Canon Digital Camcorder Fires Another Shot

Canon Digital Camcorder Essentials

When set to record video, the Canon digital camcorder has two basic modes of operation: an easy mode and a

program mode. For quick and simple all-automatic, point-and-shoot recording, the easy mode

is the setting. No effects or manual controls are accessible in this mode. To customize your

shots or to use some of the different automatic settings and features or try the digital

effects you’ll need to choose the program mode and then manually make your adjustments.

In the program mode, the Canon digital camcorder features a number of pre-configured settings and manual

controls that let you adapt to almost any situation. It also has Canon’s patented Flexizone

feature that enables users to set the focus and exposure on certain parts of the screen by

positioning a moveable frame that’s controlled using your thumb on a small joystick

conveniently located on the back of the Canon digital camcorder.

There are seven basic automatic exposure settings on the Canon digital camcorder: fully automatic, FlexiZone, sports,

portrait, spotlight, sand and snow and low light. An exposure lock mode enables you to

manually adjust and lock on a particular exposure setting.

For basic scene transitions and some artsy images, the Canon digital camcorder includes seven digital effects.

Fade, vertical and horizontal wipes make up the transitions, while art, black and white,

sepia and strobe round out the effects. There are two flaws here; first, the effects button

is inconveniently located on the front left side of the Canon digital camcorder so that when you flip out

the view screen, the knob is difficult to adjust. And second, the digital effects menu stays

on only for a few seconds before it selects whatever effect you’ve scrolled to and shuts

off. We found this to be frustrating when we wanted to peruse the menu to choose an effect

or to sample an effect without committing it to tape. The only way to keep the menu on is to

continually rotate the knob. The two second window is just too quick.

The Canon digital camcorder uses optical image stabilization (OIS) to compensate for shaky shots, instead of

electronic image stabilization (EIS). It works well to help to cut down somewhat on shaky

camera shots. Generally, optical image stabilization is preferable to electronic image

stabilization because it employs motorized glass elements in the lens that move to

counteract shaking. Electronic image stabilization, on the other hand, digitally enhances

the image, distorting the image somewhat. The only downside to the Canon digital camcorder OIS feature is

that it defaults to the "on" position whenever you fire up the camcorder. You have

to deactivate it by pushing a button.

Hands On

For the more experienced videographer looking to solve challenging situations or looking for

more creative control, the Canon digital camcorder allows hands-on, manual control of focus, exposure and

white balance – but you have to work for it. To activate any of the manual controls, users

must choose the program mode. To deactivate the automatic focus, users must press the focus

dial. Like the exposure knob, the focus dial is positioned awkwardly near the front on the

left-hand side of the Canon digital camcorder, so when you open the viewfinder, it’s difficult to adjust.

To set the white balance, users can choose between automatic and indoor/outdoor, or they can

elect to set the white balance manually from the feature menu. We’re pleased that Canon digital camcorder

included these manual controls that are all-too-often missing on other camcorders, but it

would have been better if the Canon digital camcorder would have a provided a simple automatic and manual switch

on the camera body. That way those who prefer to use the manual modes of operation could

switch to manual and wouldn’t have to reset every time they turned the Canon digital camcorder off and on

again.

Canon Digital Camcorder Sound Off

The Canon Ultura sports PCM digital stereo sound that lets you choose between 12-bit and

16-bit audio modes. 16-bit recording produces a sound that’s slightly superior to

CD-quality, but the 12-bit setting allows you to add another stereo track later, if you

choose. The on-camera PCM stereo microphone is fairly sensitive and records well, but as all

videographers soon learn, an external mike is crucial to capture crisp, clear audio. And the

Canon provides the jack to connect an external mike.

It also has a convenient speaker with volume control that lets you listen while reviewing

what you recorded without having to worry about headphones. If you have headphones, all the

better, since Canon included a headphone jack.

The Canon Digital Camcorder Final Verdict

The Ultura is a good Mini DV camcorder that’s easy and comfortable to use. Newcomers won’t

be intimidated by it and more experienced videographers will have the controls they look

for. Although definitely geared for automatic settings, Canon provides the means for manual

control. The Canon Ultura handles well and provides crisp, clear images and excellent audio at a

price that will still allow you to buy some Mini DV tapes.

Don Collins


TECH SPECS


Format: Mini DV

Lens: 16:1 optical zoom, 320:1 digital zoom, f=3.9-62.4mm, 37.5mm filter diameter

Image Sensor: _-inch CCD, 390,000 pixels

Viewfinder: 2.5-inch color LCD viewscreen, color viewfinder

Focus: Manual, Auto

Maximum Shutter Speed: 1/8,000

Exposure: Seven auto exposure modes (Auto, Flexizone, Sports, Portrait, Spotlight, Sand/Snow and Low Light)

White Balance: Manual, Auto

Digital Effects: six modes (Fade, Wipe, Art, Black and White, Sepia, Strobe)

Audio: 12-bit 2-track stereo recording, 16-bit stereo recording

Inputs: FireWire (IEEE 1394), External microphone, Headphone

Outputs: FireWire (IEEE 1394), Composite A/V jack, S-video, LANC

Other Features: Still image capability, Built-in speaker

Dimensions: 3 (width) x 3 7/8 (height) x 6 1/8 (depth) inches

Weight (sans tape and battery): 1lb,10oz

Video Performance (Approx.)
Horizontal Resolution (camera): 400 lines
Horizontal Resolution (playback): 400 lines
Performance Times
Pause to Record: 1.7-seconds
Power-up to Record: 5.5-seconds
Fast-forward/Rewind (30 min. tape): 1-minute, 10-seconds

STRENGTHS

  • manual focus, exposure and white balance control
  • FlexiZone focus and exposure
  • mike and headphone jacks
  • optical image stabilization

SUMMARY

A good, solid Mini DV camcorder with a familiar feel, point-and-shoot operation

and a number of manual controls.

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