Hands-on Canon GL2 Report, Part One
by Robin Liss, August 2002
This article originally appears at camcorderinfo.com and is reprinted here with their gracious permission.
Canonís MiniDV prosumer GL2 is Canonís much anticipated replacement for the popular GL1 camcorder. The GL2 has an MSRP of $2799, but you should be able to find it on the street for around $2400 or better. With the GL2, Canon did not make many changes, in fact the lens is reported to be identical to the GL1 so upgrading is questionable. The most obvious comparison for the GL2 is to the Sony DCR-TRV950 so throughout the review Iíll compare the GL2 to the DCR-TRV950. All in all, the GL2 is a great camcorder for recording video which gives you ultimate control over your picture, making it the perfect choice for the serious videographer.
The number of pixels put on the quarter inch CCD has increased with the GL2, from 270K to 410K. Although a lot of that is contributed to the still resolution, I believe that the increased pixels on the CCD do improve the picture quality. The picture is really professional quality, and very impressive, itís really sharp. Itís a very hard judgment to make but I do feel that the picture that the GL2 produces is better than the TRV950. Itís very subtle and youíll have to make the judgment yourself, but I also feel the GL2 excels in other areas that place it ahead of the TRV950, making the slight differentiation in picture quality moot.
Before we get into the deep evaluation of the camcorder, Iíd like to take a tour around the GL2. Letís start dead on with the front of the camcorder. The lens is a 58mm L-Series Fluorite lens. Canon describes the advantages of this "professional" lens as delivering the ultimate in color clarity. Canon reports that the fluorite in the lens defeats color aberration. Also located in the front of the camcorder, raised above and extended out from the handle is the stereo microphone. In the middle of the left and right microphones is the IR receiver. Towards the top of the IR receiver is a red tally lamp that indicates whether or not the camcorder is recording. The tally lamp can be turned on or off.
The right side of the camcorder is pretty much void of any features, which in my mind is a good thing. The tape loading mechanism is located on the right side, with the actual tape eject button located on the top, slightly recessed. The zoom rocker is also located on the right side. Hidden behind a removable (though still attached to the camcorder) rubber panel is the DC terminal, microphone input and headphone output. The DC terminal is for plugging the camcorder into the power adapter, although this can also be attached via a "battery" style power attachment in the back. I like the placement of the mic jack on the GL2 over the placement of the mic jack on the DCR-TRV950 where it is located in the front. I think it is best to have a mic jack on the side because then microphone wires wonít get in the way of your lens, however I guess by placing them on the side so close to the side strap, they will get in the way of your hand while you're shooting. Itís really a trade off.
I have pretty small hands, but I felt that the right side "handle" was too small for me. When grasping the camcorder, my fingers fell beyond the zoom controls. When I pull my fingers back, there is a large space between the top of my palm and the handle, which makes it hard to really hold the camcorder stable. Also located on the top right is the photo button. It gives a nice click when you press it.
The back right of the camcorder includes all the standard thumb-position buttons for easy access. The record button is surrounded by a rotating standby / lock switch. Right above the record button is a great Card / Tape switch that selects between still mode and video mode.
Still in the back of the camcorder, but located to the right of the battery slot is a multitude of ports covered by a rubber piece. Going from top to bottom is the LANC port, a mini USB port, the DV FireWire port, the Mini AV port, and lastly an S-Video port. The next area over is the battery connector. Something I donít like about the GL2 is that the viewfinder has to be pulled out and up in order to remove the battery.
On the far left of the back side of the camcorder is a long vertical line of controls. The top most control is left audio manual control dial with the actual indicator on the back of the left side. The right audio manual control dial is located right below that. Below that is the menu button. The last dial on the back of the camcorder is the select dial. Some of the dials on the GL2 donít make full rotations, rather you can move them slightly up or down a slight distance and then when to let go they spring back. I really like these dials. They allow for more acute control and variable speed control of features that would not usually be afforded such control, like exposure or scrolling through menu items. You can quickly "click" the spring-back scrolling dials and the camcorder will move up or down one value. When you have pressed the menu button, the select dial scrolls through menu options. When the recording mode is in the "option" side (not the easy recording mode), you can use the select dial to scroll through different automatic exposure modes or switch into full manual mode.
At the far back left towards the top of the GL2 are the indicators for the manual left and right controls with the dials located on the back. I really think these indicators I really great. The GL2 really beats out the TRV950 on manual audio control by far. The two dials with the indicators on the side are much better than the menu controlled manual audio control on the TRV950.
Located below the two manual audio are two small switches to toggle between manual audio and automatic picture and audio control. Moving towards the lens of the camcorder on the right side is the LCD monitor. A small open button pops open the 2.5 in. LCD screen. When you open up the LCD screen, all that is hidden behind the screen is one button. I really like Canonís decision to make the only button that is hidden behind the LCD screen the on screen display toggle button Ė which you are unlikely to use unless the screen is open. With decreasing space on every camcorder as camcorders get smaller, manufacturers have been hiding more and more buttons behind the LCD screen. Putting buttons behind an LCD screen is not only annoying, but it also means that you have to have the LCD screen open for certain functions, and if youíre trying to preserve battery life you want your LCD screen open as little as possible. I am a little disappointed that Canon did not place the LCD brightness buttons on the LCD screen like Sony did with the DCR-TRV950. Instead they are controlled in the menu. I find that to properly use an LCD screen I constantly have to adjust the brightness to get the best picture and to optimize battery life.
Located towards the bottom of the camcorder below the LCD screen is the SD slot. The SD card port is covered up by a door that folds up. I like Canonís placement of the SD slot. On the Sony TRV950, Sony placed the Memory Stick slot on top of the tape transport which was really odd. To the left of the SD card slot is a tiny little white circle, and I have no clue what it is! I thought it might be a card access light but it doesnít seem to light up when the GL2 is saving stills to the SD cards. Maybe itís a reset button? Anyone know?
To the left of the SD slot is the custom preset button, custom key, white balance mode select and white balance set button. Right at the far right end of the left side of the camcorder is the exposure dial which is used to control shutter speed, iris and gain. I donít feel the buttons "bounce back" enough. When you press them youíre not always sure if they click in or not. Because they are recessed (to protect them from accidentally being pressed), they are somewhat hard to press. The exposure dial is the same "spring back" type as the selection dial.
There are four rectangular silver buttons to the left of the LCD screen, with two above and two below the audio level meter. The top left button switches between manual and automatic focus. The top right button turns the ND filter on or off. The button two buttons toggle digital effects on and off and select which digital effect to use.
Weíll start with the accessory shoe which is located towards the lens. Almost all of the buttons located on the top of the camcorder are located on the top handle, raised about an inch above the top of the camcorder. As you move towards the back, the next two buttons you hit are the zoom toggle and the record start stop button, located next to each other. Below those two is a photo button. I love that Canon included buttons on the top handle, If you really want to do creative shooting you will inevitably hold your camcorder by the top handle an it is essential that you be able to toggle recording on and off and being able to control zoom is also very helpful. Sony didnít include such controls on the top handle of the TRV950.
Located behind the photo button are the VCR control buttons which are hidden by a door that folds open to the right. I like that these controls are located on top of the handle as opposed to behind the LCD screen, however Iím really scared that the door is going to pop off. I think a sliding cover would have been a better choice. Hidden by the door going from the front towards the back of the GL2 are the stop / memory card index screen button, the rewind / memory card back button, the play / pause / mix / slideshow memory card button, the fast forward / forward memory card button, the record button, audio dub button and finally the audio video insert button.
Read Part Two of Robin's review.
Read Part Three of Robin's review.
Back to the Canon GL2 User Reports Menu.
This review orginally appears at
Written by Robin Liss.
Thrown together by Chris Hurd.