Canon's Inexpensive ZR500 Shoots Good Video

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At a Glance
  • Canon ZR-500 Mini DV Digital Camcorder (0.68MP, 25x Opt, 800x Dig, 2.7

Canon's ZR500 takes great pictures for a $300 camcorder.
Canon's ZR500 takes great pictures for a $300 camcorder.
In the video world, cheap used to be a dirty word, but no more. Canon's ZR500 shows how $300 can get you a high-quality--albeit bare-bones--miniDV camcorder. I looked at a shipping version.

The svelte ZR500 fit nicely in my hand. The 2.7-inch LCD screen was easy to view in all conditions but direct sunlight. The ZR500 shoots both standard 4:3 and wide-screen 16:9 video onto miniDV tapes.

In my informal tests, the 25X zoom lens and single CCD took sharp video with strong color. Picture quality gets a little grainy and dull in low light, but the quality is superior to what you would get from similarly priced camcorders. The built-in microphone captured reasonably good sound, and you can use the included microphone input to add a better one.

The ZR500 comes with two shooting modes: Easy and P (for program). The former disables most shooting options. You hit Record and the camcorder does the rest. The latter offers more control, with features like white balancing and shooting modes. The camera also has cheesy-looking wipes and special effects.

Like most budget products, the ZR500 lacks features such as still-image capture, support for flash memory, and manual controls. There's no USB connection or analog video input either, but you do get a standard FireWire port.

It won't replace a high-end camcorder, but the ZR500 is a pretty good choice for shooting simple videos--and the price is low enough to make it almost an impulse purchase.

Canon ZR500

The ZR500 is a low-cost, simple, high-quality camcorder that lacks some features but takes good-looking video.
Price when reviewed: $300
Current prices (if available)

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At a Glance
  • Canon ZR-500 Mini DV Digital Camcorder (0.68MP, 25x Opt, 800x Dig, 2.7

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