The usual array of Canon Program modes are available, including Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Cine Mode, and 11 scene preset options. Sadly, Canon’s excellent Image Effects have been relegated to the full menu. So you will need to head here to change colour saturation, sharpness, and to enable soft skin detail. But you can still set brightness, contrast, colour depth, and sharpening manually up or down an increment via the custom option. The HF M31’s full menu also lets you toggle Canon’s Advanced Face Detection, which can pick up as many as 35 faces at the same time. We found this recognised faces relatively quickly, and was therefore quite adept at tracking them as they moved.
With its wider array of options, the full menu uses smaller text. But Canon has done a reasonable job of keeping it usable. Instead of simply touching the option you want, you have to scroll the menu up to reach it. This then enables a button to access the parameters for that option. It’s not quite as quick as being able to just touch the option you want to access immediately, but more accurate and therefore less likely to cause frustration.
Thanks to the touchscreen, Canon has removed virtually all the buttons from the HF M31. There is one physical button still available on the LCD, for the Powered IS. This new feature adds yet another level of image stabilisation on top of the two basic options. By default, there are two different types of image stabilisation available – Standard and Dynamic. The latter is aimed at compensating for the kinds of wobble caused by shooting whilst walking. The Powered IS mode enables a temporary extra level on top, which is particularly aimed at ironing out vibrations when shooting at maximum zoom. We found it had a noticeable effect, making quite jerky footage far smoother. However, it also appears to have a mildly detrimental consequence for image quality, which loses some of its subtle saturation.