Canon Vixia HF M52 Camcorder Review
The HF M52's color accuracy score may be a bit lower than its predecessor in our test, but its colors still looked very good. Under bright light, the camcorder rendered colors with a strong saturation level (95%), resulting in deep, vivid tones. The color accuracy of the camcorder was 4.06, which is a titch higher than what we measured from the Canon HF M40 last year. More on how we test color.
In addition to having a good color performance in auto mode, the HF M52 includes various color modes and controls—some of which allow you to customize the intensity of the effect. Under the "Image Effects" menu option you find controls for Color Depth, Sharpness, Brightness, and Contrast, all of which are adjustable on a -2 to +2 scale. Switching the camcorder over to Cinema Mode gives you more digital effects and color options, some of which we have on display below. Options include: Standard Cinema, Vivid, Dream, Memory, Nostalgic, and Dramatic Black & White (among others). Each Cinema Mode (other than standard) have three intensity settings: low, medium, and high.
Most of the camcorders we compared the HF M52 to had strong color saturation and earned color accuracy scores that were all in the same ballpark. The Panasonic HC-X900 was the only model in our comparison group with a saturation level below 90%, and you can see the difference in color depth by looking at the comparison images below. The difference isn't huge, but the colors do appear a bit more muted on the X900—although that's something that may appeal to users who don't like overly-vivid colors. In short, all of these camcorders did well in our color test, but the Canon camcorders rank highest with us due to their plethora of color modes and image controls.
Low Light Color
The Canon HF M52's results in our low light color test were top-notch, although the numbers weren't quite as impressive as what we saw with low light sensitivity. In low light, the camcorder measured a color error of 4.21 and a saturation level of 82%. This color error number isn't much different than what we saw in our bright light color test, so that represents a positive for the HF M52. The sinking saturation level is to be expected, but 82% is still very good... and it's far better than we saw on the competition—including last year's HF M52. More on how we test low light color.
Unlike low light noise, the HF M52's PF24 alternate frame rate gave the camcorder a huge boost in low light color performance. Using PF24, the HF M52 was not only able to improve the color error by over half a point (down to 3.41), but was also able to increase the saturation level up to 99%. Those a very good numbers for low light video. So, if you're looking for better performance in low light situations you should try switching the HF M52 over to its PF24 or PF30 frame rates.
Rarely do we see issues with noise in our bright light tests, and the Canon HF M52's 0.72% noise level is nothing to be concerned about. It's not quite as low as the noise numbers we see on high-end camcorders or video-capable DSLRs, but it's a good level nonetheless. The best part, however, is that you almost never see noise on the HF M52's video image—as long as it is shot under bright, even light. In low light, the camcorder had some trouble at times, but the lights had to get pretty dim before the HF M52's video started showing tons of noise. More on how we test noise.