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.
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
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.
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
Pause to Record: 1.7-seconds
Power-up to Record: 5.5-seconds
Fast-forward/Rewind (30 min. tape): 1-minute, 10-seconds
- manual focus, exposure and white balance control
- FlexiZone focus and exposure
- mike and headphone jacks
- optical image stabilization
A good, solid Mini DV camcorder with a familiar feel, point-and-shoot operation
and a number of manual controls.