Canon Elura 100 Camcorder Review
Video Performance* (7.6)*
The Elura 100 features a 1/5" CCD with 1.33 gross MP. This makes for 690K effective pixels in 4:3 aspect ratio, 880K effective pixels in 16:9 aspect ratio with the image stabilization off and 750K effective pixels in 16:9 with the image stabilization on.
At 3000 lux, the Elura 100 has a strong image. The colors are well saturated and well differentiated. The saturation also boosts the blacks, which help give the picture a sharp look. The blues and magentas look a little too saturated, but they don’t stand out enough to make it a "bad picture."
The Canon ZR700 sells for the same price. Though it has a smaller imager (1/6" versus 1/5"), there are more add-ons and premium features. In terms of basic video performance, the Elura has a significantly sharper picture. It also has better color differentiation, which made a big difference in clear separations between the yellow-green tones. Both camcorders show the same type of noise, fine grain that is darker than the dominant color tone around it, but the Elura has less noise overall.
Last year’s Elura 80 had a larger 1/4.5" CCD. In fact all the old Eluras (the Elura 80, 85 and 90) had the same size imager; the Elura 100 replaces all of the models this year. The Elura 80 had higher levels of color saturation. It produced stronger orange and red tones in particular. The Elura 80 looked significantly less crisp, evident in the resolution trumpets. It also had higher levels of in-camera sharpening that tended to create halos in the areas of high contrast and add "stair-stepping" to curves. However, the differences were too subtle to warrant a dramatically higher score.
The Panasonic PV-GS39 has a smaller, 1/6" imager. The sharpness is slightly decreased compared to the Elura 100 and the noise increased immensely. All the Panasonics this year have showed an increase in noise, but the GS39 was the worst. Levels of color saturation were about the same.
The Sony DCR-HC26 also has more noise, but the Sony’s noise appears in a denim-like texture across the image. Its 1/6" imager could not match the Elura’s for sharpness or color. The HC26’s image appears washed out, particularly in the magenta tones.
Finally, last year’s JVC GR-DF550 had slightly duller color tones and a similar noise pattern to the Sony, like horizontal bands. The picture was less sharp than the Elura 100, and had a strange in-camera sharpening that created strong halos along dark lines and contrasty areas. There were also moiré patterns in the trumpets, indicating the camcorder’s struggle to find the patterns in areas that require high resolution.
In conclusion, the Elura 100 has an excellent picture for a $400 camcorder. The improvements over the ZR700’s picture are evident.
**Video Resolution ***(15.5)*
The Elura 100’s video was tested for video resolution by shooting a standard ISO 12233 resolution chart. In 4:3 aspect ratio, the Elura 100 produced 538.2 lines of horizontal resolution (with an average clipping of 1.65%) and 287.7 lines of vertical resolution (with an average clipping of 1.58%), yielding an approximate resolution of 154840.14. In 16:9, the camcorder produced 599.1 lines of horizontal resolution (with an average clipping of 1.65%) and 259.9 lines of vertical resolution (with an average clipping of 2.21%), yielding an approximate resolution of 155286.72. For standardization purposes, we use the 4:3 aspect score only when we score.
Clipping occurs in Imatest when the image cannot be read properly. The percentage number indicates the percentage of the image that Imatest could not read, either because those pixels were blown out or bottomed out. Nearly all Canon camcorders in the past year and a half have presented clipping problems, from the top of the line Optura 600 down to the ZR500. The loss of such a small percentage of the information, along with other indicators, leads us to believe that clipping should not seriously affect the resolution.
Low Light Performance*(4.75)*
The Elura 100 was tested, like all camcorders that pass through our hallowed halls, in 60 lux and 15 lux to determine its performance in low lighting. Low light performance is more important that many users might know. Camcorders have a much lower tolerance for low light than, say, the human eye, which can see just fine at these levels. Performance is determined, in large part, by the size of the imager. At 1/5", the Elura 100 should perform better than the standard low-end size, 1/6", but not as good as the upper-tier camcorders that might have up to 1/3".
At 60 lux, the Elura 100 lost a great deal color information compared to the 3000 lux lighting from the Video Performance tests. Colors could still be made out, but the picture is very dark. Some camcorders with larger chips typically produce an image like this at 15 lux. The automatic gain did not do much to help. Noise increased a great deal, which can be a telltale sign of in-camera gain boosting, but there is nothing like the super-saturated colors that appear in some Sonys. There are some areas of blue noise in the red and magenta, as well as yellow discoloration in the grayscale. The blue noise is common enough in lower-end camcorders, but the other areas do not bode well for its performance as a whole. Focus did remain good, however.
The ZR700, by comparison, was brighter, despite having a smaller imager. Part of this discrepancy may be due to a better automatic gain than the Elura. The levels of dark, fine grain noise are about the same, but the ZR700 had no traces of the discolored noise. The sharpness was about the same between both camcorders.
Last year’s Elura 80 was very similar to the Elura 100, with the exception of slightly higher saturation levels in the Elura 80. Noise levels were correspondingly higher. It’s hard to say which is better. This is the pull between brightness and noise that most camcorders struggle with. Generally, we prefer a sharper image with less noise.
The Panasonic PV-GS39 had much stronger colors. While the GS39 had far more noise at 3000 lux compared to the Elura 100, at 60 lux the Elura surpassed Panasonic. Canon had a shaper image, however, and did not suffer from the moiré patterns of the GS39.
The Sony DCR-HC26 also had stronger colors, with slightly higher levels of saturation. The images of these camcorders are strangely similar. The same overall brightness, blue noise issues in the magenta areas and color balance (except for the more saturated reds in the Sony) almost make it appear as though the companies were using the same imagers. We have no evidence of this, nor are we seriously suggesting it. It’s just a curious coincidence.
The JVC GR-DF550, like most JVCs, uses a powerful automatic gain control that boosts colors a great deal but at a cost of sharpness and ugly, chunky noise.
At 15 lux, the Canon Elura 100's performance is surprisingly similar to its performance at 60 lux. The overall brightness had decreased only a little, with a noticeable but not dramatic increase of noise. What does this mean? It may indicate that the camcorder has a low threshold at which it kicks up the auto gain into high gear, meaning 60 lux is not low enough to get it going, but 15 lux is.
The ZR700 failed at this light level. The Elura 100 is unquestionably stronger, which may in part be a result of the larger imager, but also feeds our suspicion that the Elura and the ZR cams employ different types of gain.
The Elura 80 had similar noise, but less sharpness. The PV-GS39 was significantly darker, and the camcorder had trouble distinguishing between colors. The Sony HC26 was darker, and also lost most of the color information in favor of something approaching grayscale. The JVC-GRDF550, despite the strong auto gain control, had about the same overall brightness and even less color information than the Elura 100.
Overall, this was a decent performance, though the results versus the ZR700 are perplexing: worse at 60 lux, better at 15 lux.
Wide Angle* (8.4)*
When tested for wide angle capabilities, the Canon Elura 100 was tested for horizontal field of view width in both 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios. For the Elura 100 in 4:3 aspect, the field width measured 42 degrees. When switched into 16:9 aspect ratio, the camcorder expanded the field of width to 52 degrees while engaging in only a very slight and barely noticeable crop and zoom. With ten degrees of separation between the two aspect ratios, the Canon Elura 100 can definitely produce two distinct aspect variations for users to capitalize on when they desire widescreen playback capabilities.