Hands-on Canon GL2 Report, Part Three
by Robin Liss, August 2002
This article originally appears at camcorderinfo.com and is reprinted here with their gracious permission.
LCD / Viewfinder
The GL2 includes a 2.5 in. LCD screen, smaller than the 3.5 in. LCD on the DCR-TRV950. The screen looks fine. I of course would prefer the larger screen on the TRV950, however I do feel that the 2.5 in. screen is sufficient. The GL2 also includes a color viewfinder. I really wish Canon at least made a black and white viewfinder available on the GL2. Theyíve really made a professional class camcorder here and it would be great if we could have a professional class black and white viewfinder.
The GL2 contains all the standard ports for connecting your camcorder to external devices. Transfer of digital stills is done through a USB port. The camcorder includes a single standard DV IEEE 1394 FireWire in / out port for transferring your video from your camcorder to your computer. The camcorder also has a mini RCA port with a cable which converts the mini RCA into full size RCA ports. The port can function both as an in and out port, just like the S-Video jack on the GL2. The camcorder also includes mini 1/8 in. headphone out and microphone in jacks.
What makes the GL2 so great is that it seems Canon really concentrated on developing a solid video camera and not on adding bells and whistles. The GL2 gives you two ways of monitoring audio. The first is the on screen display which gives you a right and left channel audio meter. The GL2 also has the addition of the side audio monitor which also shows the right and left channels. The GL2 also offers many audio mixing options. The first is the manual right and left channel dials for adjusting volume which I mentioned earlier. When the camcorder is in manual audio mode you can manually adjust the recording levels of either the on-camera microphone or the audio coming in from the mic jack. As for audio quality, the on camera microphone is fine, I canít tell a difference between it and the TRV950, of course the Canon offers you more recording options and monitoring than the 950 does.
The GL2 also offers the ability to dub audio onto tape which you have already included, also known as audio insert. You may only dub audio to tapes which have been recorded in the SP mode with 12-Bit audio. MiniDV has the feature of four channel 12 bit audio which very few camcorders have utilized in the past. The audio dubbing feature allows you to record on the third and fourth channels of previously recorded tape, with out recording over the original first and second channels. The audio mix feature of the GL2 allows you change the audio levels of both original audio and dubbed audio during playback. The versatility of the audio recording on the GL2 is great, especially for in-camera editing situations. The one feature which I wish they had included on the camcorder would be the ability to record on all four 12- bit audio channels on your first recording.
The GL2 includes many other features which enhance it. Canon was very generous in including two eye cups with the camcorder. The first is a standard eye cup for most shooting situations. The second eye cup is an extra large one which gives more shielding from light Ė perfect for very sunny situations. The GL2 includes digital effects including fade, wipe, overlap, black and white, sepia, art, mirror, mosaic, strobe, and trail. You also can display SMTPE standard color bars on the camcorder for calibration purposes. Itís great because you should always record a few seconds of color bars to each tape you record. You can toggle a zebra pattern on to detect over exposed areas. The threshold can be set at 80, 85, 90, 95 or 100 IRE; the TRV950 only gives you two options. To access all these features easily, the GL2 includes a custom button which you can assign to different functions. The GL2 has a digital pass through option so that the camcorder can convert analog video coming in through either the S-Video or the RCA port to digital video outputted through the FireWire port on the fly. The GL2 also can do both audio and video insert editing, where audio or video is laid on the tape over previously recorded audio or video. Finally the camcorder has a title mix option where you can insert titles from the SD card onto previously recorded audio.
The GL2 includes a neat interval recording feature. Using this feature the camcorder can record .5, 1, 1.5 or 2 seconds of video at intervals of 30 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes or 10 minutes.
Compared to the Sony DCR-TRV950
When making the likely comparison between the TRV950 and the GL2, I would choose the GL2 hands down. The GL2 offers better manual control which is the main reason I would choose it. The clear scan, the display of f/stops, the +18 dB gain level, the neutral density and the really great custom preset option equip the videographer to tweak their picture to get the best possible. Now if you donít know how to use these features, they are absolutely useless to you, and it wonít matter which camcorder you choose!
The GL2 has larger CCDs, .25 in. versus .21 in. However, the TRV950 has a larger LCD screen, 3.5 in. to 2.5 in. In the more subjective category, I really believe that the GL2 gives a better picture than the TRV950, although the difference is slight. The real reason you will be able to get a better picture out of the Canon GL2 is because you are afforded a lot more control over the picture elements. In addition, I feel the low light performance of the GL2 is superior to the TRV950. I do feel that the TRV950 is easier to handle. Although the GL2 is heavier, which I like, I feel some of the button placement is awkward and I feel the lens is hard to cradle.
Improvements over the GL1
Although Iíve covered these features earlier in the review, I felt it would be helpful to explain all the upgrades of the GL2 over the GL1. The CCDís have more pixels, 410K in the GL2 per CCD versus 270K in GL1. The GL2ís most obvious improvement is in the digital still category. The camcorder can record 1.7 Mega Pixel stills to the SD card and transfer those stills to the computer via a USB slot, while the GL1 had no such option. The GL2 also includes an advances accessory show for attaching accessories such as a flash.
The GL2 adds some manual control over the GL1. The mechanical audio level dials on the side are an upgrade, plus the audio level meter on the side of the camcorder is also an addition over the GL1. The GL1 did not have the custom preset picture adjustments, of color gain, sharpness, phase and setup level, an upgrade I really like. The GL1 did not have the variable level zebra pattern option that the GL2 has or the custom preset key. The GL1 did not have the slow shutter speeds below 1/60th of a second, the gain control, or the clear scan options of the GL2.
The GL2 also includes many minor features that make the camcorder easier to use. With the GL2 you can turn on SMPTE color bars, turn off the automatic shut down, turn on a 16:9 viewfinder guide, burn the date and time permanently to the video, do analog to digital pass through, do interval recording, set the zoom speed, control an external DV device, and mark shots good or bad on the tape index.
The GL2 is really for the serious videographer. The camcorder doesnít have many bells and whistles, and when it does, they are hidden in the menu where they should be! The manual control is great, far superior to what the Sony DCR-TRV950 provides. The camcorder gives you manual control and actual values for your picture controls like f stops. The picture is really sharp. This camcorder is about shooting video, and thatís what a camcorder of this price should only be about. The excellent low light performance really puts the GL2 over the top. If youíre looking for a serious camcorder with great manual control and one that will put out a great picture, go for the GL2. I am constantly annoyed by manufacturer investing money in useless features instead of working to improve the video that the camcorder shoots. Although I love the TRV950, and itís a great camcorder, the GL2 just clearly does videotaping better, and Iíd strongly suggest you go with the GL2.
One of the things I really like about the GL2 is the customization is offers. Besides the custom key, you can also set the sensitivity of the zoom controls, and you even get to set the handle and the grip controls separately!
I really honor Canon with the GL2. I think what Canonís engineers or marketing department or who ever is in charge made a conscious decision not to leave features out, especially software ones. We know that often the manufacturers (especially Sony) leave features out of the camcorder which could be turned on through the camcorderís software, and at no cost to the consumer Ė in order to create differentiation in the camcorder line. I really think Canon is showing respect for the consumer by giving them everything they can. I strongly believe that Sony left out features on the DCR-TRV950 to move the more professional videographer to their higher model, the VX2000. Maybe itís because there is a larger price difference between the GL2 and Canonís next model up the XL1, but Canon isnít doing the same with the GL2.
If manual audio control is very important to you than the GL2 is a great choice, especially over the Sony DCR-TRV950. The on screen audio monitor, the audio monitor on the side of the camcorder and the two really cool manual audio control dials are far superior to the dinky on screen audio control that the DCR-TRV950 provides.
The problem with the GL2 is that I would not recommend upgrading from a GL1 because not much as changed. But is that really a problem? Canon took a very solid camcorder and added new features. However, if youíre shopping for a camcorder in the $1500 to $2000 range, the GL2 is the best choice you can make. The GL2 has many solid features at a great price, itís a real value. The GL2 certainly beats out the DCR-TRV950, and will be taking its place on the Camcorderinfo.com Select list. In one line, the GL2 is an extremely solid camcorder that shoots amazing quality video and gives you real professional control at an affordable price.
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This review orginally appears at
Written by Robin Liss.
Thrown together by Chris Hurd.