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Canon Legria HF M31 review



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After setting the standard for premium HD camcorders in 2008 with the HF10 and its derivatives, Canon’s 2009 models didn’t quite whet our appetites so much. But the company doesn’t rest on its laurels, and 2010 has scarcely begun before we’re seeing the first examples of the next generation trickle through. First to reach TrustedReviews is the mid-range Legria HF M31, top of a trio of siblings which includes the HF M36 and HF M306.

The HF M31 is essentially another enhancement of the Legria HF20 and HF21. Like the latter, it relies on a 1/4in CMOS sensor with a gross 3.89-megapixels, uses a Canon HD lens with the same specifications, provides a 15x optical zoom, and integrates an identical DIGIC DV III image processor. The HF M31 has 32MB of flash memory built in, which is enough for three hours of footage at the top quality mode. This shoots Full HD resolution AVCHD at the maximum possible 24Mbits/sec data rate. The HF M31 also sports a slot for SD memory, should you need more storage. So in this respect it’s identical to the HF20.

The biggest news is not the core specifications, then. What has changed is the control interface. With the HF M31, Canon has followed Sony and Panasonic and switched to a touchscreen LCD. In regular shooting mode, there are three onscreen buttons. One simply switches between camcorder and camera modes. The other enables onscreen buttons for operating the zoom and toggling recording, so you can use the camcorder two-handed from a more waist-oriented position.

The final FUNC button calls up the camcorders settings, and this menu has been totally redesigned from previous Canon camcorders for easier touchscreen operation. The initial screen presents just 12 options in two screens, which you can switch between with a finger flick across the screen, in a similar fashion to an Apple iPhone’s main app interface.

The first screen provides access to focusing, white balance, exposure, mic level, program modes, and the full menu. The second screen offers controls for zoom, AGC, the video light, the Pre REC function, digital effects and image stabiliser settings. Although most of these operate in the same way as with other Canon camcorders, there are some new additions. The focus and exposure options take full advantage of the touchscreen, providing one-touch operation where you simply indicate which point within the frame you would like to use as reference. However, Canon doesn’t provide the facility to combine the two into a single action, unlike Sony and Panasonic. You can also operate both with onscreen sliders, if you prefer.

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January 28, 2010, 1:20 am

The HF M31 has 32MB of flash memory built in (page 1)

When i know you mean GB!

michael miller

January 28, 2010, 4:00 am

why has the sound from your video reviews become distorted and such poor quality ?


January 29, 2010, 10:29 am

Hi,thanks for this review..i was waiting for it cos i want to buy this camcorder..but now i don't know what to do after hearing that the low-light performance still sux..i'm really disappointed.

- what about the advanced 18 x zoom ? (the zoom is very inportante x me)..is it good as the optical (15x),or it's only kinda digital ?

- i have £1100 to spend on 1 good camcorder..would you tell me please witch one can purchase ?

thank u indeed

James Morris

January 29, 2010, 3:34 pm

@michael miller: We've listened to this review again and aren't quite sure what you mean. We did have an issue a few weeks ago because we switched to a different microphone cable, but we've sorted that out now.

@shark The HF M31 doesn't have the Advanced Zoom, only a 15x optical one. The Advanced Zoom, where available, is good. You don't lose resolution, as this still uses enough pixels for Full HD, but a smaller area of the CMOS is called upon, so it has a minor effect on low light.

If you have £1,100 to spend on a camcorder, the world is your oyster. Check out our recent Buyer's Guide:


However, there are new models imminent from most of the major manufacturers, so if you can wait a few months it might be worthwhile. I've seen some new stuff which will blow your socks off, although I'm under NDA so I can't talk about it in detail!


January 29, 2010, 7:49 pm

Hi James..thanks x replaying.

Even though i'm editing digital audio/video (i'm musician above all)..this it will be my 1rst camcorder.

I think,as u said,i'm gonna wait 2 months or so x other models.

- On the canon website they say that the HF M31 (also m36/306) HAS AN ADVANCED 18X ZOOM :


..but u say it doesn't have..would please tell me what's wrong?

- Do u think the HF S21 appears to be a good product ?

..I know..it's expensive and it huuuuurts !!!

Thanks for your time.

James Morris

January 29, 2010, 10:11 pm

@shark: I have an early engineering sample, and mine doesn't appear to have that function. So maybe it's something they haven't enabled yet. This is a good feature. There's something similar on the LEGRIA HF S10 and it works very well indeed, in good lighting.


January 30, 2010, 1:04 am

Thank u James,

I hope you could test asap the new PANASONIC camcorders.above all the HDC-HS60.I love the 25/35 zoom,but Panasonic still recording at 17Mbps only.

- Can we notice the difference btw 17 and 24Mbps when shooting and editing ?

(i'm a Mac user :macPro 13"- mid09-Final cut pro7)


lu f

February 2, 2010, 9:55 pm

which is the best legria camcorder available? thanks for your reviews, really helpful!!!

James Morris

February 4, 2010, 8:56 pm

@shark: There isn't much difference between 17 and 24Mbits/sec. You would be really hard pressed to tell during regular everyday viewing.

@lu f: Thanks for the compliment! The best LEGRIA available is probably the HF S21, but we haven't seen that yet! The best we've reviewed is the HF S10 (http://www.trustedreviews.com/....

Richard Ramlin

April 8, 2010, 9:28 pm

James, Thank you for your in depth review. I have a general question, and please forgive me if I have posted this question in the wrong place, I want to buy a camcorder for up to GBP 650. I will only use it for family events (I am also a very unsophisticated user). At the moment, we do not have a hi definition TV, but will probably make the jump in the next year or so. My old camcorder has given up the ghost, so I really do need to buy one now which can do both hd and sd - I note the new canons have an hd to sd capability. Would you recommend the Radius legria R18 or would you recommend another model. Thanks

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