- Good quality video footage, 35x optical zoom
- Poor still-image quality, No aperture priority mode
Canon's DC230 is a good choice for those after a mid-range digital video camera that combines good quality video with a strong feature-set and the convenience of DVD recording.
Price$ 829.00 (AUD)
Fitting snuggly in the middle of Canon's lineup, the DC230 DVD camcorder is a good overall product. Its 1Mp sensor captures crisp, smooth footage and its 35x optical zoom, combined with a reasonably comprehensive features list, make for an enticing purchase for those of you after the convenience of a DVD-format video camera.
As with all DVD cameras, the chief reason for purchasing one over a Mini-DV camera is convenience. You can record to a DVD disc, finalise it, and in a matter of minutes be watching it with the family in the lounge room, using a DVD player. This is much faster than the process required to play video from tape and hard disc-based cameras, so it's handy for those of you who have minimal time or technical skills.
Of course, if you've read any of our other reviews, you'll be aware that our big gripe with DVD cameras is the quality of the video. Due to the limited amount of storage space DVDs offer, the footage is heavily compressed, which results in artifacts and blurring.
But the good news is that the DC230 is a bit of an anomaly in this regard. It produced clean, sharp video footage in our tests, and the results should satisfy the majority of users. We were impressed by the minimal artifacts and well-balanced colours, although blues were a little oversaturated and reds were surprisingly pale. There was a little grain noticeable in some areas, but most edges were crisp and sharp, which is more than we can say for many DVD camcorders. The footage did exhibit some haloing in areas of high contrast, and had a habit of blowing out areas with high concentrations of light, but this wasn't a big problem and, overall, the DC230 was thoroughly impressive.
Using the camera's night mode, we shot some footage in low-light conditions. The results were grainy and poorly defined. There was a massive amount of image noise, which really made the footage unusable. However, this isn't unexpected as most camcorders struggle in low-light conditions.
Similarly, the still images we captured on the DC230 were far from impressive. But, with a resolution of 1152x854, we expected this to be the case. Images turned out blurry and grainy. Basically, camcorders never capture still images that are adequate for printing as their sensors are way too small, so we can't be too harsh, but keep in mind that you'll likely want a separate digital still camera if you intend to take a lot of pictures. The DC230 records the shots to a miniSD card, so you'll also need to factor that extra cost into your purchase if you do wish to use this function.
The feature-set of the DC230 is quite standard for the entry-level and mid-range Canon camcorders. You can adjust the exposure and focus using the thumb-stick, and the menu gives access to white balance and a variety of digital effects and image modes. For example, it has fade-in, fade-out, sepia and black and white effects. There is also an option to switch from regular program AE mode to shutter priority, which allows you to tweak the shutter speed, altering the exposure even further. Disappointingly, there is no aperture priority on this model to counter balance it. This is only an option on the DC50 and DC51 units. There are also 8 scene modes, including the standard favourites such as Portrait, Night Mode and Landscape.
The menu is a bit of a mixed bag. It's laid out in typical Canon fashion, with most options accessed by hitting the Function button, but others are accessed by tapping the thumb-stick, which may confuse novice users. We also have a small gripe with the placement of the scene modes, which are hidden in the menu and require an extra click to get to. We didn't even discover them until hours after our testing began, despite spending a while hunting for them.
Design-wise, the DC230 is fairly standard for a DVD camcorder. It has the usual bulbous right-hand side, which stores the DVD, with an adjustable strap over it for your hand. The controls are scattered around and could be a little more intuitive; a switch on the top flicks between automatic and program modes, while a switch on the back changes from video to photo. Meanwhile, the menu is brought up using the function key on the left-hand side, but the thumb-stick on the back is used for navigating it. Previous Canon units have centralised controls, which is much less confusing. After a little use, the DC230's controls make perfect sense, but they aren't as intuitive as they could be.
Physically, the unit is constructed out of silver and gunmetal plastic, and it looks quite good. It has a 2.7in widescreen, which flips out from the side. Unlike some of Canon's less expensive models, such as the MV920, no microphone jack is included. In fact, there are no connectivity options at all except for USB, which is used to copy the video files to your PC.
The DC230 comes with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery which can be charged while resting in the camera.
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