Price (RRP): $549
Reviewer: Byer Gair
Mini DV tape camcorders happily roll along, seemingly undisturbed by models using mini DVD, hard drives and flash memory. Tape is now mature, with editing software to hand and easy to use it will be a hard format to dislodge – if that is the intention of the major companies.
There are numerous models out there, many retailing well below $500. This Canon camcorder is just one of them.
The lens is a remarkably powerful 35x optical zoom. At the zoom’s wide end you can easily capture a room interior; at full tele you can hold a full head shot at 10 metres. Some zoom!
There is a stabiliser built in; although it is an electronic system (optical is preferable) it still does a fine job at most zoom settings. In full 35x tele you will however be better off with the camcorder on a tripod and the stabiliser turned off, especially if you want to pan.
Viewing while shooting can be made with the turret finder on top of the MD120 or you can view with the large 6.9 cm LCD screen that folds out and tilts through 270 degrees; fully swivelled around you can effectively see and shoot yourself; the screen’s brightness can be adjusted and a backlight adjustment made.
In screen shape you have two alternatives: 4:3 ratio will suit the bread and butter home tele; 16:9 ratio will match the new High Definition sets – in screen shape but not in high resolution.
Life with the MD120 poses few challenges: a three position switch takes you from power off to camera and replay functions; the top of the camcorder has the zoom lens toggle and a two position switch for Easy (auto) or Program exposure options; the only other controls to worry about are the menu and digital effects choices.
You can select from a list of scene modes to take the hassle out of shooting in snow or beach conditions, sunsets, fireworks, spotlit subjects and others.
If you’re into special trickery there is a big pile of digital effects at hand. Scenes can be made more vivid or skin detail softened. You can begin and end a scene with wipes, fades, flips etc. Then you can transform the video into B&W or sepia, mosaic the image and more.
If you’re fussy about sound you can attach an external microphone; use of such an auxiliary is useful for shooting interviews in noisy environments.
The twin attractions of the MD120 appear when you want to replay your video efforts: you can run the video on any home TV via the composite video/stereo audio output; taking the game further, you can output your shooting to a computer via the FireWire connection and enjoy high end editing that will deliver final quality nearly equal to broadcast TV.
Most people will be delighted with the MD120’s performance. Only the experienced video expert will quibble at the camcorder’s low light performance. For the price, it will put video into many hands.