Weighing little more than a pound, the Elura 80 has a titanium-colored plastic shell and a solid, well-balanced feel. Its horizontal design feels very natural to hold, and the Elura 80 is one of the more comfortable camcorders that we've used.
Welcome design elements include a top-loading tape door and rear-mounted battery, which allow you to reload without removing the camera from its tripod. A stereo microphone sits below the lens, but the Elura 80 lacks the external microphone jack found on the Elura 85 and Elura 90. The built-in microphone works well, however, and includes a wind-noise filter.
The 18X zoom lens has almost as much reach as the 20X lens found on the top-of-the-line Elura 90, but the Elura 80 doesn't bundle the wide-angle adapter that comes with that model. (Optional wide-angle and 1.5X teleconverter attachments are available.) The digital zoom--a feature that's not very useful due to image degradation--can be set to 72X or 360X. You can record video in standard 4:3 TV dimensions or at a true wide-screen 16:9 ratio.
The Elura 80 sports a fully automatic Easy mode, which you'll find welcome when you flip open the 2.5-inch LCD to discover 10 control buttons packed tightly together. For everyday shooting, you can leave the automatic mode engaged and use the buttons for control only during playback.
The camera's complement of analog and digital ports includes FireWire, USB, and analog RCA inputs and outputs for audio and video, but no S-Video.
You'll find a typical array of automatic exposure modes, including Sports, Portrait, Spotlight, Low Light, and Sand & Snow. The Elura 80 includes a number of manual settings, including exposure, focus, white balance, and shutter speed. You focus manually with a jog dial that's mounted between the LCD and the lens, which isn't the easiest spot to reach when shooting. The dial doesn't offer the speed or precision you'd get from a focus ring, either. The camcorder provides a selection of built-in faders, and an assortment of gimmicky digital effects such as Mosaic, Sepia, and Color Mask.
In good lighting conditions, the Elura 80 shoots decent camcorder-quality still images at 1,280x960 or 640x480. The Elura 80 lacks the Elura 90's built-in flash, making for extremely muddy shots in all but the brightest lighting conditions. However, as with the step-up models, this camera can snap 640x480 photos while you're recording video on a MiniDV cassette. The camera can also capture MJPEG AVI movies at 320x240 or 160x120 pixels. A 16MB MMC card is included for saving stills and AVI clips; the camera can also use SD cards.
In daylight and brightly lit situations, the Elura 80 records vibrant, sharp video. Colors are accurate, edges are crisp and well-defined, and textures are very evident. The 18X lens found on this camera and the Elura 85 seems to provide slightly less contrast than the 20X lens on the Elura 90, but the difference is evident only in direct comparisons.
Low-light images have more accurate and saturated color than we've seen from similar consumer camcorders, but they're also noticeably noisy. The camera doesn't offer any built-in lighting, although you can mount a light on the accessory shoe. The slow-shutter Night Mode captures reasonably good color in dark situations, but its shutter speed is extremely slow, and thus motion comes out very blurry. If you're going to be shooting in dark situations, check out the Elura 85 or Elura 90 instead.