For quickly turning snapshots into prints, the Optura can connect to any PictBridge-compatible printer. It also doubles as an SD/MMC card reader when you connect it to your PC--one push of the Print/Share button automatically transfers photos to your hard drive.
Canon supplies a corded lens cap, a 16MB MMC card, USB and A/V cables, a wireless remote, and manuals for both the camera and Canon's bundled software. The manual is excellent; it quickly directs you to the proper page for every feature and clearly explains it when you get there. As for the software, it's entirely for photos: Canon's usual ZoomBrowser EX, PhotoRecord, and PhotoStitch for Windows and ImageBrowser and PhotoStitch for Macintosh. Although there's no video-capture or video-editing software included, you can transfer video to your PC via USB 2.0--application permitting--and FireWire.
The Canon Optura 60 is something of a slow starter, taking nearly 10 seconds at power-up before it's ready to start shooting. That's a minor quibble; a bigger one is with the automatic exposure adjustment, which lags a noticeable second or two before adjusting from bright- to low-light settings. (This is a problem only if you move quickly from one environment to the other; the camera is sufficiently responsive with gradual transitions.) We also found the zoom a bit slow, though the upside to that is that the autofocus locks on to distant subjects with almost no delay. Indeed, we found the autofocus quite speedy and accurate overall--it rarely got hung up seeking a subject. On the photo side, we liked seeing one or more of the Optura's nine-point focus areas in the LCD. As with Canon's cameras, this system helps tremendously in capturing properly focused images.
The LCD itself is a small but impressive display. The 2.5-inch screen looks bright and colorful even under direct sunlight, and better still if you engage the backlight. Of course, its 4:3 aspect ratio means you'll have to contend with letterboxing when shooting in wide (16:9) mode. The camcorder's stereo microphone, mounted just below the lens, did an excellent job recording sound both in front of and behind the camera, but it also managed to pick up the whine of the tape transport. Nor did its electronic windscreen filter significantly reduce wind noise on a moderately breezy day.
We also found the Optura's auto-off feature a bit annoying. When it engages (after five minutes of inactivity, a setting you can't modify), the camera beeps intermittently for about 30 seconds, then beeps even louder before finally turning off. Canon claims the Optura's included battery should give you about 80 minutes of continuous recording time while using the LCD--though that number is cut nearly in half for typical operation (zooming, starting and stopping, and so on). Our informal tests support these ratings, so you should definitely pack an extra battery or two--or one of Canon's extended-life cells, which promise up to three hours of continuous shooting.
As we've seen with other Canon camcorders, the Optura 60 renders crisp, beautiful color in outdoor and well-lit indoor environments. However, despite the inclusion of a large CCD, the Optura just can't hack it when the lights are low. If you're shooting in, say, a dimly lit room, expect a fair bit of color noise in your video. If you're trying to capture some nighttime footage, avoid Super Night mode, which produces horribly blurry, jerky results unless you use a tripod and film a stationary subject. We experimented with several different modes and settings, and the results were largely the same: lots of noise or lots of blur--sometimes both.
Unfortunately, the Optura has a slight problem in brightly lit settings as well. In Auto mode, it blows out highlights. When shooting the horizon on a clear day, for instance, the light-blue sky appeared almost white. Yellows in particular appeared overexposed. Picky shooters will want to take advantage of the manual exposure controls for these situations. In all circumstances, we also noticed a fair bit of edge crawl.
As for photos, the Optura can easily suffice as a vacation snapshooter, though its 2.2-megapixel resolution will serve you best if you stick to 4x6-inch prints. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we noticed many of the same traits in our snapshots that we did in our video: nice color, clean edges, slight overexposure, and noise in low-light shots (though the flash helps with portraits). There was also a hint of purple fringing around the edges of shadows.
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