Review: Canon GL1 Camcorder

A 3-Chip Off the Old Block

Canon introduces the newest addition to its family of Mini DV camcorders, the GL1. A smaller, more compact version of the XL1; there’s no missing the family resemblance.

The GL1 is a 3-chip Mini DV camcorder that delivers the same great image as its older brother. Though it doesn’t have all of the features that the XL1 has, like interchangeable lenses and manual audio control, for about $2000 less, the GL1 is an affordable answer to professional-quality digital video. The GL1 could be perfect for intermediate to advanced videographers who demand excellent image quality and manual controls. It does have a fully automatic mode for beginning video hobbyists, but it would be a shame not to take advantage of all that this camcorder has to offer.

What it is

The GL1 features a 20:1 optical zoom and a 100:1 digital zoom. The digital zoom on the GL1 worked well. Not only was there minimal picture degradation, but it was surprisingly steady when we used the optical image stabilizer. It has a 2.5-inch flip-out color LCD viewscreen and a small color viewfinder.

The GL1 uses an extensive menu system for detailed control of the various features. It also has some buttons conveniently located on the body of the camcorder for quick and easy access. The focus, exposure, white balance, digital effects (DE) on/off buttons and all playback buttons are at your fingertips. The DE on/off button is practical and convenient. To access digital effects (fade, black & white, slim, stretch and strobe) open the menu, choose the digital effect mode and selected the effect that you want. Then, to use the effect, simply press the DE button; Each DE that we tested worked nicely.

One of the coolest features of the GL1 is the Frame Movie mode. Instead of capturing 60 fields per second, it captures 30 frames per second. Originally designed to create high-quality still images from captured footage, it strobes the image slightly, giving your footage a unique film-like quality.

Under Control

The first thing that sticks out (literally) on the GL1, is the Fluorite lens with manual focus ring. The focus button on the left side of the body allows you to switch between automatic and manual focus. The automatic focus worked just fine. It had no problem staying in focus, even as we zoomed in and out at full speed. It also responded well when we panned across the room. The manual focus, which we controlled by turning the fat, sure-grip focus ring was easy to adjust and didn’t drift. Good job Canon.

The GL1 has nearly all of the manual controls that you could ask for. Users can manually control focus, white balance, iris and shutter speed.

There are seven basic program modes. The most basic is the Easy Recording mode. This is a pure point-and-shoot mode with no manual control or digital effects. In the Auto mode, the GL1 automatically adjusts all of the settings, allows you to access the advanced features and gives you manual control of any element you wish.

In TV mode you can select any of the 27 shutter speeds ranging from 1/60 to 1/15,000 of a second. If you’re looking to control your depth of field, the AV mode lets you set the f/stop at intervals between f/1.6 and f/11. The GL1 also has a Zebra-stripe feature that appears as diagonal lines on the frame to indicate whether the image is too bright.

In Manual mode you have full control over the exposure, iris, white balance and video gain. Unfortunately, the GL1 doesn’t remember previous manual settings so when we switched to a different program mode or turned the unit off, we had to re-adjust our settings.

Sounds Good

The GL1 has both 12 and 16-bit stereo audio and includes audio dub capability. Although the GL1 doesn’t have manual audio level control, we hardly noticed. It captured sound superbly. The on-camera PCM stereo microphone worked well and we were pleased with how well the auto gain adjusted itself, without jarring jumps or drops in levels. The mike did pick up the sound of our hands moving on the camera, though. To avoid this, you can plug in an external microphone and get closer to your source.

In addition to a small speaker, Canon has provided a headphone jack to monitor audio. Other jacks include FireWire, S-video, A/V in and out and LANC edit control.

Excellent and Affordable

Once again, Canon has raised the bar for Mini DV camcorders. Easy to use and comfortable to hold, the GL1 is a professional-level 3-chip Mini DV camcorder set at a high consumer-level price. — DC

GL1 Mini DV Camcorder
One Canon Plaza
Lake Success, NY 11042
(800) 828-4040

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