Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
- Superb image quality, 20x optical zoom, affordable for a professional unit
- No zooming ring, inbuilt microphone below average, standard-def only
Serious users will find plenty to love about the X-M2, which combines plenty of premium features with a price tag that most people can afford. It might be getting a little long in the tooth, but this is still one of the best MiniDV cams on the market.
Price$ 3,999.00 (AUD)
Reviewing a high-end camcorder from Canon is comparable to taking a Lamborghini Diablo for a 'test' drive -- critical opinion, however informed, is practically irrelevant. This is basically as good as it gets, with the X-M2 being an admirably worthy successor to the discontinued GL1. Although it lies at the very bottom of Canon's professional camcorder range, it remains peerless in nearly all areas. From its exceptional colour fidelity through to its advanced audio controls, everything is of a uniformly superb quality. Whether you're an aspiring indie film-maker or a freelance cameraman on a budget, we cannot recommend this camera highly enough.
Design-wise, the XM2 is a throwback to the classic XL series, with the same elongated dimensions, distinctive colour scheme and familiar carry handle. Another -- perhaps less desirable -- nod to the past is the lack of HD functionality. Instead, this is a standard MiniDV model, just like its forbearers.
Although it theoretically uses old and outdated technology, the X-M2 still outstrips most high-definition units when it comes to video performance. This is largely thanks to its fluorite lens and high resolution 3CCD sensor, which sports 380,000 pixels per CCD. Indeed, when compared to cheaper HD efforts, such as the Sony HDR-SR7E or Sanyo Xacti HD1000, the difference in image quality is quite significant. We were particularly pleased by the sharpness of images and lifelike rendering of colours (anyone who prefers realistic hues over kaleidoscopic vibrancy will certainly not be disappointed). Likewise, dimly lit footage was impressively noise-free, with blacks appearing rich and inky. On the downside, our test shots were occasionally marred by the presence of artefacts on the screen, but this was a very rare occurrence which is common in all DV cameras.
Being a high-end camera, the X-M2 is naturally filled-to-the-gills with professional-level modes and features. Foremost amongst these is the manual focusing ring which adorns the lens barrel, although a zooming equivalent is regrettably absent. Thankfully, the excellent 20x optical zoom lens more than makes up for this omission; offering distant users plenty of scope and freedom.
One particularly handy function is the ability to pre-program a range of exposure settings onto the camera for speedy selection. This allows you to move between different lighting conditions without wasting precious seconds of footage -- a definite boon for wedding videographers. Other advanced features include the Clear Scan Mode for recording computer monitors without interference, variable gain control settings for light-level adjustment, 1/50 to 1/16000 shutter speeds, EBU Colour Bars to assist with colour correction, four white balance modes and a memory card slot for additional recordings.
The build-quality of the X-M2 is just as solid as you'd expect from Canon. With its overall dimensions of 118x136x306mm and weighing 1.3kg, it strikes a good balance between professional appearance and portability. As with Canon's other prosumer efforts, the X-M2 requires two-handed operation during filming, especially for those who prefer manual focusing. The controls are intuitively laid out, while the menu interface is intelligently streamlined, without any of the needless clutter we have seen from other elite units.
The 2.5in LCD flip-out display should pose no problems during operation, although XL traditionalists will doubtlessly stick to the viewfinder. In terms of audio, the X-M2 fares equally well, with a choice between automatic and manual L/R controls. An external 3.5 microphone jack is naturally included, along with an optional adapter port for use with professional XLR microphones (the adapter itself will need to be bought separately, however). Unfortunately, the inbuilt omni-directional microphone has let the side down somewhat, with prominent background noise occasionally effecting audio.
Rounding out the package is the obligatory stills mode, which captures 1.6-megapixel stills to either DV tape or memory card. While they will make acceptable 4x6in prints, the quality is significantly below most cheap compact cameras. (Of course, the same thing can be said of almost every MiniDV camcorder on the market). Through-and-through, the X-M2 remains a truly remarkable piece of hardware that we urge you to take for a spin.
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