Canon’s new Vixia G40 camcorder adds cinema-quality dynamic range effects

CES is generally the time for new camcorders, and Canon has four new Vixia consumer models for the start of 2016. Like compact digicams, camcorders in general aren’t as ubiquitous as they used to be, but have instead become niche devices. You might be asking, with video recording on phones, why would one need a camcorder? Manufacturers still see a market need, though, as there are still things you can do with a camcorder that you can’t with a phone, such as optical zoom. Canon’s new camcorders are relatively evolutionary, but they do offer a few improvements.

Vixia HF G40

The flagship announcement is the Vixia HF G40, a high-end prosumer camcorder that Canon says is ideal for “advanced amateur filmmakers, wedding videographers, and student reporters.” A successor to the G30, the G40 shares much of the same specs, such as a 20x wide-angle lens and Digic DV 4 image processor. Canon says the HD CMOS PRO Image Sensor is a new version — the same sensor used in the XA35 and XA30 professional camera, making the G40 a budget option for budding moviemakers. It also has manual controls, as well as customizable buttons, a rocking zoom button, and zebra, color bars, and test tone features for more advanced users.

The G40 records Full-HD (1,080p) videos at up to 60p, and in either MP4 or AVCHD formats. It has slow and fast-motion modes, from 2x to 1,200x intervals. The lens has a five-axis system that uses both hardware and software to compensate for shakes. There’s a 3.5-inch OLED touch-screen viewfinder, dual SD card slots, and Linear PCM audio recording for higher quality sound. With longer shooting in mind, the camera has a higher capacity battery, in addition to connectivity options and add-on accessories. The difference between the G40 and higher-end prosumer models is the lack of an optional handle for XLR connections, but Canon says users will get similar image quality results.

What’s new is a setting, “Looks,” that lets you add two creative effects, Highlight Priority Gamma and Wide Dynamic Range Gamma. The former is similar to high-dynamic range, “making it possible to capture visual characteristics that might otherwise be lost due to video compression,” Canon says. “This allows for the creation of video that can realistically convey the three-dimensional feel of blue skies and clouds, the translucence of water and the luster of metals.”

Using tech from its Cinema EOS professional cameras, the “Wide DR Gamma mode achieves a dynamic range that has been expanded to 600 percent compared to the 300 percent” of the G30. It helps “create smooth color gradations, even when shooting in environments that tend to produce under- and over-exposed regions, such as those with drastic differences in lighting conditions. To help facilitate better focus ability and clearer, more pristine images, the camcorder features High Definition Peaking for Focus Assist.”

The G40 will be available in February, priced at $1,300.

Vixia HF R72, R70, R700

For those who don’t need the pro features, Canon’s updating the Vixia HF R-series with the R72, R70, and R700. Similar to the previous R62, R60, and R600, the three share similar specs, but omit features based on price. Otherwise, they look similar.

Each camera has a 3.28-megapixel Full HD CMOS sensor, Digic DV 4 processor, 3-inch touch-capable LCD, and 57x zoom with optical image stabilization. These specs are carried over from their predecessor, but the LCD also has enhanced brightness and a new user interface that improves navigation. Also improved is the Zoom Framing Assist for tracking moving subjects.

The camcorders record up to Full HD at 60p, either in MP4 at 35Mbps or AVCHD Progressive at 28Mbps. Both formats can be recorded simultaneously, allowing you to quickly share one format (MP4) while letting you post-edit the other. This saves you the time that you would otherwise spend having to convert the AVCHD to MP4, but it will take up more space on the memory card. Slow and fast motion capture are available, from 0.5x to 1,200x intervals.

The price difference is reflected in the storage options. The R72 has built-in 32GB of flash memory (12 hours) and R70 has 16GB (six hours). All three cameras feature dual SD card slots; the R700 has no internal memory. The R72 and R70 also have Wi-Fi/NFC, giving you remote operation via an iOS or Android phone or tablet, as well as sharing purposes. All three cameras offer Creative Look filter effects, support for external microphones and headphones, and enhanced battery life.

All three cameras will be available in February, priced at $500 (R72), $400 (R70), and $300 (R700).

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