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Canon camcorders have been a bit samey lately but there will be no mistaking this distinctive little machine and the MV300 gets Rick Maybury’s vote for ‘rear of the year’…



A couple of months ago, in the June edition of What Camcorder, in the review of the Canon DM-MV30 we mentioned that it looked pretty much like most other compact digital camcorders these days. We’re pleased to report that Canon is back on form with its latest sub-compact, the MV300 and that there is absolutely no possibility of this one being mistaken for any other manufacturer’s product. It’s quirkily stylish, or an ugly little tyke, depending on your standpoint. Either way there’s denying it is a highly distinctive shape with its curvy top panel and sides and a cheekily shaped battery pack that to us at least, looks a bit like a bottom cleft, sticking out of the backside of the machine…


Our apologies for planting that image in your minds, we’ll move on to less contentious matters, like the MV300’s features and specification. It is very small indeed; there’s no need to get entangled with the ‘world’s smallest/lightest camcorder’ debate; suffice it to say the MV300 will slip into a coat pocket or weekend luggage without any difficulty. One of the ways Canon has managed to trim a few millimetres off the casework is by using a relatively simple lens with 10x optical zoom and by ditching its optical image stabiliser in favour of an all-electronic system. On the side there’s a fold-out 2.5-inch colour LCD viewing screen and it has a pull-out pivoting colour viewfinder on the top. Apart from the shape the only external novelties are the top-mounted accessory shoe and unusually large transport/mode buttons on the side; most of the remaining controls are located in the recess behind the viewing screen and the AV/DV out, earphone mike and Control L/Lanc sockets are covered up by flaps or rubbery bungs.


The MV300 is clearly aimed at point and shoot users though that’s not to say it’s devoid of manual exposure and creative options. The auto-exposure system can be overridden; the instructions claim that the iris can be set manually from fully open to fully closed; if so we couldn’t find out how to do it and we estimate the range of adjustment to be no more than four or five stops either side of the machine’s auto setting. The Program AE system covers the usual gamut of tricky situations (sports, portrait, spotlight, sand and snow, lowlight), and there’s a manual shutter and white balance to fiddle around with when the auto systems cannot cope. You can add interest and a touch of professionalism to your movies with a set of digital effects and fades, there’s a useful 40x digital zoom, plus a rather pointless 200x setting and like all DV cams there’s a still shooting mode. Unfortunately there’s no easy way of transferring images to a PC without the optional FR-100 floppy disc adaptor kit, costing a further £220. The MV300’s FireWire socket is output only, if you want a DV-in facility you’ll have to cough up for its stablemates, the MV300i. Audio options are entirely routine with single 16-bit and dual 12-bit stereo soundtracks, one of which can be dubbed.


Digital effects, the self-timer and the main on-screen menus are enabled by buttons on the side, behind the viewing screen. Program AE functions are called up with a thumbwheel switch on the side, which also doubles up as manual focus, exposure and menu item selector. The amusingly bottom-shaped lithium ion battery pack should be good for at least 90 minutes of heavy-duty use with the viewing screen switched on, which is very good indeed. The battery charges in-situ and it only takes an hour and a half to charge from flat.



Picture quality is satisfactory. It’s not going to break any performance records though, our sample resolved a little over 450 lines, which is fair enough, but the image lacked the sparkle of some of its rivals. Colour rendition is okay and noise levels are low but the most noticeable trait is heavy-handed auto exposure, especially in contrasty scenes or shots with a lot of shadows. Unless you switch to program AE or take control manually recordings made indoors or in poor light have a tendency to look a touch dark and murky  


Trick play is good still, slomo and x2 play are steady, picture search is broken and pixellated but you can see what’s going on. Unlike their analogue cousins digital camcorders are normally very stable and can usually withstand a gentle and not so gentle shake without missing a beat. The M300 on the other hand doesn’t take too kindly to rough handling and a gentle wiggle during recording or playback will disrupt the picture, or even make it disappear altogether. 


The built-in stereo microphone has good forward sensitivity and is well insulated against motor whine. Both 16 and 12-bit soundtracks are clean with a wide flat response and negligible background hiss. Under normal recording conditions there’s no discernible difference so it makes sense to record using the 12-bit tracks, as this will allow you to dub one of them.



There’s a lot to admire about the MV300, not least the small size, ease of use and attractive price. Despite what you may think following earlier, possibly unkind comments, we rather like the curvaceously bumpy styling. True, it’s not the prettiest machine we’ve seen lately but for such a titchy little thing it has bucket loads of personality. AV performance is okay and battery life is very good but on the evidence of our early test sample we have to place small question marks over deck stability and the auto exposure system and we’d prefer an easier (and cheaper) way of extracting still images from the machine, but on balance we definitely like it. It might not be our first choice for demanding movie-making jobs but if we were going on holiday we reckon that it would make a most congenial travelling companion.



Canon MV300/miniDV/£800



Lens                             f/1.8, 4.2 – 42mm

Zoom                            10x optical, 40x/200x digital

Filter diameter            30.5mm  

Pick-up device            0.25in CCD

Min illum                       1.5 lux  (low light mode)

Long play (LP)                        yes

Max rec time                        90 mins (LP mode)

IR remote control                        yes

Edit terminal                        yes (Control L)


MAIN FACILITIES               

Auto focus                                yes

Manual focus                 yes

Manual white balance yes

Auto white balance             yes/no 

Auto exposure               yes                              

Manual exposure                       yes

Programmed AE                          yes

Fader                                        yes                  

Backlight compensation            yes                              

Manual zoom                             no        

Power zoom                              yes                                                                              

Insert edit                                  no        

Audio dub                                  yes

Character generator                       no                    

Digital superimposer                 no        

Image stabiliser                         yes                                          

Video light                                 no        

Battery refresh               n/a                                       

Accessory shoe             yes      




time/date recording, self-timer, high-speed shutter (7-speed up to 1/800th sec), record review, retake, tally lamp, 16:9 recording, world time, still capture, digital effects (Art, Sepia, Monotone, Strobe, Auto fade, Wipe fade x2, Mosaic fade) program AE (full auto, auto, sports, portrait, spotlight, sand and snow, lowlight)



Viewfinder                       0.5in colour LCD, 2.5in colour LCD viewing screen

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



Stereo                                       yes

Wind noise filter                         yes                  

Mic socket                                yes                  

Headphone socket              yes

Mic                                           single point stereo



Sockets                                    Mic, headphone, AV out, LANC/Control L (minijack),

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

Dimensions                               56.5 x 100.5 x 128.5mm                     

Weight                          610g (inc tape and battery)



Batteries (lithium ion & 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                                 450-lines

Colour bleed                              none

White balance                            average

Exposure                                   heavy-handed

Auto focus                                  average

Audio performance                   good



Value for money            8

Ease of use                   8

Performance                  8

Features                       8



R Maybury 2000 1506





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