Sporting a 1 megapixel CCD and the relatively robust list of standard Canon features, their latest Mini-DV camcorder, the MD160, is another strong entry into the entry level camera market. With a sub $1000 price tag, this is model is definitely towards the lower end of the market, and while Mini-DV is beginning to slip into obscurity, up against the colossal technologies of hard drive and DVD, the MD160 proves it still has some life left in it yet.
- 35x zoom, good video quality
- Slightly dull colours
Another solid digital video camera from Canon, the MD160 will do all the things you'd expect of an entry level unit and do them well.
Price$ 799.00 (AUD)
With a 1 megapixel CCD sensor, the MD160 offers quite high quality video. While it won't compare to the incredible clarity offered by today's popular High Definition models, it will be more than adequate for the average consumer. Images are crisp and clean, with only minor blurring. Colour balance tends towards the dull side, but is still quite reasonable, and as has become common on Mini-DV units, there were few image aberrations visible at all. We noticed a little noise in our footage when flicking between areas of high contrast, however this wasn't too problematic.
The MD160 also performed decently in our low light tests. It has a night mode as well as a small light that illuminates your target and while neither of these is particularly effective, the end result was better than we normally see from low end camcorders. Our test involves filming coloured blocks in a darkened room and often we don't get any sort of picture at all. The MD160 however managed to capture the blocks with reasonable detail and good separation of colours. The image was exceptionally noisy, but this is to be expected. We wouldn't use this model to regularly take footage in low light, but it will do in a pinch. Overall, the footage is of a fairly impressive quality and the MD160 comfortably outperforms comparable DVD and HDD camcorders in this regard.
All the usual whacky and not so whacky Canon features are present as well. You've got white balance presets along with a custom setting, exposure compensation and a few preset scene modes. However then you also have the huge variety of strange image options, which include mirror, puzzle, jump, flip and several kinds of fades. Most of these are largely for novelty value and even though you are only likely to use them once or twice, they add a cute touch to the device. The included 35x optical zoom is sure to please some people, although at higher zoom levels you will need a tripod to ensure your video doesn't suffer too badly from handshake.
Design wise, the MD160 is the same as most other Canon Mini-DV units. The silver and black aesthetic is quite nice although a little plain. The unit sits comfortable in the hands and is well weighted, so it is fine for long shoots. Most of the controls are perfectly placed with the zoom toggle and mode switches along the top, and the shutter button on the back, right where the thumb falls. The menu is navigated via controls on the bottom of the 2.7in widescreen display, which flips out from the right hand side of the unit. These controls are a little difficult to press sometimes, but navigating with your left hand feels natural and should prove to be intuitive for most people.
Meanwhile, the screen itself is of reasonable but not outstanding quality. It lacks the detail we've seen on some other displays, but is fine for its intended task. The unit measures 119mm x 92mm x 57mm and weighs a rather scant 380g, making it ideal as a travel camera. As is standard with Mini-DV cameras, there are several connectivity options, including FireWire and USB for PC connection. USB can only be used to transfer still images from the memory card, whereas FireWire is there for video transfer. Both processes were relatively quick and are simple enough for novice users. There is also an AV out for connecting your camera directly to a television and this uses standard Composite plugs.
All in all this is another solid digital video camera from Canon. While it won't do anything amazing its big zoom coupled with above average picture quality and intuitive design make it a great all around package for those after a camera on a budget.
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