Canon Vixia HF M52 Camcorder Review
Low Light Performance
Low Light Sensitivity
The Canon HF M52's low light sensitivity results were spectacular, and we're saying that without a hint of hyperbole. Like its predecessor, the HF M40, the HF M52 managed to produce bright images with minimal illumination assistance. In fact, the HF M52 needed just four lux of light to produce video that hit 50 IRE on our waveform monitor—a level that is one lux lower than the HF M40 measured in this test last year. Zooming out, in an effort to use the HF M52's widest aperture setting, allowed the camcorder to capture the same video image with two lux of light instead of four. These are very good results all around for the HF M52. More on how we test low light sensitivity.
But that's just the start of the HF M52's grand low light sensitivity performance. Shooting with the camcorder's PF24 or PF30 frame rates give the M52 an instant brightness boost. The camcorder needed just one—yes one—lux of light to record a usable broadcast video using its alternate frame rate options.
Low Light Noise
In our low light sensitivity test, we definitely started to see quite a bit of noise on the HF M52's image, but most of that noise came in very low light situations (under 20 lux of illumination). In reasonable low light situations, which is what we use for our low light noise test (60 lux), the Canon HF M52 showed very little presence of noise. We measured the noise levels at 0.92% in this test, which is statistically identical to what we measured on the HF M40 last year. More on how we test low light noise.
While the PF24 and PF30 record modes on the HF M52 do result in an increase in brightness and sensitivity, we found the alternate frame rates did not help reduce the noise levels. Maybe this is because the camcorder already handled noise relatively well at 60 lux, so the room for improvement wasn't there.
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.