Hands-On Canon Ultura Mini-DV Camcorder

A few years ago, digital video cameras for the average person seemed to be something in the far-off future. Now, a trip to any electronics store will disprove that idea. Digital video is everywhere, costing only about as much as Hi-8 video did a couple of years ago. We began to wonder if there was substance to the hype about digital video.

In answer to our question, we had the opportunity to look at the Canon Ultura Mini-DV Camcorder. This model combines video and still camera functions in a very complete and compact package. Lightweight and easy to use, the camera has a very impressive 16X optical zoom lens. An Optical Image Stabilization feature keeps the picture steady and helps keep your videos free of Blair Witch Project-style camera shakiness. Still images, like video, are captured on a Mini DV videocassette. During playback, these still images will appear as a slide show, staying on screen for about six seconds. Narration can also be recorded if desired.

Like most camcorders on the market today, it also has a very nice, high-resolution 2.5” color LCD view screen to help in framing your shot. It even swivels and flips, allowing you to accurately capture just about anything without craning your neck. The eyecup viewfinder is also full color, unlike other camcorders whose viewfinders only display black and white.

Canon’s FlexiZone AF/AE Image Control System lets you pinpoint a specific area of focus anywhere within the viewfinder. FlexiZone Auto Focus, however, is great for most shooting situations. FlexiZone Auto Exposure adjusts to different light situations to give the best picture possible. Programmed Auto Exposure lets you set for optimum results in different shooting situations. A DV connector enables users to conveniently transfer videos and stills to a DV-compatible computer. Other features of the camera include an Auto-Editing function, digital effects and fades, 16bit and 12bit Digital Stereo Sound, built-in speaker and much more.

Having been enthusiastic Hi-8 users for years, we were extremely impressed with the functionality and video quality of this camera. The recorded picture and sound are top-notch. The zoom is nothing short of amazing. In fact, the Optical Image Stabilization function becomes a near necessity at full zoom, as the slightest hand or tripod movement will look like an earthquake without it. At an affordable suggested list price of $1,199, this camera is surprisingly high in quality and usability. So, is there substance to the hype about digital video? We definitely think so.


—Jim Schneider

  [email protected]





Contact Information

Canon U.S.A.

Lake Success, NY

(516) 328-5960


This article originally appeared in the 03/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.