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Just got the Canon M400 -- intro tips?

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
Okay, so I'm actually coming at this from a weird angle. I'm an experienced DSLR video shooter (Pana GH2, Sony A65, Oly EM5) and I'm very comfortable with manual everything. Canon was practically giving away camcorders this Black Friday, so for a mere $250 I got an M400. I've been planning to pick up a camcorder for a while and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

So my question is, what should I actually be expecting from this thing? I'm hoping for more usable AF, especially with the more forgiving depth of field. It's not a high end unit, so I'm not sure how much manual control I'll get or will even want to exercise. What about color profiles? DSLR land is all about flattening the heck out of the curve and patching it up in post. Will the cine modes here do the same thing?

More generally speaking, I've seen a lot of people talking about how camcorders are designed for video while the large sensor still cameras have it shoehorned in and there are all kinds of quirks. But I'm not really sure what that means in practice -- yes the A65 has a moire problem and a record limit, the EM5's codec will occasionally melt into macroblocking for no reason, and the GH2 tends to hunt in AF mode and clip highlights harshly. But what is the real strength of the camcorder? Or is it just the carefree experience that makes it?

(Bit of a brain dump there, I know. Please bear with me.)
post #2 of 3
For one, the stabilization is great. You won't see that horrible jello like when moving the GH2 around. With dynamic image stabilization on, do slow or moderate speed movements/pans and the HF M400 will look like a steady-cam. You can also either set it to use the Powered IS to toggle on and off or on all the time when you press the button on the LCD screen for even better stabilization, especially for close-ups.

The auto-focus is very fast when set to "Instant AF". You can flatten/ turn down the sharpness, contrast, etc, in the settings/via the function menu - although I don't recall if that will work in Cinema mode but it is available when you switch it to "manual". Also, to lock exposure, you should touch on the subject on the LCD screen when going into exposure settings and then hit the X to confirm - this way, you won't get sudden change in lighting. Manual touch focus is pretty good, too - with the right zoom distance you can get some bokeh after touching the subject.

You can get really good images, but the main shortcoming of these camcorders is no way to judge exposure; i.e. histogram or zebra stripes. If it's for casual shooting, doesn't really matter - but for anything serious it may look less than professional without those exposure aids.The other thing is the touchscreen menu can get frustrating, because they give you such a small area to land on things - so there are many false hits. You can use the wireless remote or included stylus instead of fingers.

You will want to pick up a long-life battery; the BP-819/about 4 hours and the BP-827/about 6 hours, although that last one will make the cam much heavier.
post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by xfws View Post

For one, the stabilization is great. You won't see that horrible jello like when moving the GH2 around. With dynamic image stabilization on, do slow or moderate speed movements/pans and the HF M400 will look like a steady-cam. You can also either set it to use the Powered IS to toggle on and off or on all the time when you press the button on the LCD screen for even better stabilization, especially for close-ups.
Yeah, I get results like that from the EM5 too. It's a big big plus point for me, as run-and-gun is my modus operandi. The A65 is pretty good at stabilizing, but the GH2 even with its 14-140mm OIS never seemed to do a great job. Certainly nothing like the Olympus.
Quote:
You can get really good images, but the main shortcoming of these camcorders is no way to judge exposure; i.e. histogram or zebra stripes. If it's for casual shooting, doesn't really matter - but for anything serious it may look less than professional without those exposure aids.
That is a bit disappointing, but I figure I would've shelled out for a much higher end camera if it was that big a deal. (The G10 at least.) I've still got the large sensor cameras. What I'm wondering, though, is how the dynamic range of Canon's current sensor compares to the big boys? I find exposure latitude to be extremely helpful, and my back-of-the-envelope calculations show the sensor has a similar dot pitch to the Nikon 1 series sensor. One of the biggest hassles for me with the GH2 is that its dynamic range is poor and its clipping on both ends of the spectrum is super harsh.

In fact the stabilization and dynamic range are really the two reasons I transitioned to the Sony Alpha, despite the image quality hit.
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