Canon ZR600 review: Canon ZR600

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3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Wide-screen LCD; easy-to-use controls; built-in lens cover; above-average color reproduction; 25X optical zoom; plenty of manual controls; accepts add-on lenses and filters; low price.

The Bad No accessory shoe or microphone input; bottom-loading tape compartment; grainy, low-resolution still photos; not enough stabilization at maximum zoom; poor low-light performance.

The Bottom Line Stick with well-lit environments and you're sure to like the Canon ZR600, a low-priced, feature-rich camcorder.

6.6 Overall
  • Design 7.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 6.0
  • Image quality 6.0

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Much like its slightly more expensive sibling, the ZR700, Canon's ZR600 performed well in our tests under optimum lighting, while low-light performance yielded significant noise--not uncommon for entry-level Canon camcorders. It boasts a very full feature set for an entry-level model, including a bevy of shooting options, fixed- or variable-speed zoom, and a wide-screen LCD. But if you plan on digitizing your old analog tapes, you'll have to step up to the ZR700, which includes a video input for performing analog-to-digital conversion. Otherwise, the ZR600 should fulfill most casual moviemakers' needs.

Pricewise, Canon's budget-pleasing ZR600 MiniDV camcorder falls squarely between the ZR500 and ZR700. Should you consider this middle-of-the-pack model? That depends on what features you hold dear. The Canon ZR600 shares the ZR700's 680,000-pixel, 1/6-inch CCD; 2.7-inch wide-screen LCD; simple, joystick-driven menus; and palm-friendly design. In fact, you may want to read our full review of the ZR700 to learn more about the ZR600's capabilities, performance, and image quality.

Of course, something must account for the $50 savings. In crafting the ZR600, Canon pulled the video light and the video input and supplied a slightly smaller battery. Though some users will be fine with these downgrades, we think they're worth the extra money--especially the video-in, which enables you to copy video from analog sources such as VCRs and older camcorders to your PC for editing. And a higher-capacity battery is always welcome. The video light is less valuable; it helps with low-light shooting but only when you're close to your subject.

We really liked the new zoom control that Canon put into these camcorders. It lets you choose between fixed--1X, 2X, or 3X--or variable zoom speeds. The variable works the same as most camcorders: the harder you press, the faster it zooms. The fixed settings keep the zoom consistent to ward off that herky-jerky amateur look. We just wish you didn't have to dig through the menus to change the setting.

For an entry-level camcorder, the Canon ZR600 includes a lot of shooting options, including eight auto-exposure modes, three white-balance choices, nine digital image effects, six shutter speeds, and a level marker that overlays a horizon line on the LCD to help you orient your shot. Of course, Canon's Easy mode will make all the choices for you, if you want to keep it simple.

As you'd expect, the ZR600 doesn't impress with its still photography. Images are grainy and low-resolution, though colors seem relatively accurate. Video fares better. In medium and bright lighting, the ZR600 captures crisp video with accurate color. In low light, the video exhibits noticeable noise, and Canon's Night mode doesn't help.

Despite our gripes, the Canon ZR600 should please the majority of users. Of course, if you have analog videos that you'd like to convert to digital or really think you need a built-in video light, then you'll want to step up to the ZR700. LINKTEXTGOESHERE

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