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Canon DC100 review: Canon DC100

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Light for a camcorder at just a hair over a pound, the DC100 fits comfortably into medium-size hands, with thumb and forefinger falling naturally into position atop the most important controls.

6.4

Canon DC100

The Good

Fast focusing, long zoom lens; solid image stabilization; decent low-light video; aperture- and shutter-priority exposure modes.

The Bad

Fair-to-middling video quality overall; awkward navigation controls; poor still photos.

The Bottom Line

A basic, inexpensive DVD camcorder, the Canon DC100 is a safe, if unremarkable, choice.
Although it's hardly the polar opposite, the Canon DC100 DVD camcorder is a very different beast from the Canon DC40 that I like so much. In addition to the obvious dissimilarities--the DC100's longer 25X zoom lens, lower-resolution 680,000-pixel sensor, and slightly flimsier-feeling body--Canon cut corners in some subtle but noticeable ways as well. Toss in its middling video, and the DC100 delivers a much less pleasant shooting experience--just like all its budget DVD competitors. Only its handful of semimanual exposure controls and surprisingly fast focus provide notable bright spots.

Canon DC100
The standard controls--power, mode, and record--are located where your thumb naturally lands. The DC100 has no media slot for still images, but you can save stills to the DVD. Ironically, I found Canon's method for snapping stills--using the record button--induced far less shake than the typical dedicated photo-shutter button.

Canon DC100
Although the controls on the left side are simple to understand, they're a bit difficult to use. The four-way navigation switch with its central enter button is not very responsive and is hard to operate precisely.

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.

6.4

Canon DC100

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 7Performance 7Image quality 6