Canon makes standard-def sexy again
- Cute and compact design, dual flash memory recording modes, external microphone jack, 37x optical zoom
- Slightly overpriced when compared to other SD camcorders, SD/SDHC card not included
The FS11 might be slightly expensive for an entry-level camcorder, but it offers an impressive array of features to make up for it. With its versatile recording options and powerful 37x optical zoom, it will suit anybody in need of a point-and-shoot camera.
Price$ 899.00 (AUD)
Standard-def video continues to be big business for the camcorder industry. Despite abandoning their CRT TVs in flocks and droves, it would appear consumers are more than happy to stick with traditional SD cameras. This is mostly down to their plummeting prices; however, the emergence of new and exciting formats plays a significant role too. From DVD to hard drives, anything that can be found in the high-def sector is also available in plain old SD cameras. This trend continues with the release of Canon's FS11: a compact unit that utilises the latest in camcorder technology.
The Canon FS11 is a flash-memory-based camcorder equipped with an SD/SDHC memory card slot and 16GB of inbuilt memory. Aimed primarily at entry-level users, it provides reasonable image quality and impressive features for the asking price. With that being said, there are also several cheaper options on the market that offer a comparable (if slightly under par) performance. Nevertheless, it remains a versatile and user-friendly camera that will satisfy beginners and families.
The FS11 can be viewed as a direct competitor to Panasonic's SDR-S7. Both models come equipped with similar specifications and components, including an SD/SDHC memory card slot, a single CCD image sensor and a digital image stabiliser. However, the FS11 benefits from a 37x optical zoom (compared to the SDR-S7's 10x optical zoom) and a hard drive (the SDR-S7 has no inbuilt memory). It also has an external microphone jack, which the SDR-S7 lacks.
This naturally makes for a superior product, though it is also saddled with a higher price tag. At $899, the FS11 is $350 more expensive than its Panasonic rival, which basically does the same job minus a few deluxe features. If you're unlikely to use an external microphone and aren't too fussed about inbuilt memory, you might be better off going for the cheaper alternative. (Personally, we feel the 37x optical zoom tips the scales in the FS11's favour — but only just).
As mentioned above, the FS11 comes equipped with its own 16GB hard drive. While this might sound a bit stingy when compared to other hard-disk-based models, it's important to note that the FS11 is not a fully fledged HDD camera. As such, the inbuilt hard drive can be viewed as something of a bonus (albeit a 'bonus' you have to pay extra for). In any event, the inbuilt HDD will net you up to 10 hours of recording time, depending on the video quality selected. While perfectly reliable as a backup recording device, most users will be better off investing in a few SD/SDHC memory cards.
The benefits of SDHC and its equivalents are substantial, ranging from less power consumption to sound-free operation. If your computer is equipped with a card reader, they also provide cable-free access to your data. Another advantage offered by the SD/SDHC format is the user-friendly way in which video is stored, with each recording appearing on the card as a separate clip. This not only makes playback a simple matter of selecting the appropriate thumbnail, but it also ensures you never accidentally record over your footage. SDHC cards currently come in capacities of up to 32GB (cards with this capacity retail for $899 — the same price as the camera itself). In terms of design, the FS11 is both cute and trendy. The dark grey colour scheme is a refreshing change from the usual silver/black finish, and the barrel-like shape fits comfortably into the hand. While not quite as small as some of its rivals, including the SDR-S7, it remains an agreeably compact model.
Throughout testing, the video performance of the FS11 remained slightly above average. Like most standard-def camcorders, it performed best in sunny, outdoor environments, with grain coming to the fore in dim lighting. Colour reproduction was faithful for the most part. Its still image capabilities could never hope to compete with a dedicated compact camera, yet they remain adequate for occasional snap shots. All up, we wouldn't exactly class the FS11's output as perfect, but it should be enough to satisfy the average user.
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