The only way to get to manual focusing is via the joystick, which won’t make it easy to adjust focus accurately, or quickly. But it is relatively accessible without having to delve deep into the main menu. You can’t access aperture directly, either. Instead, an exposure control is provided which steps from -11 to +11, and works both iris and shutter together. However, you can also lock the shutter between 1/6th an 1/2000th, which effectively means the exposure control varies the iris alone. This requires a trip into the main menu though, where exposure and focus can be accessed with a few simple joystick movements.
So, whilst Panasonic offers a bit more control in its consumer camcorders, with direct iris adjustment, the Canon isn’t too bad. It doesn’t provide any video gain, though, which can be useful to make the most of poor lighting. The MD160 does offer Canon’s usual array of electronic image enhancements, including Vivid, Neutral, and Soft Skin. Program Auto-Exposure modes consist of Portrait, Sports, Night, Snow, Beach, Sunset, Spotlight and Fireworks – a pretty comprehensive assortment. The ability to mix in a still image from the SD memory card and a selection of digital video fades are also available, for those who have no intention of editing on a computer, where such effects are much more flexible.
The MD160 also sports a built-in video light provided by an LED on the front. This does make it possible to shoot in darkness over short ranges, but it isn’t very strong. So the image is effectively monochromatic – better than nothing, but no replacement for a proper video light. Not that you would be able to attach one anyway due to the lack of an accessory shoe.