Canon provides a physical switch for switching between manual and full-auto modes. It's kind of annoying that you can't get into the menus in auto--which Canon calls "Dual Shot" mode--but if you adjust some settings in advance in Manual, they'll stick.
The zoom switch and photo button are comfortably located, and the zoom is easy to control. The mini accessory shoe sits behind them.
The only control on the back is the record button. The 890mAH battery sits flush with the back which means that if you upgrade to the higher capacity battery--to compensate for the camcorder's subpar battery life--it will stick awkwardly out the back.
There's a single button on the LCD bezel which enables Power IS mode (when recording) or downconverting videos to Standard Definition quality.
In the LCD recess sit the record/playback toggle button, display options and battery release switch. Because opening the LCD doesn't turn the camcorder on (unless you're in standby mode), it's slightly less of a problem here than on Panasonic's models.
In addition to the SDHC card slot, the mic and headphone jacks live in the LCD recess; the miniHDMI, USB and component out connectors are under the handstrap.
While the menus are structured straightforwardly and the interface is laid out in a logical manner, the horrible scrolling design makes it almost impossible to use; it's on the inside edge, so your hand blocks the display while you're scrolling. Second, the multitouch-like scroll operations make it impossible to accurately move a single entry at a time, so I always scroll past the entry I want and repeatedly select the wrong entries along the way. At best, it will take some getting used to, at worst, it will make you nuts.
Caption byLori Grunin / Photo by Screenshots by Lori Grunin/CNET
At it's best, in its 24Mbps mode, the video quality has pretty good sharpness, detail, and lack of artifacts. But you can see a notable increase in artifacts when dropping to 17Mbps, and it's simply bad in its default 7Mbps mode.
Like Sony, Canon defaults the video quality to the second-worst option, 7 megabits per second at not-full-HD 1,440x1,080-pixel resolution. That means the video you get out of the box looks soft and rife with compression artifacts. This might make sense if it was a cheap model with videos destined for nothing more than quick-and-dirty Web upload, but not in a $600 model. There's no reason not to default to the second-best, 17Mbps full HD mode, which looks quite good and likely won't have the playback issues you might run into with the best-quality 24Mbps mode.