Canon ZR700 Camcorder Review
The Canon ZR700, like all the ZR models this year, comes equipped with a 1/6" CCD with 680K gross pixels. This translates to 340K effective pixels when shooting in 4:3 mode, 450K effective pixels in 16:9 mode with the image stabilization off, and 400K effective pixels in 16:9 mode with the image stabilization on.
At 3000 lux, the ZR700 produced a strong, highly saturated image. The saturation is not the truest representation of the actual colors it was shooting. By "boosting" the colors, most consumers will see it and believe the pictures to look better than an image that has not been as saturated. This is common in low end camcorders, and the same features are found in the ZR500.
In fact, the images of from the ZR500 and ZR700 are virtually identical. Both had a certain fuzziness to them, but the saturation made for a pleasing image when held up to flatter images from similar camcorders.
The ZR700 is the successor to the ZR300 of last year. The ZR300 had nearly identical levels of saturation. The whites, in fact, are slightly brighter. Color bleed, however, was a problem. In the chart, colors were actually jumping the black border lines of each color panel. This is not uncommon among lower-end camcorders, but we’re happy to see that it has been corrected.
The Panasonic PV-GS39, running about $50 less, showed far more noise in its picture, and had slightly less saturation, noticeable mostly in the greens. The Sony DCR-HC36, priced the same as the ZR700, shares the same imager as the HC26. The HC26 produced a noisy image at 3000 lux that was also less saturated than the ZR700. Last year’s JVC GR-DF550, priced on the street around $400, had a picture that rivaled the ZR700 for color but was noticeably sharper, no doubt due to the larger 1/4.5" CCD. There was still noise to be found in the DF550, most noticeable in the reds. The grey scale looked much cleaner in the JVC.
Overall, this is a very good picture for an budget camera. It’s not entry-level priced, but it’s still a good buy for the image quality.
**Video Resolution ***(9.3)*
The Canon ZR700’s video in both 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratio was tested for resolution by shooting a standard ISO 12233 resolution chart and running stills from that video through Imatest imaging software. In 4:3, the ZR700 produced 363.7 lines of horizontal resolution and 257.8 lines of vertical resolution (with an average clipping of 1.54%), yielding an approximate resolution of 93761.86. In 16:9, with the image stabilization off, the camcorder produced 258.0 lines of horizontal resolution (with an average clipping of 1.16%) and 458.7 lines of vertical resolution (with an average clipping of 0.92%), yielding an approximate resolution of 118344.6.
Clipping occurs when Imatest finds information in the picture that has either blown out or bottomed out, in other words, lost information. The percentage is the amount of the picture that has been lost. It can skew the resolution scores, but not throw them too far off base. Since last year, nearly all Canon camcorders have clipped. This is likely caused by over-sensitivity to high contrast images.
Low Light Performance*(4.75)*
At 60 lux, the Canon ZR700 performed very well for a camcorder in its price range. While noise increased a good deal, it remained a fine grained noise. The colors remained sharply defined from one another, and the camcorder did not have any trouble finding focus. The ZR500, as expected, performed identically.
Last year’s predecessor, the ZR300, had serious noise problems, which plagued nearly all the Canon line. Thankfully, that seems to be an issue of the past, as the ZR700 had a much clearer image. The Sony DCR-HC26 showed more noise, and darker noise as well. The PV-GS39 also had darker noise, appearing like black flecks of ink across a page, but the noise was less of a problem than on the Sony. The image of the GS39 was brighter, but overall, the ZR700 was the more preferable due to less noise. The JVC GR-DF550, like all JVCs, offers an automatic gain control (AGC) that can be turned off and on. With the AGC off, the camcorder produced a sharp but mostly colorless image. Noise was at a minimum. With the ACG on, the picture brightened dramatically, though large grained noise became an issue. Also, the colors appeared washed out.
At 15 lux, the ZR700 displayed the black noise of the Panasonic and the Sony. Lines still remained fairly sharp, a credit to the ZR700’s automatic gain control. The noise took on a distinct pattern, however, also found in the ZR500. It appeared as striations across the page, almost like a denim pattern. At this light level, colors also struggled. The greens and light blues tended to run together. Most colors, however, remained fairly distinguishable.
By comparison, the ZR300 had similar amounts noise, but could not retain quite as much color information. The PV-GS39 had trouble focusing, though it remained just as bright. It had a harder time with the violet portion of the spectrum. The HC26 lost most color information. With the ZGC off, the DR-DF550 was a completely black picture. With the AGC on, the picture actually had less color information than the ZR700, though noise was less of a problem.
Like the ZR500, the ZR700 deserves big praise for its low light improvement. In years past, this has been one of Canon’s weakest points, and kept us from giving a whole-hearted recommendation. Times change, though. Times change.
|**Low Light Performance**|
Wide Angle* (8.0)*
The Canon ZR700 was tested the width of its shooting field in both 4:3 and 16:9 modes, partially to determine if the camcorder offers true widescreen. In fact it does. In 4:3 mode, the ZR700 had a wide angle of 40 degrees. In 16:9 mode, the wide angle shifts to 50 degrees. This large increase indicates the presence of true widescreen that uses the full width of a 16:9 CCD.
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