Canon's camcorders have always focused more on quality than gimmickry. But the LEGRIA HF M52 has a foot in both camps. On the one hand, it has built-in wifi and the ability to act as a streaming video server. But it also incorporates a professional-grade sensor, as used in the excellent LEGRIA HF G10 and Canon's professional XA10. So is this the best of both worlds, or a bit of an identity crisis?
First, let's look at the core specification. The professional sensor is Canon's HD CMOS PRO, a 1/3in unit with a gross 2.37Mpixels, 2.07Mpixels of which are used when shooting video. This is a lot less than most consumer camcorders now offer, but it has one important advantage - there is one pixel on the sensor per pixel of video. Taking into account the way CMOS sensors are constructed, this means each pixel can be as large as possible, for maximum light sensititivity. The one downside of the professional CMOS is that its low resolution means this is not a great camcorder for still images, which can only be grabbed at 1,920 x 1,080.
The recording formats are more consumer-oriented, however. Canon hasn't adopted AVCHD 2.0 yet, so data rates range from 5Mbits/sec to 24Mbits/sec. You can use either 50i or 25pf, with the former being regular interlaced video and the latter a progressive signal recorded into an interlaced format. But there are also two other recording modes available. The first records AVCHD but with shooting tips for different types of activity such as travel, parties, or blogging. For example, with the party option you're given suggestions of questions to ask people, activities to record, and the recording duration to use. Clips are then recorded into the categories. But there's also a MP4 mode which records at 720p resolution and uses either 4 or 9Mbits/sec, with a 30-minute clip length limit. This is designed to be more readily compatible with Internet upload, but also the M52's streaming video capability, of which more later.