Canon Optura Lineage: A Short History, Part 1

The Canon Optura line has been around since 1997. Since that time, each iteration of the Optura has significantly morphed to meet perceived market demands, but throughout all of the somewhat confusing changes, one principle concept has remained the same. Although all Optura models tend to differ from each other in terms of form factor and ergonomics, the basic idea behind any Optura model is to offer the best feature set with the highest quality image relative to the rest of Canon's single-chip consumer DV line, at a price point at or below $1600 USD.

What follows is a brief look at the variety of Optura camcorders, starting from the very beginning of the line up to the current models. I used to have all of the descriptions of each camcorder on one long page, but it's grown so much recently that I've decided to break it up into multiple pages.

 DateNTSCPALJapan
see Page TwoSep 97OpturaMV1MV1
Mar 00Optura PiMV30FV2
Jul 01Optura 100MCMVX1PV130
Sep 02Optura 200MCMVX2iIXY DV M
Mar 03Optura 20 / 10MVX150i / 100in/a
see Page ThreeAug 03Optura 300MVX10iIXY DV M2
Aug 03 Optura XiMVX3iFV M1
May 04Optura 40 / 30MVX25i / 20iFV M20
Mar 04Optura 500 / 400MVX35i / 30iIXY DV M3
Jun 05Optura 60 / 50MVX45i / 40iFV M30
see Page FourAug 05Optura 600MVX4iIXY DV M5
Sep 05 Optura S1n/aIXY DV S1

So basically, Page Two contains descriptions of the early Optura models, from late 1997 to the Spring of 2003. Page Three groups the middle range 2.2mp Opturas together, from Fall 2003 to Spring 2005. Page Four has the newest and most recent entries.

Notes About Optura CCD Image Sensors

Traditionally, common CCD sizes have been expressed in fractions of an inch, such as 1/3, 1/4, 1/6 and so on. However within the last couple of years there has been a disturbing trend to express CCD sizes as a fraction mixed with a decimal, such as 1/3.4, which was a particular size for the 2.2 megapixel CCD that Canon used for a broad range of Optura camcorders for nearly two years. This practice continues now with new CCD sizes of 1/2.8 and 1/3.9. Frankly I think it's in bad form to mix a fraction with a decimal, so I've put together this chart which might explain these odd sizes a little better. The closest approximate proper fraction is given, along with the actual decimal measurement in inches if you were to go ahead and divide 1 by 3.4, and finally the measurement in millimeters. I've also included an approximate short-hand metric size for easy referral.

CCDDateMixedProperDec. InchesMillimeterscall it...
4.3mpAug 20051/2.8"23/64"0.35714"9.0713mm9.1mm
2.2mpAug 20031/3.4"19/64"0.29117"7.3957mm7.4mm
2.2mpSep 20051/3.9"17/64"0.25641"6.5128mm6.5mm

Any easy way to think about these fractions mixed with decimals is that 1/2.8 is only slightly larger than one-third inch, and 1/3.4 is roughly halfway between one-quarter inch and one-third inch, while 1/3.9 is just a tiny bit bigger than one-quarter inch.

The nomenclature used in video camcorders is outdated, archaic and inaccurate, but for some reason the industry insists on hanging onto them. Your DV camcorder is referred to as a one-third-inch camera and lens because that's the size of the CCD image sensors inside the camera head. Except it really isn't. They're actually a bit smaller than that. One-third inch, one-half inch, etc. are tube diameters back from the days before CCD technology when video cameras used orthicon, plumbicon and saticon tubes for creating images. To make an image plane the same size as those tubes used to make, the CCD needs to be only as big as a 4:3 rectangle that would fit inside the diameter of that tube. Therefore, a one-third-inch CCD is actually a bit smaller than one-third of an inch. Then there's also the appalling practice of expressing other CCD sizes as mixed fractions, such as 1/3.4 of an inch. If the industry would simply switch to an actual millimeter measurement of the CCD diagonal, we'd all be so much less confused.

Go on to Page Two, the early Optura models, 1997 to 2003.
Go on to Page Three, the middle Optura family, 2003 to 2005.
Go on to Page Four, the most recent Opturas, 2005 onward.


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Thrown together by Chris Hurd

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