All those videos hitting YouTube about movies being recorded by smartphones are undeniably impressive. That’s because lens technologies have become so advanced that even the smallest ones are capable of recording impressive 1080p and 4K video. The speedy processors handle the auto-focus and post-processing while the software does all sorts of magical things. However, today’s technology simply doesn’t hold a candle to the innovations dedicated digital camcorder manufacturers are bringing. Take Canon and the VIXIA HF G30 introduced back in 2015. This camcorder is living proof that one can record professional-class video recordings without spending more than $2,000 on a high-end and bulky camcorder. The best part is that Canon recently announced a successor known as the Canon VIXIA HF G40 which builds on the success of its predecessor.
About the Canon VIXIA HF G40
The Canon VIXIA HF G40 primarily exists for two types of people – those that want much of the cool stuff found in the advanced Canon XA30 and XA35 camcorder models but in a smaller package and those that have about $1,300 to spare and want the most advanced camcorder possible. It is outfitted with plenty of manual controls allowing filmmakers to really find ways in getting the exact results they desire. It is also pretty customizable with five custom buttons called “Assign Buttons” where you can set them to whatever functions that need quick access.
Canon made the Canon HF G40 for wedding videographers, student reports and amateur filmmakers. Some of the features that make this camcorder stand out from the rest of the more affordable lineup are the impressive 3.5-inch OLED display and electronic viewfinder. It also comes equipped with dual SD card slots as there is no internal memory. All that extra bulk makes the camcorder weigh about 1.7 pounds but the grip belt still makes the camcorder feel comfortable to use.
More things are bundled in the package too including a lens hood with barrier, HDMI cable, stereo video cable, interface cable and wireless controller. It is also compatible with some official Canon accessories like the Video Light VL-5 and 5.1-ch surround mic SM-V1 which attach to the camcorder’s accessory shoe.
Comparison with the Canon VIXIA HF G30
The Canon HF G40 actually shares the same body as the VIXIA HF G30. Both models even have the same DIGIC DV 4 image processor and 20x wide-angle lens. However, the HF G40 possesses the new HD CMOS PRO Image Sensor which is the same sensor the XA35 and XA30 models use. This effectively makes the Canon HF G40 a miniature version of the XA30.
The other major addition to the HF G40 is the new “Looks” setting which allows easier access to certain imaging effects designed to make the videos a bit better depending on the scene. It consists of the Highlight Priority Gamma which is like a pseudo-HDR mode for preserving certain details that video compression normally gets rid of. There is also the Wide Dynamic Range Gamma for far better dynamic range.
Those fond of using the electronic viewfinder will really like that high priority mode because it comes with a special view assist function which increases the brightness of the viewfinder and optimizes the gamma so the overall footage looks more realistic. This setting can affect the OLED screen too.
The Canon HF G40 is capable of recording 1080p/60p video in MP4 or AVCHD formats. The AVCHD format is more ideal for archiving while the MP4 format is optimized for compatibility and small file size making it great for sharing. You only need a single SD card to make this all happen but having two SD cards in the camcorder opens up a couple of useful features too. With the Dual Recording feature set, you have record a single session and have it saved in both MP4 and AVCHD formats in separate SD cards. If you decide to record in just AVCHD alone, you can later create an MP4 version using the camcorder built-in transcoder functionality.
Relay recording serves as the other mode and it basically combines the capacity of both SD cards allowing longer recording sessions. As soon as the primary SD card runs out of space, the camcorder will seamlessly switch to the next without interrupting the footage and requiring user intervention. Having say two 64 GB SD cards rather than a single 128 GB is pretty ideal because the total cost of both is cheaper and if one breaks, you don’t lose everything.
The HF G40 is equipped with a more powerful dual-band Wi-Fi module supporting both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Like the more basic models, the Canon HF G40 can connect to a wireless hotspot or router and be part of a network filled with other computers and smartphones. Regular desktop users can access and configure the camcorder right through the Web browser while iOS users can download the Canon Movie Uploader app for an easy means to sharing videos online or uploading to an FTP server.
The Advanced HD CMOS Pro image sensor is really the key component of the HF G40 giving a noticeable boost to low-light performance. Visuals look sharper and even a bit more detailed in darker areas compared to the HF G30.
The optical image stabilization system deserves some recognition too as it works far better than the VIXIA entry-level models. Part of the reason is the added Dynamic Image Stabilization mode which helps stabilize the camera across all zoom levels.
• The HD CMOS PRO Image Sensor brings the image quality closer to the more expensive XA30 model
• Noticeably better low-light performance.
• Plenty of manual controls.
• Package full of accessories and cables.
• Speedy Wi-Fi.
• Few improvements compared to the G30.
• No NFC like the entry-level models
The Canon VIXIA HF G40 was a pretty difficult $1,300 camcorder to beat but Canon successfully built upon that and made the low-light performance of the Canon HF G40 better. It might not convince G30 owners to upgrade but it does make that $1,300 really shine in value and may end up being the more attractive alternative to the XA30 since both camcorders have the same sensor.