TAKING LOADS OF
PHOTOGRAPHS when you travel is great, but there are times when nothing
will do except capturing the moment on video. While most of the
digital cameras on the shelves these days have video built in, there
is no real substitute for a true digital video camera. When you
tie that in with the abundance of video editing software on the
market and a good CD burner you have the perfect set of solutions
to set up your own little studio and create some movie magic from
your holiday to share with your friends and family.
There are a few
things you should ask yourself before you rush out to the shops
with your credit card. Size: how much bulk are
you prepared to put up with? Price: how much are
you prepared to pay? Features: what extras do you
want (good still pictures, special effects etc)? And what do you
want it to use it for? As a general rule these areas affect each
other – the smaller the size, the higher the price and so
on. Equally, if you are looking to produce the next Blair Witch
Project then you will need to go up the price scale a bit.
Decide what you are looking for in a camera, then go out and look
at the models that give you what you want in your price range.
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The following digital
video camera models are arranged in descending order by price.
DCR-TRV50E is one of the more consumer friendly cameras
around. While this one tops our price list it does it for a reason.
It comes complete with a whole host of features that will make the
gadget freak drool. First out of the box is the availability of
a Bluetooth adapter. With this you can connect to your PC without
all the trouble of plugging everything in. While, sadly, this doesn’t
come with the camera itself – it is a separate accessory –
the fact that it is there will make things lots easier. Toss out
those wires. Aside from that you have great things like a Carl Zeiss
lens and a 3.5-inch touch-screen LCD. A real plus point for this
one is the image quality. You also get excellent video quality,
even in low light and still pictures come out well too. This is
definitely one to look at if it is within your budget. Approximate
price, US$1,554. www.sony.com
DCR-TRV70 camcorder is small enough to be easy to carry
without being so tiny that you find the buttons difficult to use
– it measures 73 x 91 x 174mm. The smallish size and unusual
body design make it easy to handle and it has a good sized colour
screen for watching what you are shooting and reviewing afterwards.
The camcorder’s actual performance is pretty good. You should
expect sharp pictures with good colour from your daytime filming,
but the performance when light levels drop is reduced a little.
The camera comes with a 2 megapixel CCD, which manages to produce
good still pictures too. Estimated price, US$1,299.99.
If size is important
to you then the Canon MV5i should be one to look
at. It measures just 55 x 111 x 89mm, which makes it a cinch to
slip into a pocket or shoulder bag. The good news about this one
is that despite its size you will generally get excellent video
results. There are also a whole range of special effects options
built in so you can play around with them for something aside from
the usual straight video. However, the camera does not perform as
well at night, despite having a night mode. Low light video is not
as good as it could be. If you are planning to do your own video
editing on your PC at home then you will need to get the MV5iMC
version, which comes with a multimedia card so that you can transfer
your video and stills to your computer. Estimated prices, MV5i US$1087,
MV5iMC US$1204. www.canon.com
If the DCR-TRV70
doesn’t fit your budget as easily as it might then you might
want to take a look at the Sony DCR-TRV22. This
one has most of what you want from a video camera while losing some
of the frills that the more expensive models have. The good news
is that the size has been kept down, the TRV22 measures just 71
x 90 x 112mm, and the video quality is going to be good enough for
you to produce something worth watching when you get home. The camera
also manages to produce good results in low light conditions, so
you shouldn’t have any serious problems filming at parties
or evening festivals. The downside comes when you try to take still
pictures. These are not up to the quality seen elsewhere, so if
this is important to you then look at some other models. Approximate
A cheaper model
comes from Canon in the shape of the MV600i. This
one, as you might expect from the price, is a little larger than
its smaller relation – measuring in at 58 x 103 x 147mm.
camera is probably going to suit anyone venturing into the world
of digital video for the first time – it is easy to use and
reasonably priced. However, it does come with its own faults: Low
light shooting is unimpressive and the microphone is sensitive enough
to pick up the slightest noise, which may sound good, but you don’t
really want to hear the noise your hands make as they change position
or, worse, the noise from the tape spooling through the machine.
Buy it if you are looking for something quick and easy, but not
if you have high standards for your audio and low light shooting.
Estimated price, US$686.
Compact size is top of the list for the features that make the Samsung SC-D590 worth looking at. With vital statistics of just 46 x 95 x 93.3mm, the SC-D590 is not going to make much of a bulge in your pocket or a bag. Samsung has obviously spent a little time making sure that the layout of the buttons and the menus are pretty user-friendly too.
Daytime video comes out crisp and clear, and the camera manages to deal reasonably well with nighttime shooting as well (it includes an infrared mode too). Still images are pretty good too and are captured on a Sony Memory Stick, making it a bit easier to get hold of them. This is one that you should look at if you are looking for quality video in a small package. Estimated price, US$680. www.samsung.com
JVC says that its GR-DVP7A model is the “smallest and lightest
mega-pixel video camera” in the world, so if size really does
matter to you then this is going to be one to look at first. For
what it packs into its slim frame this camera really is small –
43 x 115 x 80 mm. Video quality is pretty good, but once again this
one suffers at night with quality being lost as the light gets reduced.
The other downside for this model is that the digital stills are
not very good at all. If you want something that is going to be
really easy to carry around then take a long careful look at this
one, but if you need something that is going to be a good quality
hybrid with good stills and good video you might want to look elsewhere.
Estimated price, US$650. www.jvc.com
DCR-TRV19 is very similar to its more expensive relative,
the DCR-TRV22. It provides pretty much exactly the same performance
levels (it shares the lens and CCD) and has the same shape and design,
manual controls and internal menu system. Of course there are differences
between the two. The DCR-TRV19 only has a black and white viewfinder
and you can’t save still pictures onto a memory stick (the
stills are not that good anyway, but it would have been nice) and
you can’t use it to transform your old analogue Hi8 and VHS
tapes into digital masterpieces. However, if budget is more important
than anything else then this should be one to consider. The main
difference is in the pocket. Estimated price, US$599. www.sony.com
Our prices reflect
aggregate current rates at the time of writing, but you should shop
around for better deals. One more thing to check is what is included
in the package – some camera kits appear more expensive, but
they throw in some extras, so always ask before you put you money
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