Canon DC210 Camcorder Review
The DC210 is Canon’s entry-level DVD camcorder, and is identical to the DC220 except for the lack of a MiniSD card slot and a USB slot, the latter causing some degree of consternation. In this price range, finding a camcorder that takes good video is hard enough; worrying about how to edit or back it up should not be another headache. Fortunately, the DC210 has a good combination of features and performance that make it one of the better choices in the budget class for those with the right editing set-up in their homes.
Video Performance* (3.0)*
The Canon DC210 has most of the standard imaging specs for an entry-level camcorder. Of course, a lot of a camcorder’s performance is derived not from the parts but from the processing. That said, there’s only so much you can expect from a small chips. The DC210 has a 1/6-inch CCD with a gross pixel count of 680,000. The effective pixel count in 16:9 with the electronic image stabilization (EIS) is 450,000. In 16:9 with the EIS on the effective pixel count is 360,000. In 4:3, the effective pixel count is 340,000.
In the lab, we shoot a DSC Labs Chroma DuMonde color chart at an even 3000 lux. Under these conditions, the image appeared quite noisy, which was a disappointment. It did not have the same problems last year, but the Canon camcorders this year with similar specs were the same. Happily, the color was very good, and a compelling trade-off for the noise. The saturation is pushed past the point of comfort to pros, but most consumers prefer strong – read: less accurate – color. This is simply a matter of course in this price range.
By comparison, the Canon DC220 was identical. The Sony DCR-DVD108 leaned heavier on the blues, while Canon favored the greens. Sony’s colors were more saturated overall. In bright light, this will generally look good, but it can be a problem in lower light when the colors can appear false. The Panasonic VDR-D230 produced a much subtler color spectrum, which is going to please some people and disappoint others. This is where the power of Canon’s color control features comes into play (discussed in depth in the Manual Control portion of the review). Switching the DC210 from its standard color to Neutral will produce colors closer to the Panasonic.
Out of the lab, the DC210’s noise proves to be a consistent element in the image. As high definition continues to push into the consumer market, it gets harder to forgive the flaws of low-end standard definition camcorders. MPEG2 artifacting plays a part as well, which is more apparent during panning and tilting. That said, this is a good performer overall for its price range.
Video Resolution* (4.5)*
The Canon DC210 was tested for video resolution by shooting a DSC Labs video resolution at an even, bright light and examining the playback results on a monitor. This test measures the resolution of the actual output rather than the "idealized" resolution of that is touted in the specs. At best, the DC210 produced a horizontal resolution of 300 line widths per picture height (lw/ph) and a vertical resolution of 300 lw/ph. This score was on par with most other camcorders in its price range.
Low Light Performance* (5.99)*
The low light performance takes place in three stages. First, we shoot our DSC Labs color chart at 60 lux and 15 lux, then compare the results to competing camcorders. At 60 lux, the Canon DC210 picked up a fair amount of noise that resulted in some lost detail. However, it retained a solid amount of color, which is more than most of the competition can brag. With all of these entry-level DVD camcorders, the picture is never that sharp to begin with; any hint of good qualities in low light can be a major boon.
The Canon DC220 was, again, identical to the Canon DC210. The Sony DCR-DVD108 had nearly as much color information, but stressed different parts of the spectrum, giving an overall more bluish tone. Unfortunately, it suffered from the same problem as so many Sonys – blue noise scattered throughout the picture. The Panasonic VDR-D230 was paler in its color performance, which is probably healthier than oversaturated colors. The problem is that in the low-end market, consumers are more likely to want strong colors than accurate colors. The noise levels appear to be about even with the Canons and the Sony, but the Panasonic’s noise was of a finer grain, and easier to ignore.
At 15 lux, the image really started to fall apart, as is to be expected. The noise levels were very high and most fine detail was lost. The color performance, remarkably, was still decent – certainly better than the competition. The Sony DCR-DVD108 lost most of its color compared to 60 lux, and the noise was tremendous. The Panasonic VDR-D230 was the cleanest of the four camcorders, but the color was lacking.
The second stage of the test determines sensitivity. We steadily lower the lights and see at what light level the camcorder can produce a maximum output of 50 IRE (a measurement of exposure) at 11 lux, about the same as the Canon DC220 and Panasonic VDR-D230, which both scored better than the Sony DCR-DVD108.
The third stage of the testing involves raising the light back up to 60 lux, then exporting frames to Imatest imaging software to determine color accuracy, noise, and saturation. At best, the Canon DC210 was able to produce a color error of 10.9, which was better than the either the Sony or the Panasonic models. The noise measured 1.5575%. In this test, the Panasonic VDR-D230 was better, but the Sony DCR-DVD108 was worse. The saturation level was 77.97.
The DC210 is equipped with Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS), which functions by creating a digital buffer around the recorded frame. EIS can sacrifice resolution as opposed to Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), which separates the lens element from the frame of the camcorder. Most entry-level camcorders feature EIS, but all Panasonics have OIS. Therefore, the VDR-D210 will provide a superior stabilization performance.
We tested the effectiveness of the DC210’s EIS using our custom built camcorder shake emulator. Two speeds were used to determine typical shooting patterns. Speed One simulates stationary handheld shake while Speed Two is a bit more intense, simulating a light jog or bumpy car ride with the camcorder. At Speed One, the DC210 produced an impressive 80% shake reduction while Speed Two yielded an insignificant 38.46% shake reduction.
Wide Angle* (10.0)*
We tested the DC210’s maximum wide angle using a vertical laser. The camcorder was set to manual mode with OIS turned off and the zoom pulled back to its widest setting. Footage was then interpreted on an external monitor to attain a proper measurement. The DC210’s maximum wide angle is 50 degrees, which is on the higher end of the spectrum.
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