Despite its small size and midrange orientation, the HF M31 still sports an accessory shoe. This is cleverly hidden at the rear beneath a plastic flap, but it’s Canon’s proprietary “S” Mini Advanced Shoe, rather than standard sized, so will only accept Canon peripherals. Nevertheless, the HF M31 still offers minijacks for an external microphone and headphones, with manual audio level control also available, as already mentioned.
Although the HF M31 has a relatively small CMOS sensor, its image quality in adequate lighting is very good indeed. Colours are very faithful, with plenty of sharp detail, although there is a small amount of noise visible. Unfortunately, this holds the HF M31 back as illumination drops. In poor lighting, the image is noticeably darker than top models with larger sensors, and although fine detail is still visible, it’s rendered fuzzy by the grain. On the plus side, Canon’s Instant AF means the HF M31 is still able to focus at quite low levels of illumination, which camcorders relying solely on TTL often find problematic.
Despite its slight low light shortcomings, the Canon Legria HF M31 is a tempting proposition. The new touchscreen interface is mostly well executed, it’s compact, and comes with a healthy assortment of enthusiast features. Unfortunately, however, the problem with Canon’s previous generation of mid-range camcorders remains – it’s a little too expensive. At just under £800, it’s vying with top-of-the-range models from other manufacturers, such as Sony’s HDR-CX505VE or JVC’s Everio GZ-HM400, and it’s not far off Panasonic’s HDC-TM300 either. With all three offering larger, or more numerous sensors and better low light performance, the HF M31 needs to drop in price before it becomes competitive.
Score in detail
Image Quality 9