Canon Vixia HF M52 Camcorder Review
Lens & Imaging System
Canon equipped the HF M52 with a 1/3-inch CMOS sensor with a total pixel count of 2.37 megapixels. If that pixel count sounds low to you, that's because it is... compared to most other consumer camcorders on the market, at least. Canon chose to keep the pixel count low on purpose, as to better design the sensor for video recording (and not for still photos). A 1920 x 1080 Full HD video only includes a little over two megapixels, so that's all Canon chose to put on its sensor. Extra pixels often limit low light performance for camcorders, and the HF M52's fine performance in our low light tests suggest Canon made the right move here—just like it did on last year's Vixias. We're happy to see Canon continuing with this trend.
The HF M52 doesn't have a huge zoom lens. The optical range tops out with a 10x zoom and the focal length is 6.1 - 61mm. Still, these are decent lens specs for a consumer camcorder, as long as you're not looking for a crazy amount of zoom.
Like most mid-range consumer camcorders, the HF M52 has no electronic viewfinder. This means all your video framing must be performed using the 3-inch LCD panel that flips out on the left side of the camcorder. The screen uses touchscreen technology, which isn't something we're always crazy about, and it features a meager 230k pixel resolution.
We certainly don't mind the 3-inch screen size, as it is a larger screen than we saw from the average consumer camcorder a few years ago, but Canon's decision to switch completely over to touchscreen systems isn't something we love. The glossy screen design looks great, but it collects fingerprints and smudges with ease. We also found the large menu system quickly made the 3-inch screen feel cramped whenever we were looking for features or manual controls to adjust.
Canon actually removed some of the connectivity options on the HF M52 this year (as compared to last year's HF M40), but we doubt most people will miss or even notice the changes. Opening up the LCD panel you'll notice most of the camcorders connectivity terminals in a single row near the bottom. Going across are the USB port, Mini HDMI terminal, AV output that doubles as a headphone jack, and a 3.5mm external mic input. Canon has long been known for providing external mic jacks on most of its camcorders, and we're happy to see this trend has continued with the HF M52.
So, did you notice what connectivity feature Canon removed this year? If you guessed the Component output then you're right! Canon removed this port and also doesn't included a Component cable with the HF M52, but the camcorder does come with an HDMI cable (which is better). Swinging around to the back of the camcorder you'll find a small DC input port that is covered by a tall and slim port cover. We like this port cover design, although the cover is disguised quite well so you may miss the port on first inspection.
Canon didn't forget about its hot accessory shoe, which is found on the top of the HF M52. It is covered by a hard plastic protector that slides away towards the back of the camcorder. It slides pretty far, but remains tethered to the camcorder so you won't lose the cap. This accessory shoe, like nearly all of the shoes on Canon's Vixia models, is a "mini" hot shoe that works with Canon accessories only (unless you buy a third-party adapter).
Canon did add WiFi to the HF M52 this year, which may be considered a connectivity upgrade. Our experience with the WiFi functions were not pleasant, however, and the features are far too complicated for the layman. You can read more about the WiFi capabilities here.
The HF M52's battery is both removable and rechargeable, and the camcorder comes with a small AC adapter to charge the battery pack or run the M52 directly from a power outlet. The battery does jut out from the rear of the camcorder by a third of an inch or so, but it's not a terrible nuisance—it just doesn't look like a streamlined design, that's all. Find out how the performed in our battery life test./r:link_to_content
The Canon HF M52 contains a single SD memory card slot that works with SDHC and SDXC cards as well. This is something for a change from Canon, as the company went with two memory card slots on a number of its Vixia camcorders in 2011. But for a camcorder like the HF M52, which already contains 32GB of internal flash memory, all you really need is one card slot Read more about the advantages and disadvantages of various media types.