Canon DC20

15 Nov 2005

Product: DVD camcorder
Price: €970
DVD camcorders have been around since 2000 making it all the more surprising that Canon, one of the long-standing leaders in movie-making hardware, has left it until now to enter the market.

Excusing itself from the fray because it considered the technology too clunky and the picture quality too poor, Canon finally makes its entrance with the ultra-slim 1.33MP DC10 and 2.2MP DC20, billed as the smallest and lightest DVD camcorders in their class.
As a piece of technology, first impressions are good. The DC20 packs the full array of camcorder controls — including a double life as a still video camera — into a shiny silver shell that manages to be both ergonomic and reassuringly solid.

Main camera controls are on the backside which is dominated by a camera/playback slider switch. Shooting modes, digital effects and a tab that activates a tiny video light are on the side while the pull-out LCD reveals more for wide screen mode, backlight and one for the all important task of finalising your DVD recording. You hit this when you’re ready to transfer the disc to another machine.

DVD-R and DVD-RW compatible, the camcorder takes the smaller 8mm discs. Remember if you are using DVD-R you only get one shot and it can’t be recorded over and you can’t edit the recordings without transferring them over onto a PC or another DVD player. With more expensive DVD-RWs you can record over them as many times as you like.

Bundled with the camera is DVD editing and authoring software, and a USB for PC connection. A nice touch is a print button for PC-free printing of photos direct to any PictBridge compatible photo printer — the first time this technology has featured on a DVD camcorder.
When you’re in DVD-RW mode you can get stuck into basic digital editing by adjusting the running order of sequences via a Play index. Naturally, the best post production is done on a PC and while serious movie makers might argue that there’s a dearth of decent software for the DVD format compared to MiniDV, the more casual shootist will be happy with what comes in the box.

The big question is about formats: would the convenience of DVD persuade you to trade picture quality and opt for its inferior MPEG-2 performance or would you go for the altogether higher quality of a MiniDV model? Canon has done a great design job but for my money the DVD picture quality lets it down.

By Ian Campbell