I don’t know about you, but when it’s time to shoot some family videos, I want it FUN and I want it EASY – easy to hold, easy and uncomplicated to shoot, easy to playback and to transfer to my computer for editing or to copy to VHS.   I want all this, and more, and that’s what I found with the $600 SRP Canon ZR65MC.

If it’s easy to use, that helps make it fun to use, and it’s really fun to use if the results are excellent and totally satisfying.  I found both in this ZR65MC.

I have been a big fan of Canon video products for many, many years.  It is my experience that you get a little more from Canon.  I chose to try this ZR65MC because I wanted to evaluate something that nearly any user would find satisfying and affordable.  I hear so often that consumers want good quality without a lot of frills they will not use and that makes things complicated.  Too often, that means a video image of inferior quality.  Not with Canon.  Others offer the better video quality on their better camcorders that have all those bells and whistles we will never use.

The ZR65MC is in the middle of their ZR line.  Within Canon’s entire line of digital video camcorders, it is neither the smallest nor the largest, but just keep that $600 list price in mind for now.  (See all the Canon Digital Video products HERE.  Then, click on the ZR65MC.)

I like the vertical design of the ZR series.  This makes them easy to hold and easy to use.  Small, but not too small.  I like the bright LCD flip-out viewfinder and the easy to follow controls.  Canon has done a great job of integrating menus, fade and effect buttons and placing controls where you will naturally find them.  Built into this Canon is a slot for the supplied (or an accessory) MultiMediacard or SD memory card – this camera boasts a simple digital still camera at a maximum resolution of 1024 x 768, good enough for up to 4” x 6”

digital prints, and perfect for email.  Motion JPEG movies can also be recorded on the memory card.  These are ideal for Web use or to send in email (if you and the recipient have high-speed Internet access).

The generous 20X optical zoom with image stabilizer assures sharp, high-quality images from a distance, thanks to legendary excellence from Canon optics and Canon’s video processing technology.  The images, both still and video, just look great.  Canon also includes a digital zoom range all the way up to a crazy and I-don’t-know-who-would-use-it 400x.

That 20X optical zoom came in handy when I wanted to zoom in and catch the neighborhood kids at play, and I have used it to capture my daughter on the soccer field with both video and digital stills.  With traditional digital still cameras, the optical zoom is from about 3x up to only 10x, so the added optical zoom is a welcome feature. Remember, for video or stills, optical zoom is superior, as digital zoom has to degrade the image quality.

Canon provides flexibility to those who wish to set things up manually, as well as for those of us who, like me, want to pick up the camera, turn it on and shoot great video.

Switching to manual mode, users have access to focus, AE (Auto Exposure) Shift for manual control of scene lightness and darkness, shutter speeds and manual setting of white balance, and more.

All the faders and digital effects are easy to access and to select and use.

I appreciate the low light modes. The basic low light setting fixes the shutter at a slow speed, which may result in moving images leaving a telltale trailing afterimage or smear.  Night mode automatically adjusts the shutter speed as needed in low light.

Of course, the ZR65MC comes with its own remote control and cables to connect to TV for viewing or for transfer to a VCR, or to the computer for transferring digital stills via USB.  There is also a digital video in/out port, called FireWire, iLink or IEEE 1394.  The included software is both Mac and PC compatible and may be used to transfer images and JPEG movies from the memory card.  The software I found to be easy to use and offers an image browser as well as the ability to create and run slide shows.  I also like that the software lets users design and format an album that can easily be printed on a color printer, such as the outstanding Canon i850 I have.

Battery charging is as easy as plugging in the charger cord to the electrical outlet on one end and the other end goes into the camera’s DC IN terminal.  A telltale light flashes when the battery is charging, once every second until the battery reaches 50% charged, twice per second when the battery reaches beyond the 50% state of charge, and it glows steadily when the battery is fully charged, in less than two hours.

Actual recording time with the included battery will be from about 40 minutes if using the 2.5-inch LCD to about 55 minutes when using the small viewfinder.  As a general rule, it is recommended that users ready themselves with battery power for about two to three times longer than may be needed.  In other words, if I want to be able to record up to 30 minutes on tape, I should be prepared with 90 minutes of power.  In practical terms, this means I should probably purchase an optional Canon BP-522 battery that provides a realistic 155 minutes of recording, and at a cost of only about $75 which I found on pricegrabber.com.

Another extra from Canon, not unique to this model camcorder, is the FREE DV Messenger software they offer.  It’s a free download for Windows XP users.  This software allows users to connect their Canon DV camcorder to the computer and to take full advantage of Microsoft Windows XP’s Messenger program by adding videos to instant messaging.  It gets better, too.  Not only can live video be added to messages, but also motion JPEG videos and stills can be shared from the memory card.  And there is another cool feature – Control Zoom, Focus, and Playback Functions of your camcorder and your friend’s camcorder anywhere in the world through your computer.  It’s pretty spectacular!  All the information about Canon’s DV Messenger is HERE.

What distinguishes THIS MiniDV camera from others in its price class?  To me, it is simple.  Reliability, performance, value and comfort level in use.  Canon has proven to be a leader in the field and it shows. It is easy to become comfortable with simple point and shoot operation, and it is also easy, if a bit of an investment in time, to learn about and use the many advances features.  I like to think of the Canon ZR series as intimidation-free high quality digital video for consumers like you and me!  It’s all there, and you’re going to like it.

Earlier, I said to keep that $600 price in mind.  I think the list price is in line with my rant about getting a little extra from Canon.  However, what makes this camcorder an even better, sweeter value is that through pricegrabber.com just today, I found it for as low as $425.  Now, it is an outstanding value!

Just a quick word about prices.  I have singled out pricegrabber.com here to use with pricing examples for my own convenience.  Please, check wherever you like, as I have no relationship with any retailer, manufacturer or online aggregator, such as pricegrabber.com.  In fact, I hope you find better pricing than I have told you about!

So, check out the Canon ZR65MC and compare with the others in its price class.  I am confident you will agree this is a terrific DV cam.

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