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Small box, big screen, the MV-30 digital pocket cam looks like a versatile all-rounder, Rick Maybury gets up close and personal with Canon’s latest compact cutie



Many years ago Canon had a bit of a reputation as the mavericks of the camcorder world. Their machines were usually better specified, cheaper, smarter looking with more innovative features than the opposition; you used to be able to spot a Canon machine at fifty paces in a shop window. Sadly there’s not much chance of that with the MV-30, it looks like a lot of other DV sub-compacts these days but that’s not to say it isn’t without charm, in fact this is a fine little machine and what it lacks in exterior styling it more than makes up for with a useful array of features and solid AV performance well suited to DV first timers.


Canon gives top billing to the 3.5-inch LCD screen, which is fair enough. The panel has 200k pixels and produces a crisp, bright image, however there are plenty more interesting things further down the list. Canon also highlights the MV-30’s qualifications as a still camera, though it is on slightly shaky ground with this one. The resolving power of digital still cameras has progressed at a rapid rate and the 450k pixel CCD progressive scan image sensor chip used by the MV-30 is some considerable way behind even entry-level digital still cameras, moreover – unlike most other DV cams -- to make full use of this machine’s still recording facilities you need some fancy add-ons, like an optional floppy disc recorder module, or FireWire-equipped digital printer or PC.


Of more immediate interest to home video movie-makers is the no-loss optical image stabiliser with 12x optical zoom (48x digital zoom) and the range of auto-exposure and digital effects modes. There are six AE settings (in addition to full auto or ‘Easy Recording’), the include semi auto (with manual exposure and focus overrides and manual shutter), sports, portrait, spotlight, sand and snow and low light. The digital effects are grouped into three areas. There are four fader options (to or from black, wipe and scroll from a still of the last recorded scene and mosaic), it has solarisation black and white, sepia and mosaic recording modes, and there’s three multi-screen settings that generate 2 x 2, 3 x 3 and 4 x 4 images of sequenced sub-screens, for capturing fast movement. The Progressive Scan recording mode captures full frame images at 25 frames per second and although the picture has a slightly jerky quality it’s ideal for analysing rapid action.


It has a single scene dubbing/editing facility for copying sequences to a VCR, using an in-built IR control system that operates the record/pause mode on a wide assortment of VCRs, there’s a self-timer, manual white balance, intelligent ‘hot-shoe’ for Canon video lights and Speedlite flash guns and a Control L/LANC terminal for external edit control. The FireWire connection is output only a second model (MV-30i, not yet launched in the UK) has an enabled DV input. Audio options include the standard compliment of two 12-bit stereo soundtracks, one of which can be dubbed in-camera or using an external microphone, and a high quality 16-bit recording mode.


Layout and handling has been generally well thought out with the main controls and menu options accessible from buttons and a clicker thumbwheel on the back panel. However in order to get to the digital effects buttons the LCD screen has to be opened, which is a little inconvenient. Power comes from a newly designed lithium ion battery pack that gives a claimed 90-minutes recording time when using the LCD screen, (we managed was just over an hour with normal stop-start recording).



Although resolution is a little below what the best DV cams can manage these days picture quality on the MV-30 is still very good, revealing lots of fine detail, even in less than favourable lighting conditions. The image is well balanced with a wide dynamic range and sharp, natural-looking colours and shades. The AE systems cope well with fast changing light levels and the focus is very responsive, white balance can also be trusted to the auto setting in daylight and most types of artificial light, though tube lighting can result in a slightly greenish tinge. The front mounted mikes have good forward sensitivity and mostly ignore motor and handling noises in all but the quietest surroundings. There’s hardly any difference between the 12 and 16-bit soundtracks, both have a wide flat response though there’s a gnats more bass on the higher quality channels. Image stability is good and the optical stabiliser does its stuff, however it seems to have a slightly lower tolerance of handshake than its predecessors.



Whilst not in the classic mould this is still a very useful little machine. It’s a shame Canon has abandoned multi-scene on-board editing control and given a relatively low priority to still shooting, we know a lot of users value this feature. Canon has made it quite difficult to extract still images from this machine without costly accessories or access to a highly specified PC or laptop. Nevertheless, it stacks up reasonably well as a flexible and easy to use home movie machine, perhaps not as attractively priced as some of its rivals but for anyone coming to DV camcorders for the first time it is certainly worth considering.



CANON MV-30/mini DV/£1000



Lens                                         f/1.6, 4.1 – 49.2mm

Zoom                                        12x optical, 48x digital

Filter diameter                        30.5mm  

Pick-up device                        0.25in CCD

Min illum                                   1.5 lux (low light mode)              

Long play (LP)                        yes/no             

Max rec time                        120mins (LP mode)

IR remote control                        yes

Edit terminal                        yes (LANC)


MAIN FACILITIES               

Auto focus                                yes                  

Manual focus                 yes      

Manual white balance yes

Auto white balance             yes      

Auto exposure               yes                  

Manual exposure                       yes (see text)

Programmed AE                          yes (5-modes)

Fader                                        yes (3-modes)            

Backlight compensation            no                                

Manual zoom                             no        

Power zoom                              yes                                                                              

Insert edit                                  no        

Audio dub                                  yes

Character generator                       no                    

Digital superimposer                 no        

Image stabiliser                         yes (optical)                             

Video light                                 yes/no 

Battery refresh               yes/no                                 

Accessory shoe             yes/no 




time/date recording, self-timer,  high-speed shutter (6-speed up to 1/4000th sec), record review, tally lamp, effect, 5-mode AE (sports, portrait, spotlight, sand & snow, low light), digital effects (black fade, wipe, scroll, mosaic fade, art, black & white, sepia, mosaic), multi-image screens (4, 9, 16 strobe PIP), exposure override, 

photo recording mode, single scene dub control



Viewfinder                       0.44 in colour LCD

Viewfinder info               deck mode and status, low/remain battery, tape count, shutter speed, fader, focus mode, tape end, time/date, title, zoom position



Stereo                                       yes (12 & 16 bit PCM)

Wind noise filter                         yes

Mic socket                                yes                  

Headphone socket              yes      

Mic                                           single point stereo



Sockets                                    AV out, microphone, headphones & LANC (mini jack),

S-Video out (mini DIN), DV out (DV jack)


Dimensions                               68 x 87 x 148 mm                      

Weight                          750g (inc tape and battery)



Batteries (nicad and lithium), straps, AC charger/power supply,

AV lead             yes

video light                      no                    

remote control            yes      

cassette adaptor n/a                   

RF Converter             no        

SCART adaptor            yes                  



Resolution                                 440-lines

Colour bleed                              none

White balance                            very good

Exposure                                   average

Auto focus                                  good

Audio performance                   good





Key Features

Progressive scan

Optical image stabiliser

Long battery life


‘Solid performance and easy to use’



Samsung VP-D50 £900

Sharp VL-PD3 £1200

Sony TRV-510 £1100



Value for money            8         

Ease of use                   8

Performance                  9 

Features                       8



R Maybury 2000 2604





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