Canon XH A1 HDV Camcorder Page 3

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PICTURE QUALITY Footage captured by the Canon's three 1,440 x 1,080-pixel CCDs proved strikingly crisp, with minimal noise and picture grain, even in dim shots that would be challenging to most camcorders. Watching some video I shot of my daughter playing in the backyard, I was impressed by how solid and lifelike the picture looked and how clear fine textures such as individual blades of grass and the grain of a wooden fence came across. Colors were natural as opposed to pumped-up or cartoonish, although I did notice a slight amount of chromatic aberration - an artifact that shows up as a soft halo of color on object edges - in a few shots. Lens barrel distortion also wasn't a problem, with the Canon's 16:9 image for the most part looking perfectly uniform right out to the edges of the frame.

Another aspect of the Canon's performance that struck me as a huge leap over regular consumer camcorders was its sound recording capabilities. Voices sounded full and clear in the tapes that I made, and a good amount of ambient background sound came through as well. Best of all, the handle-mounting of the microphone ensured that no extraneous whirring or hum from the tape-transport or lens mechanism got mixed in with recordings.

With a maximum still-image resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, this camcorder doesn't make an ideal substitute for a standard digital still camera. But one feature I found very appealing was its ability to grab video frames recorded on tape and transfer them as still images to SD memory card. The pictures that I captured in this manner looked great, and they had enough resolution for 4 x 6-inch prints.

BOTTOM LINE The Canon XH A1 HDV camcorder sells for more than twice the price of high-end consumer HD camcorders, and its comparatively big body and 4.5-pound weight make it a hassle to whip out for birthday parties or backyard vignettes. But its wide array of sophisticated manual features and pro-level inputs make it an incredible value for anyone looking to move beyond basic shooting. The cam's exceptional Auto modes also enable you to quickly and easily grab great-looking high-def video without fiddling with menus, buttons, and dials. If you've ever pondered a transition from the consumer to the prosumer camcorder world, Canon's affordable, feature-packed HX A1 is an excellent platform for making that leap.

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