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A battle royal is hotting up at the budget end of the digital camcorder market with a major assault from Canon, and they're taking no prisoners…



Make no mistake, Canon appear determined to be number one in the budget sector of the digital camcorder market! The newly launched MV200 rewrites the rules; until now the choices for a sub £1000 DV camcorder have been between last year or the year before's models, the portly and rather basic JVC GR-DF1, the unremarkable Samsung VP-D50 and the Sony Digital 8 machines. All of those camcorders involve a trade-off of one sort or another, sacrificing the latest features, size or format compatibility, but that is simply not an issue with the MV200. It's the real McCoy, a compact, smart-looking 'shoe-shape' DV minicam with all the right credentials, including a fold-old LCD viewing screen, optical image stabiliser, bucket-loads of genuinely useful features, and performance to match, all for just £800!


Mind you, it shouldn't come as a surprise, we've been here before. Canon made a similar (and highly successful) bid for market share more than ten years ago with its 8mm camcorders, followed by a run of competitively priced Hi8 models and more recently with the splendid MV20 digital pocket cam, which was the company's first low-cost 'entry-level' machine. In fact the MV200 shares a lot of features with its stablemate but this is more than just a re-packaging exercise. It has a number of extra features the layout makes it even easier to use and we suspect more appealing to those upgrading from conventionally shaped analogue machines.


Starting at the front there's a 16x zoom with an optical image stabiliser. Digital processing extends the zoom range to an absurd 320x magnification but the intermediate 64x setting is definitely useable. A five mode program AE system (sports, portrait, spotlight, sand & snow, low-light) takes care of most abnormal lighting conditions, there's a manual exposure override and 8-speed shutter for really tricky situations, or when you want to get creative. Full auto and manual focus are supplemented with Canon's Flexizone focus system, where the focus can be precisely locked on to any part of the scene by moving a 'target' around the screen with a tiny 'joypad' on the back of the machine. It has a manual white balance option plus a full set of digital effects. These include 3-mode fade/wipe, solarisation, monochrome, sepia and strobe and there's a 16:9 'squash' mode for playback on widescreen TVs. The only thing missing from what is clearly a generous specification is audio dub. This is a fairly standard feature on DV camcorders, enabling the 12-bit tracks to be overwritten without affecting the picture. It's a pity it has been left off though relatively few users will miss it.


Editing has been given a high priority, the MV200 has a Control L/LANC terminal for linking the machine to an edit controller but we suspect it will get little use since this machine has it's own built-in 20-scene controller. It's an updated and upgraded version of the edit systems used on previous analogue and digital models. The controller operates the record/pause function on more than 30 brands of VCR via an IR emitter built into the back of the machine. Edit in and out points are marked using the Set button on the remote handset. Scenes can be re-ordered or deleted but you can't change edit points or copy scenes, nevertheless for most users, looking for a way to tidy up their home movies it is ideal.  


In common with virtually all DV camcorder the MV200 has a still/snapshot shooting mode. However this machine doesn’t have a serial data output connection so in order to download images to a PC you will need an optional interface kit, comprising a FireWire capture card, cable and software costing a hefty £500.


Control layout is a wee bit haphazard. The menu button is up next to the main on/mode switch for some reason and the labelling is muddled on a bank of dual function buttons on the side. The focus thumbwheel is a bit stiff and the Flexizone control takes some getting used to, but these are relatively minor quibbles. The machine is generally easy to handle, well balanced and it behaves itself. The lithium ion battery is charged in-situ – it lives in a compartment close to the front of the machine -- and as an added bonus the mains charger adaptor is a compact size.  A full charge takes over 2.5 hours and with normal stop/start operation and use of the zoom this gives around an hour's recording with the viewfinder or 50 minutes or so using the LCD screen. The downside to having the battery pack inside the machine is that it can't take larger higher-capacity types. If you want longer running times you have to use an external adaptor and holder. Build quality is fine, it seems solid enough but it looks and feels just a tad 'plasticky' in places.



If Canon has cut any corners – and we found precious little evidence -- it certainly hasn't impinged on the machine's performance. Resolution came in at a whisker under 470-lines, which is typical for budget and mid-range DV camcorders. Noise levels are as close to zero as makes no difference and colour fidelity in natural light is on the button. The optical image stabiliser is not quite as responsive as some of the best digital systems but then there's no reduction in image quality and it's good enough to iron out the bumps and wobbles of shooting whilst walking. The LCD viewing screen works well, it's on the small side but the image is detailed and bright, enough to be useable in indirect sunlight. The recorded image is very stable and the deck mechanism resisted all of our attempts to unsettle it with a good hard shake.


The front mounted, forward-facing stereo mike has fair forward sensitivity and produces a reasonable stereo image. It also manages to pick up some motor whine, it's at a fairly low level though and not too intrusive when there's other ambient sounds.



You have probably gathered by now that we rather like the MV200 and you're not mistaken. It has one or two very slight rough edges, but then so do most camcorders, even ones costing twice as much. This one is real bargain, if there is a catch we couldn't find it. If you've been waiting for the price of DV camcorders to come down but didn't want to make compromises, you need wait no longer!



JVC GR-DVF1 £700, Samsung VP-D50 £900, Sony DCR-TRV110 £800



Canon MV200, mini DVC, £800



Lens                             f/1.8, 3.9 – 62.4mm

Zoom                            16x optical, 320x digital

Filter diameter            37.5mm  

Pick-up device            0.25in CCD

Min illum                       2 lux (low light mode)

Long play (LP)                        yes                  

Max rec time                        120mins (LP mode)

IR remote control                        yes

Edit terminal                        yes (Control L/LANC)


MAIN FACILITIES               

Auto focus                                yes                  

Manual focus                 yes      

Manual white balance yes      

Auto white balance             yes      

Auto exposure               yes                              

Manual exposure                       yes

Programmed AE                          yes (5 mode)  

Fader                                        yes                  

Backlight compensation            no                                

Manual zoom                             no        

Power zoom                              yes                                                                              

Insert edit                                  no        

Audio dub                                  no

Character generator                       no                    

Digital superimposer                 no        

Image stabiliser                         yes (optical)                             

Video light                                 no        

Battery refresh               n/a                                       

Accessory shoe             yes      




time/date recording, self-timer,  high-speed shutter (8-speed up to 1/8000th sec), record review, retake, tally lamp, Flexizone AF, program AE (sports, portrait, spotlight, sand & snow, low-light), digital effects (fade & wipe, solarisation, b&w, sepia, strobe), built-in edit controller (20 scenes), audio mix, snapshot record



Viewfinder                       0.6/7in monochrome

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



Stereo                                       yes (12 & 16-bit)

Wind noise filter                         yes                  

Mic socket                                yes                  

Headphone socket              yes      

Mic                                           single point stereo



Sockets                                    AV out, headphones, microphone, Control L (minijack), S- Video out (mini DIN), DV out (DV jack), DC-in (DC socket)

Dimensions                               76 x 100 x 157mm                       

Weight                          1.1kg (inc. tape and battery)



Batteries (Li-ion 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                                 470-lines

Colour bleed                              none

White balance                            very good

Exposure                                   good

Auto focus                                 good                                 

Audio performance                   satisfactory



Value for money            9

Ease of use                   8

Performance                  8

Features                       9



R Maybury 1999 1608





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