People that want to head out or stay indoors to record some videos for the fun factor but have a very tight budget may think that the options are quite limited. But with digital imaging technologies evolving at rapid paces, many devices can get the job done rather nicely depending on the user’s preferences. Even sophisticated devices such as Smartphones can record video and even HD video in some models. But using these devices for long periods of time may not be very rewarding as they are often uncomfortable and lack some of the basic features that are normally present in dedicated camcorders such as image stabilization and optical zoom. Going to the lenses, the quality is not very impressive either which is why low-cost models from respected manufacturers like Canon deserve some attention and it is a good time for buying since Canon is releasing the new Canon FS400 to launch 2011. It continues the success of the FS300 while still remaining to be one of the cheapest consumer camcorders in Canon’s arsenal.
Design and Interface
The FS400 continues the tradition of the series that end with two zeros by offering three colors to choose from. The common silver and red colors are available along with the more unique blue design since there are no VIXIA models that come in blue. With the lack of internal memory and advanced features, the FS400 enjoys a very compact and light size where users can literally place it on the palm of their hand. It only weighs about 8 ounces and it still manages to have a 2.7-inch widescreen display. Those that are not so into touchscreens will be relieved that the classic controls are still present and navigating through the interface is not very difficult.
The Canon FS300 which is the predecessor of the FS400 is still being sold by Canon at an even lower price and that is because the FS300 only relies on an SD card slot. The same goes with the FS400 but this particular model is far more special because the SD card slot can read ordinary SD cards as well as the SDHC and SDXC formats. Although the SD card needs to be purchased separately, users can start with a cheap 2 GB SD card and move on to the 64 GB SDXC cards that promise very fast transfer speeds which is really handy if there is a need to transfer large amounts of videos to a computer.
The FS300 does not have the VIXIA label because it is not capable of recording Full HD video. This may seem to make the FS300 very dated but the 680,000 pixel image sensor is enough for the Canon FS300 to record videos in 16:9 widescreen formats and the image quality is better than standard digital cameras. Canon refers to this as Widescreen HR and it makes use of the DIGIC DV II processor which further increases the quality of the recordings.
Users have a lot of flexibility with the 41x Advanced Zoom feature where the quality is preserved in that range. With such a high zoom level, users can remain still and conveniently check out distant areas up close. When using these zoom settings, it is recommended to use the Dynamic IS which is an image stabilizing technique that cancels out those unwanted vibrations that occur from shaking or walking. This makes wide-angle shooting a bit easier and the videos turn out better. If images need to be taken, the Dual Shot mode allows quick snapshots to be made while recording. It is also possible to use the Video Snapshot feature to create short video clips that are coupled with background music to show off the highlights with ease.
This lightweight camcorder is very friendly on power consumption and the device can charge rather quickly when needed. It takes about 30 minutes of charging so the device can be used for 90 minutes before the battery fully drains. The standby mode can extend the battery life since it powers down and performance isn’t sacrificed with the Quick Start feature where the FS300 quickly exits the standby mode the moment the LCD display is opened.
The Canon FS400 is not only cheap with the $280 price tag but it has a handful of modern features like the SDXC card support as well as a few technologies that some of the VIXIA models have. As long as high-definition quality is not needed, this widescreen camcorder should be fun enough to use on various non-professional occasions.
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