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Totally in Control
The Canon ZR400 is a unique Mini DV camcorder for beginning shooters as it offers a great deal of manual control, yet it is still easy to operate. New camcorder owners or anyone looking for a good value will definitely find the ZR400 a satisfying solution.
The ZR400 has a slim and narrow design that is very comfortable to hold. The body is made up of mostly plastic and, ironically, still feels very solid and durable. All the buttons and controls are easy to reach. The only issue in regards to accessibility is the bottom loading tape transport.
Included with this camcorder is a 16MB SD memory card to which you can capture snapshots and movies at a maximum resolution of 1152 by 864 pixels and 320 by 240 pixels, 15 frames per second respectively. The ZR400 is equipped with a USB jack to transfer those files to a computer. Digital Video Software (Version 14) is also included with a supplied 40 plus page instruction booklet. The software will enable you to transfer the files from your camcorder to your computer, plus give you editing and organizational options as well. And lastly, there is also a wireless remote control supplied with the ZR400.
The ZR400 has an impressive 14x optical zoom lens. Even at the full length of the lens the electronic image stabilization keeps the shots very still, but we recommend a tripod for less distracting results. The zoom rocker is easy to control and has variable speeds.
If manual controls are what you are seeking, you'll find the ZR400 has a good selection. The auto/manual focus switches with the press of a button. Controlling the manual focus is done with the select wheel and is rather easy to control, but lacks the fine adjustments that result from a focus ring. The select wheel is located on the back end of the camcorder and controls most of the navigation for the menu. The shutter speed can also be manually set from within the menu system, along with a manual white balance setting, too.
The limits of this camcorder become quite obvious in regards to audio. There is no accessory shoe, mic input or headphone jack to be utilized with this camcorder, which means you'll have to be solely satisfied with the onboard microphone. Fortunately, the onboard microphone performs well. It's located at the front-bottom of the camcorder, far enough from the lens so that it doesn't pick up any motor noise. In tests, the onboard microphone adequately picked up sound from fairly long distances sounded rich and full during playback.
The ZR400 has strong results in imaging, especially for a relatively small 1/4.5" imager. Video shot on the camcorder looks sharp and colorful. The color balance is quite nice as it has slightly oversaturated reds, but still has a good amount of saturation in the cooler colors.
The camcorder's auto white balance is accurate and the auto exposure tends ever so slightly to underexpose. This small push down should help retain some of the details in our shots. Overall, we were pleased with the results in our lab tests and pleased with our test footage.
If you're looking for a new camcorder, perhaps one that replaces an old analog format, you'll surely enjoy the results you'll get from the ZR400. While there's not a lot of audio bells and whistles, there's a certain amount of manual controls available on this camcorder that usually are difficult to find at this price range.
Format: Mini DV
Number of CCDs: 1
Size of CCDs: 1/ 4.5"
Pixels on CCD: (k) 1330
Video Effective Pixels (k):690
Shutter Speed: auto/manual
Maximum Shutter Speed:1/2000
Minimum Shutter Speed:1/60
Lens f Stop: f1.8-3.2
Program Exposure Modes: 5
Optical Zoom: 14x
Focal Length: 3.7-51.8mm
Image Stabilization: electronic
Manual White Balance: yes
Viewfinder: .33" Color 113k pixels
LCD Monitor: 2.4" Color 112k pixels
Progressive Scan: no
HD Modes: no
Video In: Composite, FireWire
Video Out: Composite, FireWire, USB
Mono/Stereo Recording: stereo
Microphone In: no
VU Meters: no
Manual Audio Level Controls: no
Headphone Jack: no
Still Shot Media: SD Multimedia Card
Memory Card Included: Yes, 16MB
Wireless Remote: yes
External Battery Charger Provided: no
Battery Type: Lithium Ion
Tape Loading Configuration: Bottom
Onboard Video Light: yes
Accessory Shoe: no
- Slim Design
- 16 MB SD Card
- Easy to Reach Buttons
- No S-Video
- Limited Audio Options
- Bottom Tape Loader
Great options for manual control of the camcorder, plus a reasonable price.
Mark Montgomery is Videomaker's technical editor.