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one of the cheapest three-CCD camcorders around, takes 2.3 megapixel
stills and fits in a pocket. Where's the catch?
things are afoot in the camcorder world. While JVC is trying to convince
everyone that its GR-PD1 progressive camcorder shows that single-chip
recording can be as good as three-chip, Panasonic is going the other
way and attempting to take three-chippers into the mainstream. Last
year's vanguard was the NV-GS70B, and less than a year later Panasonic
has upgraded the spec to create the NV-GS120B and the camcorder we're
looking at here, the NV-GS200B.
Unlike the GS120B, which uses the same trio of 540,000-pixel CCDs as
the GS70B, the GS200B has 800,000-pixel CCDs. These are still 1/6in
in size, though, which is quite small for a camcorder with prosumer
pretensions. The usual end result of packing extra pixels into the same-sized
CCD is reduced light sensitivity.
In a three-CCD cam, the greater number of pixels is only of real benefit
for still images and electronic image stabilisation. Generally, digital
camcorders use a reduced area of the CCD when electronic stabilisation
is turned on, to compensate for physical camera jitter. With a larger-than-needed
CCD pixel count, however, there's no need for a loss in quality. We
weren't able to confirm whether the GS200B used this method, and although
its electronic stabilisation is better than most at this price, it's
still not up to the standard of optical stabilisers.
Aside from being a remarkably cheap three-chipper, the GS200B retains
its predecessor's compact dimensions. It's so small, in fact, that it
competes with the likes of JVC's sit-up-and-beg-style GR-DVP9EK for
pocket portability. Yet, unlike many miniature or budget cams, the GS200B
is fully-featured. For starters, Panasonic has managed to fit a top-loading
tape mechanism - which means this camcorder is tripod-friendly, unlike
so many Canon models.
The GS200B is also well-endowed when it comes to AV connections. The
FireWire port is bi-directional, and we found it had no problems communicating
with a variety of different OHCI FireWire adapters for device control
and capture. There's a full-sized S-video connector, and that's bidirectional,
too. We tried hooking the camcorder up for digital-to-analogue conversion
duties to a PC running Canopus Edius 2 in OHCI mode, and it successfully
converted the program's real-time DV output to S-video, allowing us
to preview the output on a TV set. Next to the S-video and FireWire
sockets is a USB port. This can be hooked up to a PC to gain access
to the memory card on the camera body and to use the camcorder itself
as a webcam.
There's a headphone mini-jack socket, for audio monitoring during filming,
but this also doubles as a composite video and audio connector. Like
the S-video socket, this AV jack has input as well as output. There's
a microphone mini-jack input, too, and this again doubles up - as a
connector for the Freestyle wired remote, which also incorporates a
narration mic. The only downside is that it's not possible to attach
a third-party microphone to the accessory shoe at the same time as the
Freestyle remote, which is a shame, as the remote is handy when using
While the GS200B isn't going to be replacing Sony's TRV950 in a
semi-professional's camcorder collection, it could serve a useful secondary
role simply because it's so portable. At around half a kilo, and with
such small dimensions, it can easily fit into a coat pocket. The image
quality has a few faults, but it's sufficiently comparable to more expensive
three-chippers to be used alongside them for hand-held documentary-style
work. However, the inability to adjust audio recording levels manually
could be a major negative point for most professionally-oriented purposes.
As a hobbyist camcorder, the GS200B fares much better. Now that still
image abilities have reached the printable level, this is one camcorder
that can double as a digital stills camera for holiday snaps. The resolution
isn't good enough for capturing the detail in places of natural beauty,
panoramas or landmarks, but for family photos it's more than adequate.
Couple that with video performance that's a cut above most cams in the
price range, and the GS200B makes a great proposition for the hobbyist
who's more serious about image quality.
Read the full review
in August 2004's Computer Video magazine.
Reviewed in this issue:
Roxio VideoWave 7
Epson Stylus Photo R200
ADS Tech Instant DVD 2.0
burning arrives with a bang
MPEG editing in Premiere Pro
Apple Motion graphics
Edirol editor upgrade
X-oom video tools
High Def Final Cut Pro
TV-style theme music
Liquid Edition freebie
Cut-price ProCoder 2
Free After Effects plug-ins