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Canon’s new top-of-the-line Hi8 camcorder, the ES8200V, is simple to operate, has a flip-out color viewscreen and on-camera video light. It offers good-quality images at a fantastic price, which makes it an attractive entry-level camcorder. If you’re a novice or an enthusiast on a budget read on.
It used to be that Hi8 format was a favorite among intermediate and advanced users who demanded high-quality images. That’s no longer the case. With serious video hobbyists turning to Mini DV or Digital8 formats, Hi8 camcorders have been targeted at casual shooters. And the prices have been slashed to match the market.
The ES8200V Hi8 camcorder is compact and rests easily in one hand for comfortable shooting. It also fits nicely in a backpack for vacations or day trips. Beginning shooters will love the no-hassle, instinctive automatic mode. Just turn it on, point and shoot.
The ES8200V sports a small 2.5-inch flip-out color LCD viewscreen for comfortably viewing shots and an adjustable speaker for reviewing footage. It also has a monochrome viewfinder to help conserve battery life. Canon is known for its reliable lenses and this one is no exception. It has a powerful 22:1 optical zoom. The ES8200V uses a 270,000-pixel 1/4-inch CCD to capture a good Hi8 image.
We liked what we saw using the optical zoom, but we gave up on the digital zoom somewhere close to about 100:1 (it has a 700:1 digital zoom setting). At 100:1 our subject was grainy and it was difficult to keep the image steady, even with the stabilizer turned on. Because of this, we recommend disabling the digital zoom on all camcorders.
The automatic focus responded well, even when we panned and zoomed quickly. It lagged momentarily as we quickly zoomed in, but it rebounded nicely with a sharp focus. Though the camcorder’s features were almost completely automatic, we were thankful for the manual focus control. By pressing the small button located on the inside of the flip-out viewscreen, we effortlessly switched between manual and automatic focus. Then, by using the focus wheel on the back, we were able to fine-tune our focus.
Some of Canon’s lower-end Hi8 models leave off electronic image stabilization. The ES8200V however, features an electronic image stabilizer that greatly helps reduce shaky shots. It also has a convenient built-in light, which comes in handy for low-light situations like parties and night shots.
On the Shoot
There are two main shooting modes for the ES8200V: automatic and Canon’s patented FlexiZone. In automatic mode, the ES8200V self-adjusts to the shooting conditions. Just make sure your subject is in the frame and the 8200 does the rest. This is great for most beginners who don’t want to worry about white balance, exposure, or focus. It’s also ideal for those who want to capture a spontaneous moment without fiddling with manual controls. Basically all consumer camcorders come with an automatic shooting mode.
FlexiZone mode gives the shooter more control over auto exposure. With FlexiZone, a small moveable square frame appears on the screen. You can move the square by manipulating the easy-to-use, small joystick with your thumb. The camcorder then automatically adjusts the exposure for whatever is framed up inside the FlexiZone square. For example, if your subject is under lit and a hot spot of light is shutting down the exposure setting in the ES8200V, you can use FlexiZone to tell the camera to ignore the offending hot spot and expose for the subject.
If you want to access any of the digital effects or in-camera transitions, you need to be in the FlexiZone mode. You can press the convenient fade button on top of the camcorder. Choose from a couple of different fades to achieve nice transitions between shots and, in essence, edit while you shoot.
There are also four other shooting modes for unique conditions: Sports for high-speed action, Spotlight for recording plays and recitals, Portrait for posed shots and Sand & Snow mode for outdoor shooting against bright backgrounds.
The menu system on the ES8200V is simple and straightforward. Press the menu button, then use the focus wheel to scroll and the 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 use the two custom buttons on the left side of the camcorder’s body to access eight digital effects including: Art, Black & White, Sepia, Negative, Mirror, Mosaic,16:9 and Cinema.
Though we bemoaned the absence of an external mike plug, beginners probably won’t miss it as the on-camera condenser microphone is adequate for most casual shooting. Within 10 feet the mike worked well, balancing ambient noise with some impromptu camera operator voice-overs. If sound is crucial for your scene and your subject is more than about 10 feet away, you’ll need to move closer for clearer pickup with this camcorder.
The Canon ES8200V epitomizes what the Hi8 format has to offer in an affordable and ultra-simple camcorder for the beginner. In terms of image quality we were pleased with the 8200. Though it’s far from broadcast quality, its superior Hi8 imagery make for good home videos that will look great on most VCRs.
Easy to operate, this affordable Hi8 camcorder features convenience with a flip-out color viewscreen, on-camera light and automatic settings. Although it does lack an external mike jack and headphone jack that are essential for capturing high-quality audio, the on-camera mike is adequate for most home video occasions. The ES8200V combines ease of use, comfort and quality video at a low price. If you’re just getting into videography and want good quality without spending a fortune, this one might be a good buy.
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: 2.5-inch color LCD viewscreen, 0.44-inch B&W viewfinder
Focus: manual, auto
Exposure: manual, auto
White balance: auto
Digital effects: 10 (Art, Black & White, Sepia, Negative, Mirror, Mosaic,16:9, Cinema, Strobe and Ghost)
Outputs: S-video, composite
Other features: two custom keys
Dimensions: 4(w) x 4(h) x 6-5/8(d) inches
Weight (sans tape and battery): 1 lb. 10oz
Pause to Record: 1.5 seconds
Power-up to Record: 4 seconds
Fast-forward/Rewind (30 min. tape): 3 minutes 20 seconds