by Don Collins
Despite the recent hype that the new Mini DV camcorders have generated, Hi8 is still a format to be reckoned with. Canon won Videomaker‘s Best Product of the Year award for 1999 in the Best Hi8 category with the ES8000 Hi8 camcorder.
The ES8000 does not have all of the manual controls and advanced features that we’ve come to expect from previous Canon Hi8s. Intermediate and advanced users will be disappointed with its limitations. Canon designed it as a point-and-shoot, automatic camcorder best suited for the beginning video hobbyist. It’s affordable, and beginners should be pleased with its image quality and simplicity for most home and vacation videos.
First Things First
The ES8000 is a boxy camcorder that’s comfortable to hold in one hand and easy to use. For the beginning user, it’s simply a matter of turning it on, setting it to Easy mode and then point and record. Canon designed the ES8000 with ease of use in mind. There is no extensive menu system and since there are few manual controls on the ES8000, most of the pertinent ones like focus, fade and digital effects are located on the camcorder’s body.
The ES8000 features 22:1 optical and 100:1 digital zooms that, when combined with closeup and extra long digital zoom, can reach up to 440:1. As with most digital zooms of this magnitude, the images produced looked chunky and pixelated. We recommend avoiding the use of digital zoom on any camcorder unless absolutely necessary. Zooming is smooth, but not overly fast. Even at full speed, the variable zoom is slow. For those lacking the patience to zoom, Canon has included a closeup button that magnifies 1.5 times in an instant.
The ES8000 has a 3-inch flip out LCD viewscreen with adjustable brightness control and a small black-and-white viewfinder. The flip out screen is big enough to provide a comfortable view of the action for recording or playback while the viewfinder works well as a backup when you need to conserve your battery.
Easy and Adjustable Modes
The ES8000 has two basic shooting modes: Easy and FlexiZone. The Easy mode is all automatic. You can’t focus manually or use any of the digital effects or fades. For general purpose shooting, the Easy mode worked fine. This is ideal for casual shooters, on the run who don’t want to hassle with any adjustments. There’s no focus or exposure to worry about; the ES8000 adjusts itself automatically. In our tests, the automatic focus functioned well. When pointed at a new object at a different distance, it took only a second or so to adjust accurately. It wasn’t easily fooled by other objects like cars and pedestrians that passed momentarily in front of the lens.
To access some of the more advanced features of the ES8000, like manual focus or the digital effects or fades, we selected the FlexiZone mode by simply switching the program dial. Once set, a small adjustable box appears in the middle of the screen. You can move the box by using the jog button. The ES8000 will automatically adjust its focus and exposure to the portion of the frame where the framed FlexiZone box is placed. This is handy when you have multiple objects at various distances filling up the viewscreen.
Still in FlexiZone mode, we tried out the manual focus. The focus wheel is small, but it did the trick. The focus didn’t drift or readjust itself. All of the digital effects (16:9, Negative/Positive, Mirror, Mosaic, Art and Sepia) worked as expected. For digital fades, we could choose between white, black, zoom, mosaic, art and black-and-white fades.
Other Features and Modes
Since the ES8000’s real strength lies in the ease of its point and shoot modes, travelers will find it very accommodating. It’s small enough to fit in a daypack and if you’re on vacation in Europe, there’s a PAL playback mode to review your footage while you’re in your hotel.
The ES8000 has four other shooting modes to help compensate for a variety of shooting conditions. There’s Sports mode to record high-speed action. Portrait mode focuses on the subject while softening the foreground and background. Spotlight mode helps to eliminate glare when your subject is lit by a concentration of lights. And there is a Sand and Snow mode that compensates for very bright backgrounds. The backlight button helps even out the brightness, if there’s too much light behind your subject.
If you haven’t ventured into the realm of digital editing, the ES8000 has an automatic editing function that allows you to pre-select up to six different scenes at a time and then edit them together onto a VHS tape. Once we configured the camcorder to work with our JVC VCR we were able to edit in no time flat. Although it only performs straight cuts, it’s still a nice feature.
Due in large part to its high-quality image, simple operation and easy editing feature Canon’s ES8000 took Videomaker‘s Best Hi8 Camcorder honors for 1999. If you’re looking for some advanced features like manual exposure, white balance or even a headphone jack, you’re better off looking for a more advanced camcorder with manual controls. But if you’re looking for an easy-to-use and affordable camcorder that delivers high quality images and PAL playback, you’ll be pleased with the ES8000.
Canon ES8000 Hi8 Camcorder
Lens 22:1 zoom, 440:1 digital zoom, f=1.6-3.8mm, 46mm filter diameter
Image Sensor 1/4-inch CCD, 470,000 pixels (approx. 320,000 effective)
Viewfinder 3-inch color LCD monitor, b&w viewfinder
Focus auto, manual
Maximum Shutter Speed 1/4000
Exposure auto, 4 modes (sports, portrait, spotlight, sand & snow)
White Balance auto
Digital Effects 16:9, negative/positive, mirror, mosaic, solarization, sepia
Outputs A/V jack, S-video, DC5v
Other Features Pal playback, auto editing, FlexiZone focus and exposure
Dimensions 4 5/8 (width) x 4 1/2 (height) x 8 1/2 (depth) inches
Weight (sans tape and battery) 1 pound, 15 ounces
Video Performance (approx.)
Horizontal resolution (camera) 340 lines
Horizontal resolution (playback) 320 lines
Pause to Record 0.5 seconds
Power-up to Record 3.6 seconds
Fast-forward/Rewind (120 min.) 6 minutes, 7 seconds
- PAL playback
- Microphone jack
- Manual focus
- Automatic editing
- No headphone jack
- Lack of manual controls
- Slow zoom
A good moderately-priced entry-level camcorder that delivers a good image and has built-in edit control.
ES8000 Hi8 Camcorder
One Canon Plaza
Lake Success, NY 11042-1113