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Canon DC100 Camcorder Review
The Canon DC100 features a modest 1/6" CCD with 680K gross pixels. This equates to 340K effective pixels in 4:3 aspect ratio, 450K in 16:9 aspect ratio with the electronic image stabilization (EIS) off, and 400K in 16:9 with the EIS on. The larger pixel count in 16:9 indicates that the camcorder should have true widescreen, as do nearly all the Canon consumer camcorders. Surprisingly, the top-end DC40 does not.
At 3000 lux, the DC100 had a rather blurry image. The color balance was decent, but apparent sharpness was very bad. It’s not that the camcorder had focus problems, but the picture has an undeniably fuzzy look. This is not entirely uncommon in 1/6" chip camcorders, but the DC100 is on the lower-end of even that scale. Noise was an issue, and the camera also showed heavy aliasing along curved and diagonal lines. All in all, it was not a great picture.
The Panasonic VDR-D100, also a 1/6" CCD, had a sharper image, but the noise levels were much higher. This camcorder did not show the same severity of jaggies that the DC100 did in curved lines. Color balance was not quite as even in the Panasonic, with strong reds but less saturated greens and blues. On the whole, the Panasonic had the preferable picture.
This year’s DVD105 is the most directly comparable model to the DC100, but we have not yet had a chance to review it. Last year’s Sony DCR-DVD92 had similar specs, however, including a 1/6" CCD. The DVD92 showed similar sharpness and aliasing problems as the DC100. It has the additional problem of appearing over-sharpened, making the image too contrasty.
The Hitachi DZ-MV780 is also a camcorder from last year. While the MV780’s colors appear slightly oversaturated, the image is much sharper looking than the DC100. Like the DVD92, sharpening is boosted noticeably, but not excessively. Moiré patterns were rather heavy in the resolution trumpets, though, indicating that the camcorder does not have the resolution to tackle areas of dense information.
Finally we looked at last year’s Canon DC10, the next model up from the DC100, which will continue to be sold as Canon expands their DVD line. The DC10 uses a larger 1/4" CCD, with a significantly higher pixel count, and showed a sharper looking image all-around. The color balance was about the same, but the colors were less saturated and more accurate.
**Video Resolution ***(9.9)*
We tested the Canon DC100’s video resolution by shooting a standard ISO 12233 resolution chart and running stills from that footage through Imatest imaging software. In 4:3 aspect ratio, the camcorder showed 396.0 lines of horizontal resolution and 250.3 lines of vertical resolution, yielding an approximate resolution of 99118.8. In 16:9 aspect ratio, the camcorder produced 456.3 lines of horizontal resolution and 292.6 lines of vertical resolution, yielding an approximate resolution of 133513.38. We use the 4:3 resolution as a standardization method to determine the score.
The chart below shows how the DC100 fared against similar camcorders.
Low Light Performance*(3.25)*
Performing in low light is a considerably difficult task for any 1/6 chip camcorder. There is simply not enough space on the sensor to capture the incoming light. At 60 lux, the DC100 produced an extremely noisy image. Most of the color managed to push through, which seems to indicate that a strong saturation and auto gain were at work. The boost in gain is likely to blame for much of the noise. The DC100 also experienced some very slight focus issues.
The Canon DC10, by contrast, produced an image with less noise and approximately equal color balance and saturation. The DC10’s larger imager did not have to work as hard to generate a good image, and therefore did not have to employ as much gain, which in turn meant less noise. The larger imager also has more pixels, which made for a sharper image.
The Panasonic VDR-D100 had just as noisy a picture, but the noise was of a finer grain and less distracting to the eye. However, the Panasonic had a bigger problem with focus than the DC100. It’s not far out of focus, but the VDR-D100 has a distinct soft-focus look that you’d probably want to avoid. Color balance was about even with the Canon, with the DC100 putting a bit more saturation into the greens.
The Sony DCR-DVD92, last year’s Sony entry-level, had an image with just as much noise but nowhere near the color saturation. While that may make for a more accurate picture, in low light most consumers would sacrifice accuracy for a little extra saturation.
The Hitachi DZ-MV780, a 2005 model, produced a surprisingly near-noise free image. What noise there was had a very fine grain. Thanks in large part to its 1/4.5" imager, the camcorder also did not have to employ as much gain as the DC100. The colors were a little flat, and Moiré patterns appeared in several areas of dense information.
The Canon DC100 offers shutter speed control, and we tested at two slower speeds to see if it could improve low light performance. At 1/30 of a second, the overall brightness and color saturation rose considerably. So too did noise, unfortunately. Also, at this speed, fast-moving objects will blur.
At 1/15 of a second, saturation and brightness were exponentially greater than in auto. The overall picture quality suffered a great deal, losing a great deal of sharpness. At this speed, any objects in motion would blur, as would even the smallest camera movements.
At the second light level, 15 lux, the DC100 produced a very noisy and dark image. Compared to the 60 lux test, most of the color information is gone. It is still possible to identify colors, but it’s just no fun anymore. This is just barely what we would consider a useable image.
The DC10 had a much brighter image overall, though the color balance was severely depleted. You can hardly recognize the colors any better than you can those from the DC100. The Sony DVD92 lost nearly all color information and was nearly greyscale, though the image was sharp and bright enough to make out many details.
The Panasonic VDR-D100 matched the DC100 for saturation, noise, and sharpness. In fact, the images are nearly identical at 15 lux, and neither of them is very good. The Hitachi produced the least color of all, even less than the Sony DVD92, and was truly greyscale.
|**Low Light Performance**|
Wide Angle* (7.6)*
The DC100 was tested for the width of its field in both 4:3 and 16:9. In 4:3, the camcorder produced a wide angle of 38 degrees, and in 16:9 degrees, it produced 44 degrees. This six degree difference, without any loss of information along the top or bottom, shows that the camcorder produces true widescreen.