Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more. The Elura 50 is so trim and solidly constructed that you'll have it with you in places you'd never bring an ordinary model. You can operate the vertically oriented camcorder easily with just your right hand, but you'll likely steady your aim with your left. If you have large hands, the zoom switch may give you trouble; you'll have to bend your finger to reach it.
|The controls on the back are clearly labeled and easy to find.|
Small doesn't necessarily mean fragile. The metal-and-plastic case feels sturdy and tightly assembled. The controls should withstand a reasonable amount of abuse--unusual for a device this size--though the plastic band that tethers two of the connector covers will be difficult to repair if snapped.
Unfortunately, the cassette loads from the bottom, but that's pretty much unavoidable on a camera this small.
A variety of in-camera digital effects helps you spice up your videos without a PC.
For the point-and-shoot crowd, the Elura offers seven scene modes and fully automatic operation. More-advanced photographers can use exposure compensation, adjust the shutter speed (from 1/60 to 1/2,000 of a second), focus manually, and select the white-balance setting.
The 10X zoom lens suffices for most situations. If you're capturing stills or MPEG video to a card, the range drops to 7.5X. You can save your pictures on SD/MMC media in VGA (640x480) or XGA (1,024x768) resolution, though the sensor's effective photo resolution of 630,000 pixels falls short of the 786,432 pixels needed for a true XGA image. A progressive photo mode reduces blurring in shots of fast-moving subjects, but no such option is available for video. The camcorder also lacks an accessory shoe. Canon offers an optional adapter bracket, but it adds considerable bulk.
Though it's bigger, we suggest you get the optional 1,200mAh battery.
With brightly lit exteriors, the Elura 50 focused quickly and accurately, but the focus didn't entirely lock in some dim and low-contrast situations, even when we mounted the camera on a tripod. In general, the electronic image-stabilization system performed well; as with most of its kind, its biggest weakness is maintaining focus when you pan left and right.
The audio sounded clear and strong, though the top-mounted stereo microphone picks up the videographer's voice more readily than a front-mounted mike would. Thankfully, the camera didn't record any motor whine the way the Elura 40MC did, even when the ambient-noise level was low.
Considering the small size of the standard 570mAh lithium-ion battery, its life was adequate: 59 minutes when we worked with the LCD, 118 minutes when we used the viewfinder. Canon's optional 1,200mAh cell lasts twice as long, but it protrudes an additional three-fourths of an inch from the camera. Both the 2-inch LCD and the viewfinder look sharp and are relatively easy to view in sunlight. The Elura 50, like its predecessor, renders relatively rich, accurate colors in bright conditions. It also delivered excellent white balance on both the automatic and manual settings. In scenes with extremely light and dark subjects, we observed some loss of detail (not an unusual problem among consumer camcorders), but motion and compression artifacts, as well as video noise, were minimal.
Video qualities such as distortion, dynamic range, and tonal separation looked good, given enough light.
In dim shooting situations, the camera didn't perform as well. The low-light modes do an excellent job maintaining color saturation, but they reduce the shutter speed so much that they're not very useful when there's a lot of movement in the frame. The Elura 50's peers have the same trouble. In general, low-light video looked noisier than what we've seen from some competitors.
When zoomed in, the Elura 50 delivers very detailed images.
The photo and MPEG-1 modes come in handy but have limited value. Outdoor pictures displayed the pleasing range of color and contrast typical of camcorder XGA-resolution shots, but also as usual, image quality didn't match what you'd get from a comparable digital camera. The 320x2,400-pixel MPEG-1 captures were jerky and exhibited a considerable number of compression artifacts. But the results were perfectly acceptable for their intended use as videos small enough to e-mail.
The colors in photographs were nicely saturated though not always uniform. Note the yellow patches on the book.