain to work through, making getting to the specific menu item you need to access a struggle to reach. It is not a user friendly system at all.
However, the camera offers a lot of options, especially for the low price range. The Canon Vixia HF M31 offers shutter and aperture shooting modes, a nice touch giving the user more control of what he is shooting. While these features are not easy to access and even more of a pain to change, the fact they are here is a positive.
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The Canon Vixia HF M31 also comes with software for transferring the video to your computer and work with it. If you have any editing software, such as Adobe Premiere, I would suggest you completely ignore this software. Once I played with it, I grew frustrated with the lack of options and the slow rendering time and deleted it from my hard drive.
The camcorder has a USB port so you can hook it up to your computer. All video is AVCHD, so make sure your editing software is compatible with that. Since all the footage is on the camcorder’s hard drive, you can simply open the camcorder’s folders and drag and drop the footage to your computer's hard drive. This saves all the trouble of trying to use the software to do it for you.
The USB port also allows you to hook the camera up to your television. Hooking the Canon Vixia HF M31 up to my 37-inch LCD television and watching the footage play on my TV made me even more impressed at the quality of the high definition video.
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Price to ValueRating
The Canon Vixia HF M31 has dropped in price from when I bought it and can be found for $499 as of February 2011. For a price that low, a high definition camcorder is an amazing value. The video, while shot at the highest quality is pristine but make sure to adjust it before you begin to shoot because it defaults to low-quality mode.
There are problems with the touchscreen but, if you can get past that annoyance, there is a lot to love about this camera, especially at such a low price. This will not replace the Canon XL H1 HD camcorders but, at a price of $8,500 less, they are a great alternative for budget conscious videographers.
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Screenshots provided by writer / Images of products acquired from Amazon.com