* Prices may differ from that shown
Before I start I'll clarify that the Digital Camcorder I am reviewing is the Mustek DV2032 - as far as I am aware this is just the newer model of the DV2000 therefore I'm hoping the review is in the right category!
I've never really been into camcorders, but whilst recently volunteering to do a media activity at the school I work at the IT technician handed to me the latest toy she'd aquired for the school - the Mustek DV2032. I was expecting this digicamcorder I'd heard staff talk about to be kind of handbag sized... as in, about the same size as a handbag. Little did I expect that the camera would quite easily fit into a handbag... or a most pockets come to that!
If or when you do want to download your clips and photos to your computer, you just connect the USB cable provided to your computer and the camera acts like a mass storage device. There's an SD card in the camera and the computer reads the files straight from it. You can then copy the files into a folder on your computer, or again just view and delete them.
Although I've not measured, I think I'm safe in saying this little camcorder measures around 3" in length, 2" in height, and is probably about 1" wide. As with most kinds of this device, it's predominantly silver and grey, and basically looks like a toy! It's quite plasticky in appearance, yet doesn't look overly cheap. The only buttons noticeable whilst it's closed up are the chrome effect zoom buttons on the top of the gadget and the 'set' button, that kind of acts like the shutter button on a camera or the stop/go button for when you're filming. Other than those, the only real feature is the little power button, which rather than just pressing to switch it on, you flick by sliding it towards you and then releasing it.
Opening up the LCD viewfinder panel on the side of the device reveals 9 more buttons on the inside of the camera. So long as you've switched the power on, as soon as you fold open the viewfinder you'll be able to see on the little screen (about the size of two postage stamps side by side) whatever it is the camera is pointing at. Looking through the viewfinder you start to get an idea of the quality this camera is going to produce - it's certainly not excellent, but for a gadget it's more than good enough. The colours seem a little dark, though bearing in mind there is no backlighting it's probably the same as you'd get through most similarly priced cameras with no flash.
So - onto making your movie! Once you've got your subject in your sight it's simply a case of pushing the round chrome 'set' button on the top of the camera and away you go - you can zoom in and out, and the extremely light weight of the camera means you can walk about with it easily. A little blue LED lights up on the front of the camera whilst you're filming, which is handy if you want your 'victim' to know when to start doing their party trick or whatever it is you want to film, however, it also means that if you're trying to film someone on the sly they'll probably notice! Once you've finished shooting your footage, press the button again to stop your filming. Easy as that. There's a microphone built into the camera, so it will pick up sound, but you need to bear in mind that it's only a small mike, therefore to pick up clear sound such as speech you need to be fairly close to the person who is talking. It'll pick up your own voice well without distorting it or making it sound fuzzy just because you're closer to the camera.
You can choose between two quality settings whilst using the camcorder, either 'fine' or 'normal' - the fact that the camera is fairly low resolution in the first place doesn't really affect the quality all that much in movie mode. For camera mode you can choose between three settings - 'fine' (1600x1200), 'high' (1280x960) or 'low' (640x480). I tend to leave it on 'fine' for both modes.
There is a 10 second delay option, so if you fancy filming yourself you can set the delay and run around to the other side of the camera.
At the top of the viewfinder panel you'll see a battery icon which indicates when you're battery is running low. Surprisingly all the time I've used this camera it's done pretty well on battery consumption and certainly doesn't guzzle them the way my digital camera seems to when I use the LCD viewfinder as opposed to holding it up to my eye. It takes 2 AA batteries.
Another icon at the top of the viewfinder shows whether you're currently in movie mode or camera mode. The gadget doubles up as a digital camera, so you can take still shots as well as movies - swapping between the two modes is as simple as pressing one of the buttons revealed on the wall of the camera (the green one with a picture of a camera and a film projector on it).
You don't have to wait to download your images to the computer to see your footage. Pressing the REC/PLAY button switches between recording mode and playback mode. If you've recorded more than one clip you can select the clip you want to view by flicking through them all - you can either scroll through the starting images one at a time, or bring up up to six thumbnail images on the display at all once using the zoom in/out buttons. Once you've chosen the clip you want to view you press play and it shows in the viewfinder.
Deleting images or film clips is as easy as watching them - once you're on the clip or image you want to erase just press the button with a dustbin on it and it'll ask you to confirm your choice.
Some Other Details
The video format is in Motion JPEG - this is different to MPEG and is a compact video format. It's supported by Window's Media Player and Apple's QuickTime as well as other programmes, so compatability shouldn't be an issue. Alternatively you can connect the camera direct to your TV using the correct cables.
So far as some of the more technical spec goes, the digital zoom is 2x, the lens is 8.5mm (which is apparantly equivalent to 44mm for a 135 camera), and focusing range is 0.7m to infinity.
The instruction book provided is very simple to understand, though you can soon pick up on how to use it without even opening the book.
The camera comes with it's own drawstring felt pouch which is ideal for putting it in whilst you're carrying it about and also helps to protect it from any little bumps and knocks.
This little gadget served my group well during their media project and they all enjoyed being behind the camera. Although by no means does it give a truly high quality professional output it's not a professional person's piece of equipment, therefore it certainly fares well.
A search using Kelkoo.com reveals you can get hold of the camcorder for under £60 (£57.98 from dabs.com - it's also available from other places at a similar price, this one was just given as an example). At this price it's certainly a great buy, plus you don't have to be quite so brave letting it into the hands of kids!
If I thought I'd get the use out of it I'd certainly consider purchasing a camera like this, but as I mentioned earlier, I've never really been into camcorders and filming my hols and the likes. The only thing I can really pick fault at is the on/off button - it's so small it's quite fiddly to turn it on and off. Can't really fault it other than that - it does exactly what it says on the box!
Worthy of 4 stars * * * *