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Canon Legria HF M306 review

Ben Pitt
14 May 2010
Canon Legria HF M306
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
556
inc VAT

Superb image quality, elegant controls and lots of useful shooting options, but sound quality is disappointing and the price is too high.

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Specifications

1/4in CMOS sensor, 1,920x1,080, 1,440x1,080, 15.0x zoom, 320g

Canon’s vast AVCHD camcorder range can be reduced to three models, with each one available in different memory configurations. The HF M306 is a mid-range video camera and with no built-in memory and just a SDHC slot for storage, is the cheapest of the M3xx models.

At £556, the M306 is more expensive than the equivalent models from Panasonic and Sony. Its 1/4in CMOS sensor, optical image stabilisation and lack of internal memory are in line with Panasonic’s HDC-SD60 and Sony’s HDR-CX115E, both of which cost around £400.

There aren’t many additional features to justify this price discrepancy. The best we could find was an accessory shoe for mounting an external microphone. Frustratingly, it’s a proprietary design so only Canon-branded microphones will fit. There’s no minijack microphone input either.

It’s in the details that the M306 begins to show a lead, though. Its touchscreen menu system is elegant and packed with useful functions. A PF25 mode switches from the standard interlaced video format to progressive scan, which gives more film-like motion and better-quality results on web hosting sites such as YouTube.

Touching the screen for spot focus can work in either of two ways – to lock the focus until the screen is touched again, or to specify a moving subject to track for continuous autofocus. Rival cameras offer one or other technique but it’s great to have both options. We found some of the simpler functions, such as browsing and deleting clips, a little confusing to fathom at first, but once we figured them out, the controls were a pleasure to use.

Picture quality was where the M306 really showed its superiority over its similarly specified competitors. Details were crisp, picking up subtle textures in foliage and delivering sharp but smooth edges in high-contrast lines. Colours were excellent, striking a pleasing balance between flattery and accuracy. Video noise reared its head in indoor clips, but it was a little less noticeable than from its competitors, and details remained a little sharper. There’s an LED lamp to help out when shooting nearby subjects in very low light.

The optical image stabilisation worked well during normal shooting, and even better when we zoomed right in. Holding down the Powered IS button beside the screen produced astonishingly stable telephoto shots – not perfect, but usable where other cameras’ footage wouldn’t be. Sound quality was disappointing, though, with a lack of both low and very high frequencies resulting in quite a boxy tone. Still photos were reasonably good, with a 3-megapixel resolution that’s plenty for casual snaps.

There’s a lot to like about the HF M306 and barely anything to criticise, but sound quality from the built-in microphone is the exception. Regardless, we’re unconvinced that this camera is worth £150 more than similarly specified models from Panasonic and Canon. Those who want the best and don’t mind paying for it should check out high-end models such as Canon’s Legria HF S21, which uses a larger sensor for better image quality and includes various extra features. For those who want to strike a balance between quality and price, the M306 doesn’t do enough to stave off the advances of the cheaper Panasonic HDC-SD60.

Basic Specifications

Rating****

Recording

Optical zoom15.0x
Digital zoom300x
Sensor1/4in CMOS
Sensor pixels3,890,000
Widescreen modenative
LCD screen size2.7in
Viewfinder typenone
Video lampYes
Video recording formatAVCHD
Video recording mediaSDHC
SoundDolby Digital Stereo
Video resolutions1,920x1,080, 1,440x1,080
Maximum image resolution2,304x1,296
Memory slotSDHC
Mermory suppliednone
Flashyes

Physical

Digital inputs/outputsUSB Hi-speed
Analogue inputs/outputsAV out, component out, mini HDMI out
Other connectionscharge jack, microphone, headphones, Canon accessory shoe
Battery type6.3W 850mAh Li-ion
Battery life1h 43m
Battery charging positioncamcorder
Size60x68x123mm
Weight320g

Buying Information

Warrantyone-year RTB
Price£556
Supplier
Detailswww.canon.co.uk

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