Wide-screen fans will appreciate the Elura 100's true wide-screen CCD sensor. Though it's not high definition, it still provides a sharper 16:9 image than sensors that crop the top and bottom to achieve this wide aspect ratio. This native 16:9 support is reflected in the camcorder's 2.7-inch, 123,000-pixel wide-screen LCD.
As usual, Canon's Easy mode offers no-nonsense simplicity and did a good job adapting to a wide variety of shooting situations. If you prefer more control, you can switch to program mode to select an exposure preset, such as Snow, Beach, Sunset, Fireworks, Spotlight, Night, Sports, and Portrait. You can also choose from spot, evaluative, or center-weighted exposure metering, and you can shift exposure plus or minus 11 steps if you don't agree with the camera's system. Likewise, you can choose from daylight, tungsten, or auto white balance, as well as select the custom setting and designate your own.
Like most camcorders, the Elura 100 includes a handful of digital effects, including multiple faders, a mirror-image option that yields a kaleidoscope-type feel, as well as color masks and plenty more silly distortion options.
Still images can be captured to SD cards in either 1,152x864 or 640x480 sizes at standard, fine, or superfine compression. There are even two burst modes (normal and high-speed) in addition to a 10-second timer and automatic exposure bracketing. This last option shoots three images--one normal exposure, one slightly overexposed, and one slightly underexposed--just in case the camera's auto exposure is a little off the mark. There's no flash for still-image capture, though you can use the built-in LED video light to help illuminate darker scenes, even in still-image mode.Overall, the Canon Elura 100 performed well. Automatic exposure and white balance responded quickly and did a good job of adjusting to different light levels and neutralizing various types of lighting. Autofocus locked on to subjects rather quickly in bright light, such as a clear, sunny afternoon in the park. Moving indoors, the camera took a second or two to lock focus in low-light situations, such as a living room with a pair of low-intensity tungsten table lamps. The camera's digital image stabilization did an admirable job of steadying our shots, though it could use a touch more power at the extreme end of its long 20X zoom.
Manual controls were easy to operate, thanks to the new joystick control. Exposure shift and manual focus are accessed by pressing Enter on the joystick and navigating a small menu. The only confusing part were the icons used for manual focus; the choice of a mountain to indicate far focus made some sense, but in contrast, Canon used an icon of a person for near focus. At first, we thought these were two presets but quickly learned what they meant and was able to focus easily. Using the words far and near may have been a little more straightforward.
Even under bright sunlight, the camcorder's LCD provided a clear picture, as did the viewfinder. Fans of previous Eluras will note that Canon eliminated the tilt-up viewfinder, so you'll have to switch to the LCD for lower-than-eye-level shots.
The built-in microphone wasn't very directional as stereo mics go, though it was plenty sensitive. In fact, it even picked up a tiny bit of the zoom motor when we zoomed the lens in and out, though any casual conversation would cover the minor noise.Video from the Canon Elura 100 proved vivid and sharp in bright light. Colors looked generally accurate, edges were defined without looking artificially enhanced, and finer details, such as the texture of the paved paths in New York's Central Park, reproduced well.
In more challenging low-light situations, the video had pleasing colors, though they were less accurate than in brighter light, and our footage showed noticeable noise. That said, here is where the Elura 100 beats out the Canon ZR700; it was able to keep the noise more under control once light levels dropped very low, while the ZR700 couldn't keep up and produced much more noise. The Elura 100's night mode did a decent job shooting monochrome video of objects that were within arm's reach of the camera. If you're shooting farther in extremely low light, you'll want an external light, since the built-in LED isn't powerful enough for longer distances.
Still images from the Elura 100, while slightly crisper than the submegapixel shots you get from the majority of camcorders in this price range, still won't beat out a dedicated digital still camera. In bright, outdoor situations, colors weren't as bad as that of some camcorders, but indoor shots tended to be muddy, and if you use the camcorder's extreme zoom, they'll likely turn out blurry from shaky hands alone.
Like the economic middle class, Canon's midrange Elura camcorders seem like they have little place in America. The company has clearly trimmed the line in response to market pressure, ending up with a single offering that trades some features for better performance when compared to Canon's top entry-level cam, the ZR700, while keeping the price the same. That means that casual moviemakers who prefer MiniDV to DVD but want a step up in quality will have to sacrifice little frills, such as an accessory shoe, or else break out the big bucks to step even further up Canon's line. Still, given its attractive price, the Elura 100 packs all the allure of its predecessors and is one of the better deals as low-cost camcorders go.