Pros General picture quality; high end consumer features; street prices
Cons Minor performance issues and design flaws
Summary As I write this review, the Optura 50 is a uniquely good deal among the widely-available high-end consumer camcorders.
A basic overview: the Optura 50 is the budget version of the Optura 60. As a result the 50 lacks a few of the 60's features, such as a 14x zoom (it is 10x on the 50), a hot shoe, and the ability to offload video through the USB port (for the 50 you will need a firewire connection).
Otherwise, the 50 shares the 60's relatively large CCD with RGB filtering (a technology that competes well with consumer 3CCD camcorders in most circumstances--more below). It is also packed with a host of high end consumer features, such as Optical Image Stabilization (generally more effective than Electronic Image Stabilization and with no loss of data), a manual focus ring, analog-to-digital passthrough (allowing conversion of analog content, such as VHS tapes, to digital formats), "true" 16:9 capture (meaning the whole CCD is used for 16:9 video), and jacks for microphones and headphones.
In 2005, this list of features put the Optura 50 into the same class with higher-priced competitors, including the Optura 60, the Sony DCR-HC90, and Panasonic PV-GS250. Still, as of the beginning of 2006, discounted versions of these other camcorders may have been worth the price differential with the Optura 50, depending on your preferences.
As of the date of this review (3/1/06), however, it appears that things have changed in the market. My searches indicated that the Optura 60 and Panasonic PV-GS250 are disappearing from the discount market, with the Panasonic being replaced with the new PV-GS300. Accordingly, while the Optura 50 is still available at a discount price of around $450, obtaining an Optura 60 or GS250 may cost $800-1000, and that is a difficult price differential to justify.
The Sony HC90/96s (the 96 is the 2006 version of the 90), on the other hand, are still widely available for around $650. However, these camcorders lack the Optura 50's OIS and manual focus ring. The new GS300 is also available for around $700, but in reducing the list price of the 300 from the prior 250, Panasonic also eliminated several features of the 250, such as a manual focus ring, analog-to-digital passthrough, and headphone jack. So, these camcorders, which cost approximately $250-300 more than the Optura 50, are also missing some of the 50's key features.
So what's the catch? Aside from the features the 50 is missing in comparison to the 60, both the Optura 50 and 60 possess a design flaw where an important button can be rendered inaccessible if the LCD screen is tilted. Also, some 50s and 60s (but not all) have produced enough motor noise to bother some reviewers. Finally, both the Panasonic 3CCD camcorders and--particularly--the large CCD Sony HC90/96 have received better "low light" ratings than the 50s and 60s.
So, should these problems be dealbreakers? I'd note a couple things. First, when talking about "low light", it is important to define terms. Based on the reviews and images that I have seen, in what I would call "moderate low light" (a decently-lit interior room at night), all of these camcorders perform reasonably well and at about the same level. In what I would call "extreme low light" (something like a candle-lit interior room at night), none of them perform adequately in the sense of providing more than minimally-useful video. It is only somewhere in between these ends of the "low light" range that there might be situations in which the Sonys or the 3CCD Panasonics provide useful images where the Opturas do not.
Moreover, both the motor-noise and low-light issues can potentially be addressed with accessories, such as an external microphone or camcorder light. There are decent camcorder microphones available for around $80, and decent (albeit with short battery time) camcorder lights available for $25-40. So, the $250-300 savings associated with the Optura 50 could be devoted in part to accessories that would lead to a much better overall camcorder setup, and with money to spare.
But you may find that you need none of these things--it all depends on your usage and your level of satisfaction with a stock Optura 50. Conversely, you will never be able to add OIS to the Sonys, a headphone jack to the GS300, or manual focus rings to either (although you could buy a separate solution for the analog-to-digital passthrough missing on the 300).
In short, my feeling is that if you are in the market for a high-end consumer camcorder, a stock Optura 50 at the discounted price is a great place to start, with a lot of flexibility if you need to add audio and lighting capabilities. However, if you can find a discounted Optura 60 or Panasonic PV-GS250 for just a little more, they may be worth the price differential. Otherwise, I would advise saving your money, and buying accessories as needed.
Pros good color reproduction sharp in daylight
Cons poor in low light, some noise if you are REAL quiet
Summary this has been a great camera for the family. good extra options if you wan't to mess with white balence ect. camera is OK...but I don't recomend using a camcorder for still pictures. the low light performance is not that good but then again I don't do filming in the dark. there is some noise picked up if your are very quite. so far most of my filming has been out doors or chasing my child and it is not a factor. I would buy this camera again.
"If you are looking for a camera and camcorder combo this is the one for its price."on by ashkankhak
Pros High 2.2 Mp resolution for picture (not bad for a camcorder), amazing 1.2 Mp video quality, amazing compatibility, and Flash
Cons Night Mode Horribble, Kind of Low Zoom, Might become confusing
Summary In day its picture quality is phenomenon. Its quality is more than a DVD movie. You can manipulate how you shoot in many ways. Nice dial for navigation. The expandable memory card makes saving pitures extremely easy having a card reader on your computer you can easily plug in the card in there and save them on computer, the pinnacle software is easy to use.
DO NOT RELY ON ITS NIGHT MODE BECAUSE ITS IS HORRIBLE, AND DO NOT GET OPTURA 60 ONLY FOR ITS EXTRA LED LIGHT AND 4X EXTRA ON ITS ZOOM (DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT DIGITAL ZOOM) BECAUSE IT DOES NOT WORTH THE 200 DOLLARS EXTRA. JUST GET AN ADDITIONAL PROJECTOR LIGHT FOR ONLY $100 MORE AND FOR THE VIDEO YOU CAN USE THE 40X DIGITAL ZOOM AND DO NOT PUT IT AND 200X. HOWEVER IT REDUCES THE QUALITY BUT IT WILL BECOME LIKE REGULAR CAMCORDER.
With all this I would buy this camcorder again
Pros Compact size when compare with others with similar feature
Cons Poor low light performance, noise and low saturation. Poor "SET" switch.
Summary I have limited experience in Camcorder, although I have lots of film and digital cameras with over 40 exchangeable lenses, I only has three Camcorders in my life, the first was a Canon UC1 Hi, the second was a Panasonic NV-EX3 EN and the last one is this Canon Optura 50 (here it called MVX40i).
Actually I was a little disappointed when I saw the result of the Panasonic, although it gives very clean and colorful video but it doesn¡¦t look "real" and resolution was not better than my old Canon Hi-8.
The Optura 50 is having high noise at low light even compared with my four years old Panasonic. The already low color saturation is further suffered at low light. Fortunately adding some saturation with post processing can partially correct the problem.
Side to side compares the resolution of the Optura 50 and Panasonic NV-EX3, the Canon is obviously much better. But on the field in some cases I found the Canon doesn't resolve very well the human face when the light is flat (I didn't enable the "soft skin details" function).
The optical image stabilization is the major reason I pick this Canon, it is much better than the electronic one. True 16:9 and the number of different manual setting is great especially the sound recording level control! The major complain is the "SET" toggle switch, it is the poorest control I have seen, poor position and control feeling. I love the rotary one on the Panasonic much more.
Pros Good picture, firewire/i.link capable, easy to use, manual focus ring
Cons Loud motor noise, only 10x optical zoom
Summary I shot my 2 student films with this camera and loved it's easy access buttons and ease of use. It is able to withstand a lot of punishment so no need to be too careful, except with the lens of course. The 10x zoom makes you feel limited and who carse about the 200x digital zoom, digital zoom is a scam, it's the first thing your taught in film school. I've had this camera for 2 years and I have nothing to complain about except that blasted motor noise so definatley buy an external mic which I still haven't found a good one. Please check out the following link as it shows the quality of the optura 50 in day & night although the picture is compressed, you can still notice the quality. http://youtube.com/watch?v=cMdyBRSFX0U