Canon Vixia G40 rocks!

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We recently acquired a Vixia HF G40 to make our videos with.  We had been using a Sony A7, which was a great DSLR, but not really so great for extended video.  We got ours on Amazon for a little less than $1300.   I’m an amateur who has done about a dozen videos, so I thought this would be a good perspective for others who might come across the same kinds of problems I have doing things, where as a true professional can make almost anything work.

I did a lot of research and felt like it was the best prosumer level video before jumping up to the next tier of cameras in the $2000 range, so I took the plunge.    This camera is marketed as a “prosumer” product, meaning its for amateurs who have needs closer to professionals.  I think we qualify as that pretty squarely.

vixia G40To set the stage of what we’re looking for in a camera, we’re doing a few different types of videos; multi-hour lets plays, product reviews, cooking videos, as well as just normal vlogs.  That puts some different pressures than you might have, presumably with just one type.  However, the G40 has been able to handle pretty much everything we’ve thrown at it.

Some of the features that made us decide on this camera were basics like the ability to record 1080/60p, the new HD CMOS PRO image sensor it has for improved low-light, and the ability to record while being plugged in. This was in sharp contrast to the A7 which was basically the opposite; demanding more light, unable to being plugged in while recording, and often overheating when set to the maximum quality video recording.  The ability to record at 60p isn’t really a huge deal for everything we’re doing thus far, but in the near future we want to do some skits with possibly some special effects and I wanted the capability in case we needed it.

The camera has an amazing setting called “Looks” which can add Highlight Priority Gamma and Wide Dynamic Range Gamma.  Highlight Priority video-recording gives you the ability to capture video with the same effects that HDR does for photography.  If you’ve played with HDR on your smartphone, then you might already know some of the amazing effects that you can get out of this type of technology.  It helps you capture the startling 3-dimensional effect a brilliant blue sky can have, while Wide DR Gamma is a feature from Cannon’s Cinema EOS System which allows you to get double the range of a Vixia HF G30 (600 percent compared to 300 percent).  I don’t have any experience with the HF G30, but I’m happy with the G40 even though I haven’t had a nature scene or something that can really utilize the effect.

The battery is amazing, able to record a good 3 hours for us before needing to be recharged, and like I mentioned earlier, unlike a lot of DSLRs, you can have it record while being plugged in.  Our Sony A7 could be plugged in too, but only with a hack someone made online to trick it into thinking that it has a battery plugged in, and it would inevitably overheat after 30 minutes regardless.

We’re not experts obviously, far from it, so how is the G40 working for us?  Great!  It has reduced the stress level tremendously.  During our first half dozen videos or so, we’d been constantly stressed with the camera, checking it, doing reshoots, etc.  Now it just sort of fades into the background.  We don’t need to worry about it, because it works!

There have also been quite a few unexpected delights.  Unexpected as in I didn’t have an appreciate for the bullet point, obviously not that it wasn’t listed. 😉  It has dual memory card support with the ability to automatically switch to the next memory card when the first fills up.  That means we have a tremendous 18+ hours just on our 180GB of memory card we currently have slotted!  The manual controls “feel” nice, its more stable on its camera stand and the grips just “feel” better for extended recording and adjusting the multiple dials for zoom, focus, light control, etc.  It has High Definition Peaking for focus assist, similar to what we were used to with the Sony A7, which helped us to feel comfortable with the camera right away.

 

Now what have we not liked?  There is a mode called Cinema mode which worked great to give us some nice shots!  Then we discovered that you can’t use cinema mode with 1080/60p, and with cinema mode turned off….well the other automatic settings were no bueno.  Luckily it just inspired us to learn more of the manual settings and after going through it and digging into the settings, we’re much happier with the camera output.  The OLED screen isn’t as crisp as the DSLR, and the viewfinder is close to useless.   Don’t get me wrong, its a 10,000:1 contrast OLED touch display, and thats pretty cool from a tech perspective.  However, the Sony A7 has a beautiful viewfinder that I found myself constantly using to frame shots.  With the Vixia G40, I rely entirely on the viewpanel, and it just isn’t as crisp or nice (though the touch controls are excellent!).  On the other hand, the OLED screen is probably partially related to the amazing battery life.

There are also no XLR inputs, but it does have Linear PCM audio recording for higher quality sound.   I wish it did have XLR inputs, but for now, I just ignore it as personally we’re using an H4N Zoom recorder.  The H4N supplies our XLR with phantom power, then we sync to the camera video in Premier afterward.  Having said that, the audio is pretty good, even if we delete it at the end of our video production process.

The Wide DR Gamma mode helps create smooth gradations between low light and brightly lit areas, which for us, has been nice because we have large open spaces in our home and constantly struggle to light up more than one area at any one time .

All in all, the camera feels very professional and we aren’t hitting ANY roadblocks to doing the kinds of videos we want to do.  Low-light? It can handle it! Long multi-hour boardgame lets plays? No problem, whether on or off camera!  60fps?  Perfect!

I really love this camera, and I haven’t wondered whether I should have bought something higher end even once.  This is a <$1300 prosumer camera on Amazon that makes me feel like I have a professional camera.

In my opinion, if you’re wanting a workhorse camera that can handle anything you want to throw at it, and aren’t at the point you need a 2000+ camera, this is a great camera.

The Review

Canon VIXIA HF G40 Camcorder

10 Score

"Great Youtube Video camcorder for bigger films 20x High Definition Optical Zoom Lens Advanced HD CMOS Pro Image Sensor with Improved Low-light Performance 1080/60p Recording in MP4 Built-in Wi-Fi Technology with FTP Transfer Capability 3.5-inch OLED Viewscreen with 10,000:1 Contrast Ratio and EVF Dual SD Card Slots, Using Readily Available, Consumable Media Intelligent Optical Image Stabilization System with Powered and Dynamic Modes and Auto On/Off High-capacity Battery Included"

Where to buy:

The Good

  • Longlasting Battery
  • Can be charged while recording
  • Usable by amateurs with near professional results

The Bad

  • dim oled screen
  • No XLR putting this product just shy of a professional setup

Breakdown

  • Excellent! 100%
Richard Mathis

Author

Richard Mathis

Richard Mathis is a software architect and CTO of CHSI Technologies. When he isn't imagining new ways to help insurance companies run their business, he's writing, gaming, or performing. You can follow his meanderings on twitter.

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