The Canon Legria HFM52 is a standard release for Canon, fitting nicely into the market as an average device in its price range. Unfortunately, the HFM52 gets a little lost in the pool of other video cameras, as it still has a long way to go to keep up with superior camcorders being released by competitors.
The device contains some fairly backwards features, most notably an irritating on/off button, which is rare in cameras today as we've become used to powering on with a mere flip of the screen. In terms of video quality, however, this device performs well for its price.
Design and features
Canon has been fairly uninspired in designing the HFM52, using what feels like cheap, lightweight plastic. The most frustrating problem with the body of the camera, however, is the awkward rattling sound that occurs with even the slightest movement. Considering the fact that it's almost twice the price of its sibling, the HFR36, the body of this camera is really no better, which is disappointing for a camera in this higher price range.
The LCD screen is not at all responsive and it gave us plenty of frustration while attempting to operate the device. The menu is irritating and outdated, compared to other brands, particularly when it comes to menu options. Many have been given vague, confusing names, and do not properly describe the category you're looking for. So prepare to embark on a wild goose chase when changing any functions, because Canon hasn't made it easy for you.
Speaking of wasting time, the "Story creator" feature is complicated and unnecessary. It is just one of a hundred functions that we would never use, merely cluttering up the already disorganised menu.
We've already mentioned the on/off button, but we should stress again that it is an old-school feature that makes it easy to forget that you still have the camera on. This caused us to send the battery flat once or twice after just shutting the screen instead of physically turning it to the off position.
The new Wi-Fi addition is an interesting idea, and a nice feature in theory, but we were left wondering how useful it really is in practice. To operate, it requires a fairly sound knowledge of Wi-Fi connections, and is definitely not for novices in wireless connectivity.
Video and image quality
Video quality overall has a nice appearance. Sharpness of the image and footage is extremely impressive, and the colour spectrum is vivid and true to life. The LCD screen suffers quite a lot in sunlight, struggling with shadows in contrast to brightness, as the dynamic range between dark and light is poor.
The zoom is also average, having particular trouble as a result of the image stabiliser under long-end zoom settings.
The image stabiliser is, unfortunately, abysmal. This is disappointing, as it's such an important feature for camcorders. At the long end of the zoom, the stabilisation is erratic, snapping back and forth as if it can't decide what to focus on. This is unacceptable in a camcorder of this range, as it completely ruins the footage.
On a brighter note, the focus in general is very good, with no blurring issues. The camera is very quick to adapt its focus automatically, although it happens so abruptly that you notice it changing, instead of having it blending in more smoothly. You could argue that the autofocus is too good.
Still images taken with this camera are surprisingly good, especially considering that camcorders typically take very poor images.
The Canon HFM52 is a generic camera that matches its price tag. If you're looking for a straight, no-fuss camera without the gimmicks offered by other brands, then this camera would be a good purchase, as long as you can endure the bad image stabilisation and the frustrating organisation of the menu. Overall, this camera doesn't disappoint for the price you pay; just make sure that you also buy a tripod.