VIDEO CAMERA 1999

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CAN CANON COPY?

 

STANDFIRST

Once noted for its unusual and sometimes revolutionary camcorders, Canon fall back into line with what looks like a rather conventional DVC pocket cam

 

COPY

Over the past year or so Canon has explored some interesting and unusual avenues with its range of digital camcorders. The DM-MV1 reminded us of a fancy SLR camera; the recently-launched DM-MV100 is a dead ringer for a digital still camera and the DM-XL1… well, we're still trying to figure that one out, so the MV10 comes as something of a surprise, it looks so normal!

 

The layout follows the by now familiar pattern for mid market digi-cams of having an in-line lens and pull out colour viewfinder, side mounted deck mechanism and a flip-out colour LCD viewing screen on the left side of the body; more about that in a moment. Nevertheless there's little doubting this machine's pedigree, the fatter than usual lens barrel houses the trademark optical image stabiliser. Another reminder of Canon camcorders past is the low button count, with several control keys having two or more functions.

 

At the business end there's a 16x optical zoom with 64x electronic zoom option. The exposure system has five preset AE modes (sports, portrait, spotlight, sand and snow, low light), plus a manual shutter and auto exposure override (11 steps either side of the auto setting). Manual and auto controls are augmented by Canon's Flexizone AF system. It's another old friend, the idea is the user selects a subject or object for the camera's focus and exposure systems to lock on to by moving a rectangular 'target' around the screen, via a small 'joypad' on the back of the machine.

 

There are several creative functions to spice up your movies. They include a set of digital effects (wipe, scroll, art, black and white, sepia and strobe), plus a true 16:9 anamorphic recording mode. That's where everything in the recording is squashed vertically so that it can be stretched out and shown as a widescreen image on a 16:9 TV. Last but not least is a built-in 20-scene edit controller. This is yet another Canon feature we've come to know and love over the years. Basically it replays selected scenes, in any order you choose, whilst at the same time operating the record/function of a VCR using a built-in multi-brand infra-red controller. It's not as flexible or comprehensive as a stand-alone or PC controller but it is exceptionally easy to use. The MV10 also has a Control-L/LANC terminal, so there's nothing to stop you using it with a 'proper' external controller. Replay functions can also be controlled via the FireWire interface, though needless to say this is output only, and before you ask, as far as we know the MV10 digital connection cannot be enabled for digital input.

 

Sound is recorded on two 12-bit stereo tracks -- one of which is dubbable -- or one even higher quality 16-bit stereo track. During replay the two 12-bit tracks can be heard separately, or they can be mixed together in fixed or variable proportions. The still photo-recording mode operates for 6 seconds; the accessory shoe beside the lens has trigger and control contacts for Canon Speedlite flashguns.

 

OPERATION

Good and bad news, first the bad. The main mode/power switch has four positions (off, play, Easy Record and 'P'), the trouble is twofold. Firstly they are bunched very close together and it can be quite difficult to discriminate between P and Easy Record, especially if you're wearing gloves or like us, plain clumsy…And second, the purpose of the 'P' position could be better explained in the instructions. The word 'auto' appears on the display in P mode but it’s a bit confusing since you can access the program AE and effects modes. Easy Recording on the other hand is actually full auto, with all other options disabled. In short it takes some getting used to.

 

The other little difficulty concerns the Flexizone button. Try as we might we just couldn't operate this control comfortably using just the thumb, it's simply too low down; it could do with being up a bit higher, next to the main stop/start button would be ideal. The manual focus button on our sample was quite stiff too and far too close to the microphone; it proved difficult to use, without handling noises being recorded on the soundtrack.

  

The good news is that general handling and balance are very good. It is easy to hold and everything is more or less where you expect to find it. The transport buttons have a number of other functions, they are on the small side and a wee bit fiddly, otherwise it all hangs together quite well.

 

The lithium ion battery lives in a compartment on the underside of the machine, for some reason best known to Canon it can only be charged in-situ, which is okay so long as you only have one battery pack. It smacks of a cost-cutting exercise; the charger unit is one of those cheapie-looking plug-in mains adaptors, the sort you get with phones and answering machines. The supplied battery pack -- the only one available as far as we're aware, takes over two and a half hours to charge but you will get at least an hour's worth or recording time, even when the LCD screen is on.

 

PERFORMANCE

We had better get this bit out of the way first. The LCD viewing screen on our sample had a number of faulty pixels. At least two were visible all of the time, a couple of others -- including one bright red one close to the middle of the display -- came and went for no obvious reason. The odd dodgy pixel close to the edge of the screen is not a problem on a budget analogue camcorder but this is supposed to be a top-notch, high-performance machine, with a screen to match.

 

The only other difficulty concerned the autofocus system, which turned out to be quite slow and at times, not very decisive. It's not very good with difficult situations, shooting through bars or dusty windows for instance. This is precisely the sort of thing that the Felxizone system should be good at, or at least it would be if the darned button wasn't in such an awkward position.

 

On screen the MV10 gave a reasonably good account of itself. Resolution on our test machine was around 470-lines, which is about what we expected. In good, natural light colours look lifelike, they're accurately registered and there's no smearing or bleed to speak of. Again, in good light, noise levels are very low, thought grain creeps up quite quickly as light levels fall and indoors in typical room lighting the picture can become quite muddy. The low light mode helps, though since it relies on slow-speed shuttering motion becomes very jerky.

 

Apart from picking up scuffing noises when focusing manually, the MV10's audio system work well. The microphone has good forward sensitivity and produces a credible stereo image up to four or five metres in front of the lens. Frequency response is wide and flat; the 12-bit tracks are so good, and the fact that one of them can be dubbed means the 16-bit track is almost redundant.

 

SUMMARY

We get the feeling Canon took a long hard look at what other manufacturers were doing with their mid-range DV cams before coming up with the MV10. It's unfair to call it a me-too product but you have to admit it bears a passing resemblance to a number of other similarly specified and priced machines on the market. It has its own personality and one or two useful extras but we have to wonder if it is distinctive enough in what has become a fiercely competitive sector of the market.

 

RIVALS

JVC GR-DVM5 £1300, Panasonic NV-DA1 £1400 Sony DCR-TRV9, £1400

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Canon MV10, £1400 Mini DV

 

OPTICS

Lens                             f/1.8, 3.9 - 62.4mm

Zoom                            16X optical, 64 x electronic

Filter diameter            37.5 mm  

Pick-up device            0.25 in CCD

Min illum                       2 lux (low light mode)

 

VIDEO DECK

Long play (LP)                        yes                  

Max rec time                        90 mins (LP mode)

IR remote control                        yes

Edit terminal                        yes (Control L/LANC)

 

MAIN FACILITIES               

Auto focus                                yes                  

Manual focus                 yes      

Auto exposure               yes                              

Programmed AE                          yes      

Fader                                        yes                  

Manual white balance yes      

Auto white balance             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      

 

 

ADDITIONAL FEATURES

time/date recording, self-timer,  high-speed shutter (8-speed up to 1/8000th sec), record review, retake, tally lamp, Flexizone autofocus, still recording program AE (sports, portrait, spotlight, sand and snow, low light), digital effects (wipe, scroll, art, black and white, sepia, strobe), 16:9 mode, exposure override, 20-scene edit controller

 

VIEWFINDER

Viewfinder                       0.5in colour LCD, 2.8-inch colour LCD

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

 

AUDIO

Stereo                                       yes (2 x 12 bit, 1 x 16 bit)

Wind noise filter                         yes

Mic socket                                yes                  

Headphone socket              yes      

Mic                                           single point stereo

 

GENERAL

Sockets                                    DV out (DV jack) AV out, microphone, headphones and

 edit control (minijack), S-Video out (mini DIN), DC power in

Dimensions                               73 x 100 x 146 mm                      

Weight                          0.85 kg (inc tape and battery)

 

STANDARD ACCESSORIES

Batteries (lithium ion, lithium & AA), straps, AC charger/power supply,

AV lead             yes

video light                      no                    

remote control            yes      

cassette adaptor n/a                   

RF Converter             no        

SCART adaptor              yes                  

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                                 470-lines

Colour fidelity                           good

Picture stability                         very good

Colour bleed                              none

White balance                            good

Exposure                                   very good

Auto focus                                  average

Audio performance                   good

Insert edit                                  n/a (manual inserts clean)

Playback thru adaptor              n/a

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money            8

Ease of use                   8

Performance                  8

Features                       8

 

---end---

R Maybury 1998 2311

 

 

 


 

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