Review: Canon Legria HF G40

While the shoulder mount camcorder is still de rigeur for many, especially in the ENG department, (Electronic News Gathering) high end camcorders from the likes of Canon, Sony and Panasonic are starting to filter in to the system.

Initially they are used as second camera units or as a backup camera but are rapidly – if grudgingly in some quarters – being recognised as worthy replacements in many cases.

One of these is the Canon Legria HF G40 which we here at FV^VR Central have managed to collar for a while.

Description

The Canon Legria HF G40 – Canon has once again brought in the extra moniker added to the model number with Legria and Vixia – is a handheld camcorder supporting HD and priced at AUD$1699.

It’s a physically large camera when compared to others in the same mould and weighs in at 900g with the lens hood and battery. (By comparison our trusty Panny VXF995 4K is a shade over 450g).

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That is not to say it is too heavy to be comfortable. It isn’t as in the hand all the weight falls neatly into the heel of the palm, cushioning the main bulk.

The controls operated by the fingers of the right hand all fall perfectly into place and it is indeed refreshing to find a camcorder where the zoom rocker control is in exactly the right spot, as against a lot of models that cause the fingertips to stretch and strain to reach it, thus frequently causing errors on zooms.

Above the zoom control is a simple slide switch to select Auto, Manual or “Cinema” options.

On the rear under the natural fall of the thumb are the record on/off button, function button and a small joystick for menu operation.

The left hand side of the G40, and on the main body always accessible (ie not under the 3.5” flip out / rotating LED Touchscreen) contains another slider switch for Camera/Off/Media.

Under the aforementioned LED screen are SD card slots that can be set for simultaneous recording or relayed recording, a review recording button that doubles as a assignable function button, display button and battery info button. In all in fact, 5 of the available buttons are assignable, which when you get to know the GH4 can be a very valuable asset.

Before recording can start by the way, the SD cards cover must be shut otherwise the G40 gets a bit stroppy.

The bezel of the LED has two buttons – one for switching between manual and auto focus and one to turn on / off pre-record. On the front left of the main body is a knurled rotating knob that is also assignable, and a combined full size focus / zoom ring.

Finally, there is an AV and Headphone port, stereo mini external mic port, USB and Mini HDMI ports and a built in video light.

Charging the G40’s battery is on-board. The charger has no provision to add a battery to it, so if you are one of those types that likes to have a battery on charge as well as in use, then you’ll need to purchase an optional external charger as well as a battery. There are plenty of 3rd party ones and of course, Canon also has these as a spare part.

Now, to old hand users of camcorders – especially higher end ones – these are all no-brainers of course. We have used these buttons and switches a thousand times on many different brands and model of camcorder. If, however, you have saved and saved and saved to get your shiny new G40 and are moving up from a basic unit that was all auto, then some of these doo-dads might be a little intimidating.

Fear not you say! I’ll read the manual, you say! Except in this case you cannot, as the HF G40 does not ship with one.

Paper or electronic.

Sorry, you’ll have to go to the Canon web site in your country and download it. And even then, it is not perfectly evident as it is trapped away under the Drivers and Downloads section of the Support area.

Come on Canon!

If someone has shelled out near as dammit $1700, a proper paper manual cannot be that difficult? After all, you do ship a quite thick multi-language booklet describing the use of the G40’s Wi-fi functionality as well as a 30 page Quick Guide explaining the on-screen menu functions in brief.

Lens and Sensor

The lens is a tried and trusty Canon 3.67 – 73.4mm 20x zoom lens with f1.8 at Wide and F2.8 at Tele. This sends an image to a 3.09 megapixel (2208 x 1398 pixels), 1/2.84 Inch HD CMOS Pro Sensor.

Minimum LUX is said to be 1LUX and the G40’s night mode will let you go down to 0.1 LUX Canon say. There is an Auto Gain Control Limit Adjustment. Apparently.

Focus, Creativity and Auto Exposure

As mentioned, there is both auto and manual focus available as well as Face Detection Auto Focus, Face Only Auto Focus, Instant Auto Focus and to help with all things focussing, manual focus assist with peaking and magnification controls.

For those that like these things, 17 creativity options are built in (Fireworks, Sport, Beach, Sunset etc modes), fast motion recording up to 1200x in various steps and some “Cinema Lock” features such as sepia, old movie, vivid, dream …)  Maximum shutter speed is 1/2000 sec and minimum is 1/6 sec.

In Use

To test the Canon HF G40, I took a wander into the nearby Karri forest. It was a bright sunny winter’s day albeit with a slight smoke haze from recent and current Forestry Department burn-offs. I also did some shots from around the garden to get a sense of how the camera operated on different colours under different lighting conditions.

You judge the results yourself from this untouched footage shot in  HD mode with all filters turned off.

Sample Footage from Canon Legria HF G40 from Auscam Online on Vimeo.

 

I used a combination of the flip out LCD (not my first personal choice ever) which was reasonably clear even in the bright light thankfully, but mainly used the viewfinder (always my preference) which has a pull out and tilt capability.

Conclusion

This is a top shelf camcorder, worthy of its price tag. The HF G40 will easily swing into place as a second string or backup camera, and I feel it would be equally at home as a primary ENG camera where space may be a premium, or discretion is required.

Barring XLR audio ports or SDI output – go to the Canon AUD$3399 XA35 or better for those – the G40 has all the attributes necessary in terms of features, image quality, convenience and very importantly, ergonomics.

To see more including the full specifications of the Canon Legria HF G40, click here.

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