The Canon Legria FS200 is a standard-definition camcorder with a 37x optical zoom in a very compact body. It doesn't have as much of a megazoom as the Panasonic SDR-H80 or Sony Handycam DCR-SR47, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, especially since there's no optical image stabilisation. The FS200, available for around £270, is also considerably smaller than those models because it records to SD or SDHC cards only -- there's no internal storage. Although its video quality isn't perfect, it's better than most at this price point.
Available in red, silver and blue, the FS200 is an attractive little camcorder. Easily stuffed in a jacket pocket, there isn't much more to the camcorder than the 37x zoom lens and its flip-out 69mm (2.7-inch) LCD. Smack in the centre of the back are a record button and the mode dial.
The FS200 can record movies and photos, and there's a dual-shot option that lets you switch between capturing stills and video without changing modes, although you can't capture stills while it's actively recording video.
The SD/SDHC card slot and battery are under a door in the bottom. This means there's no option to put in an extended-life battery. The typical recording time for the included battery is 1 hour and 40 minutes.
The FS200 is simple to operate, due, in part, to a responsive five-way joystick next to the LCD, as well as a row of clearly labelled buttons below the screen for recording and playback. Press the 'func' button next to the joystick and you get your shooting options menu. At the bottom of those options is an icon for accessing the rest of the camcorder's settings.
The FS200 is also one of the few camcorders in its price range to offer a microphone input and headphone output. The headphone out, however, is shared with the AV out, and you'll have to switch its function in the main system menu. Both are located in the LCD cavity on the left side of the camcorder, along with a mini-USB port.
The FS200 has a reasonably good mix of auto and manual shooting options. Full auto shooting is only available in dual-shot mode, which isn't a big deal once you remember that's where it is. Dual-shot mode is basically an easy mode, locking you out of all the menus. If you want to change any settings at all, say for white balance, you have to be in the video or photo modes. You can't even turn on the video light in dual-shot mode.
In video mode, you get a choice of program auto exposure, shutter-priority auto exposure, or scene modes. In these, you can add backlight compensation, adjust exposure, focus manually and turn on the video light. There is, though, no option to manually adjust its aperture.
One other feature worth mentioning is the video-snap mode. Turn it on and, every time you press the record button, the FS200 captures 4 seconds of video. The clips can then be edited together to create a movie for people with short attention spans. It's gimmicky but amusing.
The FS200's standard-definition video is very good. Blown-out highlights are the biggest problem, but colours are good and only low-light video is distractingly noisy and soft, which is typical for the FS200's class. That's not to say movies shot in bright conditions are free of noise and digital artefacts -- just that they don't get in the way of enjoying what's on the screen.
Unless you're really picky about quality or you're expecting hi-def video from a standard-def camcorder, you shouldn't be disappointed with the results. Photo quality is good enough in a pinch, but the FS200 won't replace your digital camera or even a decent camera phone.
The Canon Legria FS200 is a solid choice if you're shooting movies for sharing on the Web or just don't want or need HD video. The mic and headphone jacks are good to have, too. The only things it needs are mechanical image stabilisation to help keep the 37x zoom steadier, and an included SD card.
Additional editing by Charles Kloet