Canon Camcorder Review: ES60 Hi8

Canon’s ES60, a new entry-level Hi8 camcorder, offers good-quality images and an incredibly low price, making it an excellent starting point for new video producers. If you’re on a budget or looking for an affordable camcorder capable of capturing quality footage, consider this affordable model.
The ES60 is compact, easy to use, records a nice Hi8 image and costs less than $300. This lightweight camcorder targets budget-conscious beginning video enthusiasts looking for adequate images and solid performance. They may also find it to be one of the best buys of the year.

Point and Shoot

The ES60 is small and lightweight, ideal for day trips and comfortable to hold and shoot with one hand. This camcorder is designed for no-fiddle, no-fuss shooting. Beginners will be pleased with its automatic settings and easy operation.
Instead of a flip-out viewscreen, the ES60 relies on a small color viewfinder. It features a 1/4-inch CCD for its image capture. It has a respectable 22:1 optical zoom and an impractical 700:1 digital zoom. We liked the results within the optical zoom range. As with all digital zoom functions, expanding the sampled digital image beyond 40:1 results in a pixelated image that is increasingly useless as ratios rise. As the outer reaches of the ES60’s digital zoom approach, the viewfinder becomes filled with an indistinguishable jumble of visual information.
By pressing the variable-zoom control firmly, we quickly retreated to a safer zoom level where we put the camcorder’s automatic focus to the test. It worked well, even when we panned quickly. The focus stalled more noticeably, but not unreasonably, as we zoomed in.
With its automatic design, we were glad to see Canon didn’t omit the ES60’s only truly manual control – manual focus. By pressing the small button conveniently located on the left side of the camcorder’s body, we quickly switched between manual and automatic focus. In manual mode, we dialed in our focus by using the adjacent focus wheel.
Canon did not include an image stabilizer on the low-priced ES60. As with all camcorders, image stabilization is most missed when zooming in on a distant subject where every slight movement is exaggerated. When using the ES60 for long-range shooting, a camera tripod or monopod would definitely be a wise choice.

Sizing It Up

There are two main shooting modes for the ES60 – Automatic and FlexiZone. In automatic mode, the ES60 takes care of the camcorder’s essential adjustments. When you use the automatic setting, you only have to point at your subject, press Record and the ES60 will react intuitively. This is great for casual shooters who do not wish to fiddle with focus and exposure settings. When shooting in the auto mode, however, we were unable to access any of the fades or digital effects. The ES60 must be in FlexiZone mode to access those features.
Canon includes its patented FlexiZone mode on the ES60 which allows the user to define regions of interest in the frame. The camcorder then adjusts image settings based on the selected area. By turning the program dial to FlexiZone, a small, moveable square appears on the screen. You can easily move the square anywhere on the screen just by manipulating the small, easy-to-use joystick with your thumb.
Via the fade button, you have a choice of a couple of different fades to create nice transitions as you begin and end each shot. In addition to the fully automatic mode there are four other modes designed for unique shooting conditions: Sports, for high-speed action; Spotlight, for recording plays and recitals; Portrait, for shooting people with ample available light; and Sand & Snow for shooting against bright backgrounds. The menu system on the ES60 is simple and straightforward, since there are not a whole lot of choices. Press the menu button, use the focus wheel to scroll and manual focus button to make your choice. You can set the date, adjust the on-screen display and choose from nine preset titles like Happy Birthday, Let’s Party and The End. You can also set the custom keys, two buttons on the left side of the camcorder’s body. By setting the custom keys in the menu, you can access the eight digital effects: Art, Black & White, Sepia, Negative, Mirror, Mosaic, 16:9 and Cinema with the push of a button.

Can’t Walk on Water for $300

While the Canon ES60 is an excellent buy, it doesn’t come with many of the advanced features found on many of Canon’s more expensive models. Luxuries like a flip-out LCD viewscreen, speaker, image stabilizer, external microphone plug or headphone jack are not included on this model.

Bottom Line

The Canon ES60 is an affordable Hi8 camcorder. Its compact and lightweight body makes it ideal for travel and convenient for shooting. It’s designed for beginners who want quality images and automated features at a low price. For all that it offers, the ES60 is a great deal.

Tech Specs

Format: Hi8
Lens: 22:1 optical zoom, 700:1 digital zoom, f/1.6-3.8, 46mm filter diameter
Image Sensor 1/4-inch CCD 270,000 pixels
Viewfinder: 0.44-inch color LCD viewfinder
Focus Manual, Auto
Maximum Shutter Speed: 1/1000
Exposure: Auto, Manual (presets)
White Balance: Auto
Digital Effects: 8 (Art, Black & White, Sepia, Negative, Mirror, Mosaic, 16:9 and Cinema)
Audio: Mono
Inputs: None
Outputs: S-video, composite
Other Features: Two custom keys
Dimensions: 3 3/4 (width) x 4 (height) x 6 5/8 (depth) inches Weight (sans tape and battery) 1 lb.6 1/4 oz

Performance Times
Pause to Record 1.5 seconds
Power-up to Record 4.5 seconds
Fast-forward/Rewind (30 min. tape) 3 minutes 20 seconds

Strengths

  • Price
  • Ease of use

Weaknesses

  • No image stabilizer
  • No LCD

Summary

If you’re looking for an inexpensive point-and-shoot camcorder capable of capturing quality images, the ES60 is one heck of a deal.

ES60
($299)
Canon
One Canon Plaza
Lake Success, NY 11042
(800) 828-4040
www.usa.canon.com

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