Canon Vixia HF M52 Camcorder Review
If you're looking for a photo/video hybrid device, the Canon HF M52 is not the model for you. Canon directed its efforts towards video with the HF M52—just like it did on the majority of its Vixia models from last year—and all but abandoned still image controls and features. The camcorder can still shoot still photos but the size options are limited to a 1920 x 1080 resolution and the features are limited to a self-timer and that's about it. Honestly, we like this move, as most people already have a halfway decent camera on their cell phone or in their pocket. The HF M52 is a camcorder, and camcorders are meant to record good video (and that's exactly what the M52 does).
The Canon HF M52 does have WiFi connectivity, but be forewarned: this feature is extremely difficult to work with. If you're the kind of person who hates setting up networks or working with wireless routers, then you're going to lose your cool with the M52 very quickly. The WiFi setup is not easy—a concept that is accentuated by the fact that the camcorder comes with its very own WiFi setup guide that is supplemental to the main instruction manual. Expect to read this manual closely if you want to use the WiFi functions.
There are three main WiFi features on the HF M52:
• Connect to an existing WiFi network and transfer videos to a computer on the same network via the provided network utility (Windows only) or FTP server.
• Connect the camcorder to an iOS (Apple) device using a the free Movie Upload app. You can playback MPEG-4 clips on the iOS device this way (not AVCHD videos, though), and you can upload video to Facebook or YouTube this way as well.
• Connect to a WiFi network and playback videos on a DLNA-compatable television.
All of these functions are a challenge to work with, and the instructions for getting each WiFi feature to work properly are extensive. We hated using the touchscreen LCD to input WiFi passwords and FTP information, as the screen is simply not sensitive enough to handle this task with ease. Switching over to our iPhone we quickly realized how much better Apple's touchscreen system is than Canon's. Keep in mind that Canon made some very strange choices in what operating systems can do what with the HF M52's WiFi functions. The provided network utility, which allows you to transfer video from the camcorder to your computer without a USB cable, only works with Windows machines (not Macs). The free Movie Upload app is only available on iOS devices, however, and it won't work on Android products.
Honestly, our recommendation is to avoid the M52's WiFi features altogether, with the possible exception of the wireless playback feature on DLNA-compatible televisions. This feature is still requires the annoying WiFi setup phase (connecting to your existing wireless network), but once you store that information it does mean you can playback videos without using any cables. Although finding a perfectly compatible DLNA HDTV may be an issue... and just leaving an HDMI cable next to your TV may be a simpler easier solution overall.
If you like in-camera editing, then you may be interested in the HF M52's fader feature that allows you to—you guessed it—put faders before or after your video clips. A good chunk of consumer camcorders offer this feature, and it's also something you can easily add in post production.
Video Snapshot is a user-friendly feature that Canon added to its Vixia models a few years ago. The feature essentially puts a time limit on your video clips, which you can set to 2, 4, or 8 seconds. This keeps your video clips short and relatively fresh, as there is nothing more boring than a long static shot (in home movies, at least). The Video Snapshot feature is engaged by pressing the Video Snap button inside the LCD cavity.
Pre Record is a common, but useful feature on consumer camcorders. When active, the HF M52 will continually store three seconds of video in an internal memory buffer. So, when you hit the record button, the camcorder has already captured whatever was in front of the lens for the three prior seconds to you actually hitting the record button. It is great for capturing action sequences (like the swing of a bat, for example), but the feature will reduce battery life quicker than normal.