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Lake Success, NY 11042
A Can Do Cam
Taking finer control of your images is easier with the Canon Optura 60. Shooters who want more advanced features will find that this mini DV camera has plenty of options to grow into and enjoy for some time, while still maintaining the simplicities that ward off headaches.
The Optura 60 fits nicely into your hand. It's just the right size and weight so that you can get a comfortable grip. All the controls are easy to access, but the select wheel seems awkward located in front of the camera. It seems especially weird when you have the 2.5" LCD open, but after awhile it actually becomes quite convenient once you get used to its position. You can stabilize the camera better by placing your thumb underneath the front-bottom of the camera and still access the select wheel.
Of course keeping the camcorder steady is important, which the optical image stabilization definitely improves upon. Even at the full length of the 14x zoom lens we were able to keep the image relatively jitter free. The zoom rocker works smoothly and uses a variety of speeds, from a slow crawl to a quick and zippy zoom.
The Optura 60 can record stills and video onto Mini DV tape or SD memory card. Recording stills onto memory card produces fairly sharp images at the highest resolution of 1632 by 1224 pixels. There's even an onboard flash to brighten up your snapshots in low light situations.
If you want additional gadgets on your cam, the accessory shoe can house on-camera lights and shotgun mic accessories. With the 1/8" mic input you can quickly and easily add an additional microphone and have manual control of the signal. Monitoring the audio is also possible with the dual-purpose headphone/AV.
Manual controls for the exposure and focus are each accessible with their own buttons on the camcorder, just above the LCD screen. These buttons will cycle through the automatic mode to their respective manual modes. The select wheel controls the exposure and the focus ring controls the manual focus. The auto focus performs well, too, and has a relatively quick focus response.
Another feature to note is the network feature that allows you to hook up and use the camcorder as a webcam. This feature works only with Windows XP and the supplied software. Additionally, there are more capabilities within the supplied software package that help transfer and view pictures and video for both Windows and Mac systems.
One of the more common Canon features is still with us in the Optura 60. The Mode Dial has the shutter priority and aperture priority settings along with a fully auto mode, program mode and five different AE modes including one for night shooting. Additionally, if you choose the Special Scene mode there are six more modes that are specialized for foliage, snow, beach, sunset, spotlight and fireworks shooting conditions.
Sound It Out
Playing back our footage, the audio sounds full and rich on the Optura 60. The onboard mic has a decent range, picking up sound from 25 plus feet away. However, the onboard mic sits in the very front of the camcorder, just below the lens, where it unfortunately faces some issues. We did notice a little noise from the zoom motor, which is consistent with what we've seen and heard about the Optura 60 prior to our review. But if you're planning on using an external mic, it won't be a problem and you can utilize the manual audio level control to really fine tune the audio. Using the select wheel you can gain up or down the right and left channel together. Unfortunately, there's no way to control each channel independently.
In playback, the Optura 60 has the option to isolate either the right r left channel, in addition to its normal stereo playback. There's also an attenuator built-in to help pad line level input to the mic jack. Overall, the audio features are quite rich and useful for advanced shooters with plenty of options for semi-professional audio capturing.
The video playback is delightfully detailed and very nice in color. The color reproduction looks vibrant and true to life. The Optura 60 captures flesh tones very well, too. When analyzing the video signal on the Spectre 60 Video Analyzer made by Serious Magic's DV Rack, we got good RGB values (Red 98, Green 95, Blue 95 and Luminance 99). The contrast was also very nice. The image showed even steps between each level of our contrast board.
In low light it performs as expected with a little bit of video noise. The camcorder, fortunately, comes with a small video light. The light can throw a decent amount of light about five to eight feet, which could save your shots if you were in a tight pinch. But if you really after a better look in low light situations it would be better to get an accessory light, especially considering the increased power requirements for running the on-camera video light.
In The End
The Optura 60 has a great feature set for shooters of all skill levels, but those who want to have more control will definitely find it to suit their needs best. Its strong audio capabilities definitely outweigh its quandary with the zoom motor noise. The big strength, of course, is the reputable Canon optics that make this camcorder's image look incredibly sharp and colorful.
Format: Mini DV
Number of CCDs: 1
Size of CCDs: 1 / 3.4"
Pixels on CCD: (k) 2,200
Video Effective Pixels (k):1,230
Shutter Speed: Auto only
Lens f Stop: 1.8-3.0
Program Exposure Modes: 11
Optical Zoom: 14x
Focal Length: 4.6-64.4mm
Image Stabilization: Optical
Manual White Balance: auto/manual
Viewfinder: .33" TFT color, 113K pixels
LCD Monitor: 2.5" TFT Color, 123K pixels
Progressive Scan: No
HD Modes: no
Video In: Firewire, S-Video, Composite
Video Out: Firewire, USB, S-Video, Composite
Mono/Stereo Recording: yes
Microphone In: yes
VU Meters: yes
Manual Audio Level Controls: yes
Headphone Jack: yes, special AV jack
Still Shot Media: SD card
Memory Card Included: yes, 16MB SD
Wireless Remote: yes
External Battery Charger Provided: no
Battery Type: Lithium Ion
Tape Loading Configuration: Side
Onboard Video Light: yes
Accessory Shoe: yes
- Strong Set of Audio Features
- Good Color
- Many Program Modes
- Zoom Motor Noise
- Low Light Shooting
Here is a camcorder with great semi-pro level features at a more than reasonable price. Need I say more?
Mark Montgomery is Videomaker's technical editor.