Reviewer: Byer Gair
Once you get used to the idea of recording on a tiny DVD you start to appreciate the new medium and its pluses, as opposed to the well-established Mini DV tape alternative.
The biggest attraction for casual video makers is the “shoot it and play it” approach of DVD video: pop the disc into the camcorder, shoot your scenes, sequences, short and long, finalise the disc in the camera to make it playable on the home DVD player – then pop it in and play your movies!
The other benefit is ease of access to a scene anywhere on the disc – no winding through metres of tape – and you can still enjoy editing on a computer, if that’s where your video ambitions take you.
But many people just want to shoot heaps of video and not worry about editing, titling, sound tracks and the rest. However, if you are keen to add polish to your efforts, the Windows/Macintosh software bundled with the camcorder will take you there.
Equipped with a 10x optical zoom lens, the camcorder uses an optical image stabiliser to smooth out the bumps and shakes.
The DC51 can shoot 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio video – the 16:9 is wide screen in shape but not HD in resolution.
The recording format is MPEG2 video and you can shoot still JPEG pictures as well, recording either to DVD. Stills can also be saved to a tiny miniSD card, loaded into the camcorder’s side. Video can be recorded to the DVD in any of three quality levels and type of disc used (Single or Dual Layer). Depending on disc type and quality selected, you can expect to record from 20 minutes to 108 minutes of video per disc.
With stills, saved to the miniSD card, the maximum resolution of 2592×1944 pixels will deliver you a 29×20 cm print. A 512 MB miniSD card will hold (depending on quality level) 145 to 435 shots. Video can be saved to the DVD in any of three quality levels and type of disc used (Single or Dual Layer): from 20 minutes to 108 minutes.
Slip your fingers beneath the strap and you find the DC51 sits well in the hand, then use your thumb to power up and start recording and your forefinger to operate the zoom. There are few external controls; viewing is either by the turret finder or the swing out 6.9 cm LCD screen.
When shooting video or stills you can control exposure by auto, Program AE or via shutter and aperture priority. The newcomers can rely on scene presets to capture challenging shots like fireworks, sports, sunsets and similar.
The three video recording qualities give you an enormous choice in recording times. Most will find little difference in quality between them. The disc finalising process can be a lengthy process, so don’t expect to shoot, then replay on a DVD player immediately. All considered, this is possibly the best DVD camcorder on the market.