Canon DC 210
- 35x optical zoom, Plenty of functions for the asking price
- 0.8Mp, Complex interface
The DC210 performs solidly for an entry-level, low resolution camera. However, it's difficult to recommend in the face of superior DVD models which are only slightly more expensive.
Price$ 699.00 (AUD)
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Despite being widely regarded as the 'ugly cousin' of the digital video family, DVD camcorders have swiftly become the fastest growing format on the market. There is currently a huge selection of DVD-based models to choose from, and while picture quality varies, they all offer the same major convenience -- 'instant' DVDs.
The Canon DC210 is unashamedly an entry-level unit, sporting an attractive $699 price tag at the expense of image resolution. Despite the low asking price, it comes with a decent array of modes and features, including a 35x optical zoom. If you're after a cheap camera that will allow you to quickly watch home movies on a DVD player, the DC210 represents good value for money. On the other hand, more discerning video users will be left unimpressed by its average image quality.
Equipped with a lowly 0.8Mp sensor, the DC210 is unable to produce professional looking video, and nor is it supposed to. The camera is designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator, and as such, should satisfy casual users and families who want a cheap way to preserve their memories. Image clarity and colour reproduction are about what we would expect from a camera in this price range; which is to say it gets the job done. Just.
Don't even think about using the included stills mode though -- even by camcorder standards, the quality of our output was poor.
As expected, our test footage took a significant hit in low-light conditions, exhibiting a large amount of image noise. This was alleviated somewhat by the camera's night mode, which works well for a cheap, entry-level unit. However, the slower shutter speed this mode uses can make images appear blurry and ill-defined if you fail to keep the camera steady.
We were highly impressed with the DC210's 35x optical zoom, which is practically unheard of in a camera at this price range. Of particular note is how speedy the zoom is at its fastest setting. It allows you to get close to distant action in a matter of seconds, instead of having to wait for the lens to catch up. This is sure to be a big selling point for many prospective buyers, as it offers a lot more possibility and freedom when it comes to capturing shots.
Another handy feature is Canon's new Quickstart mode, which behaves similar to the hibernation mode on a notebook. It allows you to quickly fire up the camera when something worth shooting crosses your path, as opposed to keeping it on at all times. In addition to saving on battery life, this also eradicates the annoying habit many cameras have of automatically switching themselves off (and resetting all your modes and functions in the process). The addition of a Bright mode for the LCD screen is also appreciated, as it gives a clear, unobstructed view when shooting in strong sunlight.
In terms of design, the DC210 retains the 'slightly squashed' look that's typical of most DVD cameras. It feels lightweight and should pose no difficulties during operation. However, we were somewhat surprised by its complex interface -- for a model that touts itself as an introductory 'family video camera', the large array of modes and buttons are likely to baffle the first time user. There are buttons under the LCD screen, a directional stick for menu selection, a start/stop button for video, and a separate shutter button for taking photos, to name but a few.
While we appreciate the abundance of digital effects and recording modes, it does make for a fairly steep learning curve -- something the DC210's target audience would presumably like to avoid. Plus, the presence of a navigational stick, which needs to be used in conjunction with the LCD buttons during video playback, means that two-handed operation is often necessary. Personally, we much prefer the LCD touch interface found in the majority of Sony's cameras, which makes for a much more user-friendly and intuitive experience.
Thankfully, finalising discs is a simple operation, though the lack of a USB port means that you can't transfer files directly to a PC (an AV output is included for viewing files on your TV). If you're planning to make extensive edits to your home movies, we'd recommend looking at the HDD and MiniDV markets. However, if you're happy to just make simple cuts and keep the flashy stuff to the pros, this is a decent little camera that makes up for its shortcomings with a super-low asking price.
When it comes down to it though, we feel most users would be better off getting the Canon DC230 -- a far superior product that will only put you back an extra $130.
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