Shopping by specs can result in a very disappointing purchase. The GE DV1 rugged minicamcorder is waterproof to 16 feet, shockproof to 5 feet, and dustproof. It records full HD-resolution video at 30 frames per second as well as at 720p at 30 or 60fps, and shoots 5-megapixel photos. It has a convenient built-in flip-out USB connector for charging and for sharing videos and photos straight from the device. It even has a pretty big LCD given its compact size. And the price is great, too; it can easily be found for less than $100.
However, take it out of the box and use it and things get less impressive. Regardless of resolution, the video just isn't very good for several reasons. The internal battery life is paltry and you can't swap it out for a fresh one. Your subject needs to be at least 5 feet from the lens to be in focus. There's no bundled software for editing or sharing video.
It is waterproof, dustproof, and can take bit of a tumble and still work, though. And while watching its videos on a large HDTV isn't pleasing, viewing them at small sizes on a computer screen is OK. So if all you need is an inexpensive minicamcorder to keep poolside or for a short trip to a beach or ski slope for sharing online, the GE DV1 might be good enough.
|Key specs||GE DV1|
|Dimensions (HWD)||4.1 x 2.2 x 0.8 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||5.1 ounces|
|Storage capacity, type||27MB internal flash memory; SD/SDHC cards|
|Resolution, sensor size, type||5 megapixels, 1/2.5-inch CMOS|
|LCD size, resolution||2.5-inch LCD, 92K dots|
|Lens||Fixed focal length, f2.8 33mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (video, audio)||MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 (.MOV)|
|Resolution (highest)||1,920x1,080 at 30fps (13Mbps; progressive)|
|Image stabilization type||Electronic|
|Battery type, rated life||Built-in lithium ion rechargeable, 29 minutes|
|Software||ArcSoft MediaImpression (Windows); Picasa (Windows)|
For direct-to-Web video clips the DV1 produces passable results. The problem is that if you're boasting "full HD" resolutions, there is at least some expectation that the movies will be good enough to view at larger sizes on an HDTV. While the 1080p clips from the DV1 aren't unwatchable on a large screen, they just aren't all that enjoyable. That's mostly because it can't handle moving subjects; even slow movement causes trailing and judder to the point where people appear to be flickering. Panning the video camera has a similar effect. Colors are OK, though the auto white balance seems off; there are presets that improve things and should be used whenever possible. There's noticeable banding in high-contrast areas and if you move the camera through an unevenly lit scene you will see rough changes in exposure. Sharpness is decent, but, again, your subject needs to be at least 5 feet from the lens.
The DV1 does have a 720/60p-resolution setting that does improve motion, however there is a visible increase in blocky artifacts when clips are viewed at larger sizes. If they're going online or viewed small on a computer screen, this is definitely what you want to use for anything with motion. Low-light video is noisier, but it's not bad. However, that's probably because of the noise reduction that makes things look soft.
If you're considering this as a dual-purpose device for photos and videos, I wouldn't. The photos, like the videos, are OK for Web use at small sizes, but overall they suffer from the same noise and artifact problems as the movies.
|White balance||Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent, Underwater|
|Focus||Fixed (4.9 feet to infinity)|
|Lens cover (auto or manual)||None|
One of the key reasons people get a shoot-and-share minicamcorder like the DV1 is for the simple editing, organizing, and uploading software usually embedded on the device. The DV1 has on-device software, but it's Google Picasa, which only handles photos. A software disc is included with a full user manual, ArcSoft MediaImpression, and Apple QuickTime player. This version of MediaImpression, like Picasa, is for photos, leaving you just QuickTime for viewing. There is no movie-editing software or anything to facilitate transferring to a computer or uploading to sharing sites.