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Canon DC100 review: Canon DC100

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Canon's budget cuts in the design include an uncovered DC-input jack, a manually operated built-in lens cover, and a smooth plastic grip strip atop the drive, rather than a rubberized one. It also lacks a video light. However, in addition to the handful of scene modes, the DC100 also includes shutter- and aperture-priority modes--they're a rarity in this price class.

The DC100 takes 3-inch Mini DVD-R/RW discs, and like most of its competitors, can fit about 20 minutes of best-quality video on one. If you choose to initialize a disc for playing in a standalone player, the camcorder writes standard VOB files; if you initialize for future editability, it records in the VRO format. Windows Media Player can play the latter if you rename the file with an MPG extension, however the aspect-ratio information gets lost--that info is encoded into a separate file--so 16:9 video will get squashed into 4:3. Because you must plug into an outlet in order to finalize a disc, the DC100 is probably not the best choice for outdoor vacations.

On the upside, the DC100 has a very solid, fast autofocus, which also works better than most in low light. The zoom switch is responsive enough to mange steady, slow zooms throughout the range, and the image stabilization worked impressively well, even out to the full 25X.

Unfortunately, the actual video never rises above adequate. At its best--shot outdoors in bright or diffuse light--it's relatively crisp and properly exposed with accurate, if desaturated color. In general, the DC100's white balance looks good for both daylight and indoor illumination. Even under those conditions, however, there's still some image noise, as well as significant fringing on high-contrast edges and severe blooming on saturated reds. The dynamic range is also a bit compressed, which results in washed-out skies, flat white highlights, and grayish blacks. Video shot in dim light isn't as noisy as what we're used to seeing from low-end Canon camcorders, but the DC100 has trouble resolving details when the lights are low. And the less said about the low-resolution, noisy still photos, the better.

With some shopping around, you can find significantly better models, such as the DC40 or the Sony Handycam DCR-DVD405, for about $100 to $150 more. But if your budget won't stretch even that far, the Canon DC100 should satisfy your YouTube requirements, if little else.

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