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Although digital camcorders have gained most of the attention in recent years, they aren’t for everyone. The 8mm format offers a well-balanced mix of price and performance. With the ES410V, Canon offers its top-of-the-line 8mm camcorder. This compact, point and shoot camcorder will satisfy most beginner and intermediate video users who are looking for an affordable way to shoot video.
The ES410V is versatile; beginners will enjoy its simple point-and-shoot mode and intermediate users will appreciate its manual controls and external microphone jack. The ES410’s image quality is more than adequate for home videos.
Box of Eights
The ES410V 8mm camcorder is compact enough to carry in a daypack or purse and light enough to hold comfortably for long periods of time. Its 22:1 optical zoom lens gets you crisp closeups, and its variable-speed zoom worked well. Pressing the zoom control lightly, we zoomed slowly, applying more pressure, we zoomed quickly. Zooming was smooth and not jerky. The ES410V also has two digital zoom settings: 100:1 and 500:1. If it’s impossible to get close to your subject, the 100:1 might suffice, especially if you use a tripod. But the 500:1 setting? Fuhgettaboutit. As with any camcorder with a lengthy digital zoom setting, its image is a jagged, pixelated mess. Your footage will look better if you forget the digital zoom and exercise your legs.
The ES410V includes both automatic and manual focus controls. The automatic focus worked well, adjusting quickly to different shots and only lagging momentarily when we quickly panned. While we were happy that the camera has manual focus, we weren’t thrilled with the control mechanism. Located on the back left side of the camcorder, the manual focus control consists of two buttons. By pressing both buttons at once, you switch between auto and manual. We found the buttons awkward to use, especially when looking through the viewfinder. Because they are positioned so closely together it was very easy to accidentally press both simultaneously and switch back into auto mode inadvertently. Fortunately for casual shooters, the automatic controls performed quite well.
Like many of Canon’s other camcorders, the ES410V features Canon’s patented FlexiZone automatic focus and automatic exposure control. By turning the program dial to FlexiZone, a small, moveable square frame appears on the screen. By using the FlexiZone toggle, you can move the square anywhere in the viewfinder. You can then adjust the focus and exposure for the portion of the frame that is in the box. This great feature works well in situations where you have multiple subjects in a shot. With FlexiZone, you can customize your automatic settings to focus on precisely what you want. For comfortable viewing, the ES410V has a small 2.5-inch color flip-out viewscreen and a black and white viewfinder. In our tests, we found that the flip-out LCD got in the way of the FlexiZone control. If you tilt the viewfinder forward, the FlexiZone button is blocked and is unusable. Even the slightest tilt of the viewfinder obscures the button.
The Little Extras
Like most camcorders, the ES410V comes loaded with a slew of digital effects and fades. Though computer editors may never use them, it’s nice to have them for in-camera editing. Note that in the all-automatic, point-and-shoot mode, no digital effects or transitions are available. You must switch modes to take advantage of the digital tricks. To access either the fade or digital features, you press the digital effects or fade buttons. The effects buttons are located on the body of the camcorder under the LCD screen and unless you open the flipout screen they are hard to access. This may be limiting if you’re using the viewfinder to save on battery juice or in bright outdoor conditions.
For those interested in in-camera editing, the ES410V has six different fades. Unfortunately, none of them include fade to or from black. That’s too bad, because while the other fades (white, mosaic, art, horizontal wipe, b&w and zoom) are nice, they’re not as practical as a simple black fade.
Audio is one aspect of video that many tend to overlook. We’re pleased that Canon included an external microphone plug for higher quality audio capture. Unfortunately, there is no headphone jack, so there is no way of truly monitoring the quality of your audio. Although ES410V does have an external speaker to let you know if you are indeed getting audio from your source.
Other features include a built-in titler that comes with five preset titles. Although it is limited, beginners may like it. There’s also a backlight (BLC) function. The BLC button compensates for over exposed backgrounds that leave your foreground subject in shadow. The menu system on the ES410V is simple and straightforward. By pressing the menu button, you can use the FlexiZone button to change settings easily for the image stabilizer, white balance, digital zooms and low light.
Besides the automatic program mode, there are five other exposure modes for the ES410V. The FlexiZone mode allows you to adjust the exposure by manually moving the FlexiZone frame to an area in your shot that has proper lighting. Unfortunately, this is limiting if your shot is equally dark in all areas. It would be nicer to have a dial to switch between number settings. Sports mode is for high-speed action shots. There’s also a Portrait setting to make your subject stand out from the background. Spotlight works well for stage performances. Sun and Snow mode is ideal for conditions where the background is extremely bright like in the snow or at the beach.
The Canon ES410V is a compact 8mm camcorder that’s designed for beginner to intermediate video hobbyists looking for an affordable way to shoot home videos. It’s simple enough for technophobes to shoot great video, yet it’s got enough manual controls to let it grow with the user’s ability.
Pause to Record 1.2 seconds
Power-up to Record 2.5 seconds
Fast-forward/Rewind (30 min. tape) 3min. 16 sec.
Lens: 22:1 optical zoom, 500:1 digital zoom, f=1.6
Image Sensor: 1/4-inch CCD 270,000 pixels
Viewfinder: 2.5-inch color LCD viewscreen, b&w viewfinder
Focus: Manual, Auto
Maximum Shutter Speed: 1/1,000
Exposure: Manual, Auto
White Balance: Auto/Lock
Digital Effects: 6 modes
Outputs: Composite, mono (RCA)
Inputs: External microphone jack
Edit Controller: LANC
Image Stabilization: Electronic
Other Features: Built-in speaker
Dimensions: 4 1/2 (width) x 4 1/4 (height) x 7 7/8 (depth) inches
Weight: (sans tape and battery) 1 lb. 14oz