Our First Take
Canon’s Vixia mini launched last summer to considerable acclaim from bloggers, musicians, and other consumers in need of a versatile webcam. It was designed with video bloggers in mind, but Canon soon realized that many owners were using it to record spoken-word and musical performances.
Enter: the Vixia mini X (MSRP $399.99)—a redesigned version of the mini with improved audio performance and a host of polished specs. It features full-format HD video recording, an articulating LCD, Linear PCM audio recording, a 12.8-megapixel sensor, and a built-in electret condenser mic. Together, these features make for an impressive AV documenting experience—but don't expect it to replace a dedicated mic or video setup.
The mini X, though nifty, is still very much a video blogging device.
Design & Usability
Easy handling with a clunky interface
The biggest difference in the design of the mini X over the mini is the presence of the two stereo mics framing the lens. The camera body is also slightly bigger (3.2 x 1.2 x 4.3 inches)—by roughly a quarter-inch in each dimension. The touch LCD screen is the same size, and just as responsive as its predecessor. There were a few times when we had to double- or triple-tap a button to engage it, but for the most part it was a smooth user experience.
The menu layout is a bit cluttered, and not the easiest to navigate. It's certainly not inoperable, but the aesthetics are dull to say the least, and it’s agitating to still see stale menu design on consumer camcorders, especially considering the immense challenges facing the market in the years to come. These cameras need to be exciting and intuitive to grab users away from stills cameras and smartphones, and the mini X doesn't quite do it for us in that regard.
In all, the mini X, like its little brother, is not the most aesthetically pleasing device. But it’s all about function here. For those who need an effective method for recording desktop video and on-the-go performances—with high-quality stereo recording to boot—this is a solid option, even at the steep price of $399 (the Vixia mini is $100 cheaper).
The chief upgrade: sound
Fans of the Vixia mini will be familiar with the mini X’s (quite awesome) articulating LCD. It’s the exact same design as on the mini, but that’s really just a testament to its effectiveness. Coupled with the stand, which pivots the length of the back, there are a variety of ways to angle and stabilize the camera. This is ideal not just for video bloggers but for bands who have to work with limited space when setting up a camera.
And then there’s the Pan Table—an optional accessory that allows users to rotate and control the cam from a remote location. Specifically, owners use Canon’s CameraAccess plus app to oscillate the mini X left to right, up to 200 degrees. The table can also tilt by up to 20 degrees. What’s more, WiFi connectivity and a Live Streaming feature allow users to record to both iOS and Android smart devices.
There are a few bonus spec improvements over the mini, including a faster shutter speed (1/12–1/2000 sec.) and connectivity options including an HDMI jack, mic terminal, and 1/8-inch output. The f/2.8 fisheye lens and DIGIC DV 4 Image Processor are unchanged from the original.
The real improvement, however, is in the mini X’s spruced up audio functionality—specifically the inclusion of a built-in electret stereo condenser microphone. Linear PCM audio recording (another new addition) offers higher-quality sound digitization for music, and a manual audio input control allows for improved control over recording. There’s even an Audio Scene Select function that selects from eight pre-determined recording modes to choose the best settings for the shooting conditions.
The addition of these features leads to a pretty simply conclusion: This camcorder is meant for musicians. While the dramatically improved audio features may be a boon to some bloggers and documentarians, the original Vixia mini’s sound is not terrible—it’s certainly equipped for social media—and it costs $100 less.
An attractive option for a niche audience
The Canon Vixia mini X is certainly a step up from the popular Vixia mini, but for an additional $100 it narrows its target audience down to those who have a need for both compact HD video and high-quality sound. The only demographic that I can think of that fits that description is musicians on a budget—specifically those who play live and want to augment their social media presence with video.
Sure, video bloggers and Skype users may glean some value from the mini X, but the $399 price tag will stop a lot of them in their tracks. For those purposes, built-in webcams and mics are perfectly sufficient. And even if you are a musician, there are approximately 7 million high-quality condenser mics you can purchase for less than $399, and they will likely provide superior audio quality. Sync one of those with your smartphone camera and you have pretty much the same thing.
Then again, the optional Pan Table is pretty darn cool, and it offers a function that is lacking among smartphone cameras. If you want to remotely control your camera, this is certainly a product to consider. We'll have a full lab review of the Vixia mini X in the near future, so stay tuned.