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top megapixel single-CCD camcorder is versatile, lightweight and capable,
but is it money well spent?
The MVX3i, Canon's
range-leading single-CCD camcorder, faces some tough competition. Panasonic's
three-chip MX500B is priced at a little over £1,000. Then there's
Sony's diminutive single-chip PC330E, at £1,049. This has a claimed
three-megapixel chip, along with a pop-up flashgun, LP option, and shoots
stills and movies to SD memory card.
Clearly, the Canon has its work cut out, but it's a handsome camcorder,
beautifully detailed and solidly assembled. A constant rotation ring
controls manual focus and surrounds the 46mm diameter filter thread.
The 10x zoom lens is unusual in that it loses less than half a stop
from wide to telephoto in movie mode. In stills mode, though, it's restricted
to a 9x zoom, and loses more than a stop. There is a laughable two-stage
digital zoom - 40x (36x for stills) or 200x.
Image stabilisation uses an optical aspherical vibrating-element system
for stills and video, and it's powerful, silent and unobtrusive. Microphones
are built in directly under the front of the lens - a most undesirable
position. Panasonic has recognised this, but Canon persists and, as
a result, the MVX3i mics pick up all sorts of handling noises, including
manual focusing and exposure adjustment.
The MVX3i has a wonderfully sharp lens that is usable at all focal lengths
and apertures, and produces little objectionable sharpening of the image.
It's not flare-free, though. There's minimal distortion and pictures
are extraordinarily good as long as the lighting isn't low or of high
contrast. The on-board microphones are okay, and the menu isn't too
complicated. MPEG-4 movies recorded to memory card can be fun and it's
simple to add them to emails. There's full manual control over audio
levels and over exposure and white balance. These points alone would
suggest that the camera is pretty good value at under £1,000.
Although tape handling is fine, we feel that Canon must take on-board
the lessons learned by other makers and stop using a bottom-loading
tape mechanism - it disadvantages this fine camcorder. The poor low-light
performance is not unexpected with such a tiny CCD, but the CCD smear
is a serious problem when shooting high-contrast subjects. We also feel
that, on a camcorder aimed at dedicated amateurs, it's important to
be kept informed of the aperture and gain-up settings while shooting,
and to receive more information when pushing 'Display' later. The three-chip
Panasonic MX500 addresses the tape-loading and information-display concerns,
yet costs just £29 more.
Read the full review
in May 2004's Computer Video magazine.
Reviewed in this issue:
CyberLink PowerProducer 2.0
Magix Movies on CD & DVD 2.0
Pure Motion EditStudio 4
Shining CitiDisk DV
Ulead DVD Workshop 2
Wacom Graphire 3 Studio XL
In this issue's
Task-centric Creator 7
Cut-price Canon cams
Desktop spanning over a network
Affordable rostrum camera software