Canon LEGRIA HF R406 review

Key Features: 1/4.85-inch CMOS with 3.28Mpixels; 32x optical zoom; 53x Advanced Zoom; Optical Image Stabilisation: Intelligent IS with Advanced Dynamic Mode; AVCHD 2.0 and MP4 recording at up to 35Mbits/sec; Graphical Decorations and Cinema filters

Manufacturer: Canon

Canon LEGRIA HF R406 review

 Canon LEGRIA HF R406

What is the Canon LEGRIA HF R406?

The Canon LEGRIA HF R406 is a budget-conscious HD camcorder with some higher-end features that single it out from the crowd. Canon has traditionally had more persuasive products at the middle and higher end of the market. But the R406 has a few features that could make it more compelling than some of its budget predecessors.

Canon LEGRIA HF R406 – Features

For a start, the Canon LEGRIA HF R406′s spec is reasonable at this price. There’s a 1/4.85-inch CMOS with 3.28Mpixels, 2.07Mpixels of which are used when shooting video. This is precisely enough for Full HD. The R406 supports AVCHD 2.0, so offers Full HD quality settings up to 28Mbits/sec at 50 progressive frames per second. However, you can also record MP4s at up to Full HD with 50 progressive frames per second and a 35Mbits/sec data rate. There’s a 720p mode, too, for when you really don’t need 1080p resolution.
Footage is recorded to SDXC memory card, with a 32GB module enough for around two hours of footage at the top 35Mbits/sec MP4 data rate. The R406 can only capture stills at 1,920 x 1,080, in JPEG form, though. So the LEGRIA HFR406 is no digital camera crossover device, merely a camcorder that can grab the odd Web-oriented image when required, although some camcorders in this price range don’t even offer this facility.

Canon LEGRIA HF R406

The relatively small sensor means the HF R406 has a decent 35x optical zoom. There’s a 53x Advanced option, too, although these systems usually take advantage of spare sensor pixels. As the R406 doesn’t have a hugely high-resolution sensor, the Advanced zoom doesn’t have a lot to play with here, although it won’t reduce quality like the ridiculous 1,060x digital zoom. Still, a 32x optical factor is more than adequate, and you would be hard pressed to keep this level of zoom stable hand-held anyway, even with the best image stabilisation in the world.

The primary image stabilisation system may not quite meet this high level, but it is optical, which is commendable at this price, and we found it about as effective as Panasonic’s latest camcorders. The Canon LEGRIA HF R406′s stabilisation is implemented as Intelligent IS with Advanced Dynamic Mode, which detects the kind of vibrations being experienced and selects between four different options, with the Advanced Dynamic Mode in particular adding roll and tilt compensation that smooths out shooting when walking – again, very effectively in our testing, although not quite as effectively as Panasonic’s. However, the lens cover is manual, using a slider on the side.

Canon LEGRIA HF R406

While the HF R406 has a decent level of creative features, which we will be covering shortly, this model is clearly aimed at the point-and-shoot consumer, and nothing could illustrate this more than the Baby Mode. This lets you stamp your videos with graphics illustrating event markers like date, time, a certain age, height or weight, and stores the videos you shoot in this mode in a special collection.

These options are among Canon’s Decorations, which give you tools to superimpose graphics over your video as it is recorded. You can draw freehand lines, and add animated stamps including stars, circles, musical notes, and fluctuating pixels. We would always recommend adding these kinds of effects at the editing stage, as recording them in-camera means you can’t remove them if you don’t like the end results. But if you never plan to do any serious video editing, they can be fun.

Canon LEGRIA HF R406 – Creative Settings, Image Quality and Verdict

 Canon LEGRIA HF R406 – Creative Settings

Absolutely all of the HF R406′s settings are configured via the 3-inch LCD touch panel, with separate buttons only available for turning the camcorder on and off and toggling between record and play modes. This supplies the usual touch focus and exposure capability, while the Auto setting will detect conditions and set an appropriate scene mode accordingly. Switch out of Auto, however – or the aforementioned Baby mode – and you have considerably more options. As with most Canon camcorders, there is a decent level of manual control available, although not as much as some.

Canon LEGRIA HF R406
There are nine scene modes available, including the usual portrait, sports, night, snow and beach options. A Cinema mode is also on hand that offers a selection of film-look filters such as cool, vivid, and classic. These provide more subtle colour grading than standard digital filters. However, it’s worth mentioning that the Canon LEGRIA HF R406′s 50p AVCHD and 50p MP4 recording modes aren’t available when the cinema filters are applied, and neither are the graphical Decorations. However, you can still access manual focusing, white balance and exposure.

Both focus and exposure can either be used in separate touch modes, where you indicate a point in the frame to use as reference, or you can adjust them via on-screen sliders. Exposure can be varied between -3 and 3 in quarter unit steps, but there’s no independent control over shutter and iris, which is a disappointment when so many previous Canon camcorders had this level of fine control, which was one of the reasons they were so capable.

There is a Programmed AE option, which gives you the same settings as the cinema mode, but without the filters and with the ability to use the top quality modes. However, there is no fully manual mode, although you can adjust the microphone volume manually from 0-100. The R406 has an analog AV output that can double as a headphone jack for monitoring audio, too, but there’s no microphone input or accessory shoe, so it wouldn’t make an ideal budget enthusiast camcorder in this respect either.

There are also no Wi-Fi features, which Samsung did manage to squeeze into its similarly priced Samsung HMX-QF30, as did JVC with the JVC HD Everio GZ-EX515BEK.

Canon LEGRIA HF R406

Canon LEGRIA HF R406 – Image Quality

On the other hand, the HF R406 does compete well with both of these for image quality. The Samsung’s slightly bigger sensor has a marginally greater response in low light, but Canon’s lens resolves good detail, and the image stabilisation is better than either Samsung or JVC’s alternatives. Overall, the R406 shoots rich, accurate video in the best lighting, and its low light abilities are commendable too. This is another camcorder that has few problems with our 100W ceiling light test, where we shoot video in a room illuminated only with a 100W bulb fixture, which is the kind of conditions many family videos will be shot in. The R406 remains bright, with only a hint of grain.

Verdict

The Canon LEGRIA HF R406 may not have the excitement of Wi-Fi connectivity, but it does shoot good-looking video at a decent price, with excellent image stabilisation. The lack of manual settings is a disappointment, although the camcorder is otherwise well endowed with mature creative options, including a decent range of scene modes and cinema filters. Overall, it’s a decent budget camcorder.

Canon LEGRIA HF R406 review

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