So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
- Cheap, microphone input, good quality audio
- Colour reproduction problems, lack of clarity in video footage
The MV920 records poor quality video, but this is to be expected from a camera at this price point. If you simply want something to point and shoot with and aren't really concerned about the quality of the footage, this may be a good choice, but for a little more cash you can get something better.
Price$ 499.00 (AUD)
Canon's MV920 digital video camera certainly sits at an affordable price point. The cheapest camera in their line-up and one of the cheapest overall models on the market, the MV920 is a decent choice for novice photographers wanting to take their first steps into the world of digital video. However, at this price the image quality and features suffer, and unless money is your primary concern, there are better purchases for a slightly higher cost.
With a sub $500 price tag, we weren't expecting big things from the MV920's video. It uses the Mini-DV recording format (which generally offers the best recording quality out of the available mediums) but in this case the 800k sensor just isn't up to the task. Everything is horribly blown out, and there is no definition or clarity, with areas of detail such as foliage coming out as indistinguishable messes. There is also a serious amount of colour fringing which is particularly evident when the camera moves
Colours themselves are poorly rendered, with reds coming out pink, blues looking pale and faded, and greens and yellows blending into one another. We even had a case where some of our cardboard boxes look green. Noise levels aren't bad most of the time, although if the light in the room drops at all, the noise ramps up considerably, making the pictures grainy and fuzzy.
We also tested in low light using the camera's 'Night' mode, which returned poor but fairly standard results. Some cameras don't manage to produce any image at all in these circumstances, so while the picture was grainy, extremely noisy and basically completely unusable, it was about comparable to pictures produced by other entry level handycams. Anyone who is serious about shooting in low light will need to look elsewhere.
Fortunately, the audio didn't follow the same trend as the video and was, for the most part, quite impressive. The microphone sits on the front underneath the lens and captures good directional audio without much interference. It could have done a better job with ambient sound, but thanks to the surprise inclusion of a microphone jack, you can rectify this using a third party microphone. Most entry level units omit this feature, so it is nice to see Canon are trying to differentiate themselves a little. Realistically though, anyone who purchases a video camera at this price point is unlikely to own a third party microphone.
Aside from the microphone jack, the features list is pretty standard. You can change the white balance using presets (daylight, tungsten, auto) or use the custom mode, which is another surprise inclusion considering the MV920's price tag. Exposure and focus can both be adjusted using the thumbstick. Aside from this there isn't much else on offer, with a smatter of scene modes and some image effects (vivid, neutral and soft skin) being the only other options. The optical zoom extends up to 25x, which is a little above average, but you'll need a tripod to adequately take advantage of zoom levels much above 10x. 800x digital zoom is also included, but anyone who is at all concerned with image quality is best off steering clear of this option.
As is standard with Mini-DV camcorders, you will need a FireWire capable computer to transfer the movies off the tape. USB isn't an option like it is with some other mediums. No FireWire cable is included in the package, but there is an AV cable that can be used to view the videos on a television or other display device when connected directly to the camera. This cable is a standard RCA cable with red, yellow and white connections; adequate considering the quality of the video recorded by the MV920.
Aesthetically the MV920 is nice looking but isn't inspiring. The silver and grey colour scheme is quite smooth and the overall design looks similar to many other entry level models. It is constructed entirely of plastic and feels a little flimsy for our tastes; particularly the hinge on the 2.7in LCD display, which could be a weak point after repeated use. The controls are simple, and match the interface. A thumbstick and menu button do the brunt of the work, and they rest underneath the display, along with a button for digital effects. Everything is easy to use and should prove intuitive, even for novice users.
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