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I had been contemplating the purchase of a camcorder for some time and it was the event of my brothers wedding that finally made up my mind. So where to start??? To a complete novice, the camcorder market is bristling with choices and covers such a wide range of prices that it can be quite daunting. To the magazines! Reading as many sources as possible (including Camcorder User, www.jessops.com and www.google.com) I found out as much as I could about the various formats, features and options that are available. I finally decided that I wanted a digital camcorder from which I could download movies to my PC. MiniDV was my chosen format as it is supported by all the major manufacturers. What did I want in terms of additional features? As well as Digital Video out, I also wanted DV-IN so that, once I had edited the movies on my PC, I could upload them back to the camera and store them on tape. A respectable optical zoom would be nice as would stereo sound that I could add soundtracks to. These were my basic requirements, anything else was a bonus. It's worth pointing out that there are some features that really weren't important to me, principally these were digital effects such as scene transitions, colour alteration and other special effects as it was my intention to add these on the PC if required. The Panasonic NV-DS28 fits the bill perfectly. Recently launched, it is a MiniDV camera that boasts a 15x optical zoom, stereo sound and DV-IN/OUT (this is the difference between the DS27 and the DS28, the DS27 only has DV-OUT). It meets my basic requirements admirably. It is also capable of taking still pictures (with an 800,000 pixel CCD don't expect them to be anywhere near photo quality), although these are stored on the tape as opposed to any sort of memory stick (look to the NV-DS37/38 for this feature). There are a number of digital effects as well, including a 600x digital zoom, image stabilisation and a number of scene transitions. The c
amera also has a neat feature in that as you zoom the lens, the angle of sensitivity of the microphone changes, effectively concentrating the mic on the target of the zoom. It come as standard with a 1.2 hour battery, mains charger, remote control and AV-leads to hook the camera up to a TV. Battery time is reduced significantly if you film using the flip-out LCD screen instead of the viewfinder, but this is the same with all camcorders. In use the camera is easy to get on with, charge the battery, load up a tape and you can be recording within seconds! It's very light, the tape and battery make little difference to it's weight, and well balanced. It fits neatly into your right hand and all the controls you need to record fall within easy reach of your thumb and index finger. My girlfriend is left-handed and she has no difficulty operating it, even 'wrong-handed'. The viewfinder is not particularly brilliant, it's colour but the resolution is very low. The flip-out LCD screen on the other hand is excellent and can be rotated through 180degrees so that it faces the same way as the lens, allowing the subject to see how they look. Changing the camera settings is a little tricky, it involves fiddling around with a small 'roller' type control to the front of the camera. Fortunately, you don't need to use this too often and almost certainly not while filming. The quality of the output is excellent (to my untrained eye at any rate). Under normal lighting (inside on a sunny day) colours are reproduced faithfully and the picture is crisp and sharp. Under dull lighting (e.g. the inside of a marquee on a cloudy day) things start to get a bit murky, but not so much as to ruin the recording. So am I hapy with it? The answer would have to be a resounding yes! It does exactly what I wanted it for and a bit more besides. Any advice? SHOP AROUND! When I was first looking, my local Jessops had theDS27 on "special offer" for 499.99, whilst t
he DS28 was still at 799.99! The only difference between the two is the DV-IN on the DS28, surely not worth £300!!! I eventually found a place selling the DS28 for £550, which Jessops price-matched, a saving of £250 over what I could have paid!