Compared with even a lousy DV camcorder, SiPix's StyleCam DV100 can't compete, but at least it costs a whole lot less. This inexpensive, tapeless mini cam offers three AVI video resolutions, takes 1.3-megapixel photos, and works as a voice recorder and a Webcam. While the DV100 offers a fair feature set for the money, expect to make serious compromises.
Weighing 6.6 ounces with a pair of alkaline or rechargeable nickel-metal-hydride batteries installed, the DV100 is light enough to take just about anywhere. The side-mounted hand strap doesn't work well with the camera's 3.9-by-2.9-by-1.4-inch dimensions, but it's fine for small-handed users. Maneuvering among the well-marked control buttons is easy, and the plastic case feels sturdy, though it probably wouldn't survive a fall to the sidewalk.
The case may not betray this camera's price tag, but the maddening menu system does. The only video-recording settings let you choose between 640x480, 320x240, and 160x120 resolution; operate the 2X digital zoom; select one of the four white-balance options; and enable the antiflicker function to get better results under fluorescent lights. Furthermore, the interface is inconsistent: the Menu key and the four-way controller call up two different sets of menus, and each has its own navigation and exit buttons.
As you might expect, the DV100 doesn't offer a lot of extra features. The 1.6-inch flip-out LCD is 0.1 inch larger than those of some other mini cams, but the difference didn't help us much outside. The screen is very hard to see in direct sunlight. Viewing problems aside, the 10-second self-timer is handy for self-portraits, and an A/V output lets you send your footage to a TV or a VCR.
Switching among the various recording and playback modes isn't instantaneous. Ironically, the slight lag we experienced when changing exposure levels actually worked in the DV100's favor. The slow pace smoothed out differences in contrast that occurred when we panned between light and dark areas. Some of our exterior video shots exhibited intermittent but very noticeable compression artifacts.
We tested two DV100 units. One gave video and photos a heavy green tint, and the movies from both had an extremely low volume. Even after we'd cranked up our desktop speakers, we could barely hear the audio. While the fixed-focus 43mm lens (the 35mm-film equivalent) is rated at a relatively slow f/3.5, most of our interior footage was reasonably well exposed.
Having three video resolutions sounds great, but the 640x480 mode records only 8 frames per second, so it's very jerky, and the 15fps 160x120 resolution is too low to capture much detail. Odds are that you'll use the 15fps 320x240 option most of the time. The DV100's photos were good enough for casual use, but like the video, they're best suited to Web and e-mail display. They exhibited better contrast than pictures from Gateway'sand more-acceptable low-light noise levels than shots from Aiptek's .
Even if this mini cam can handle basic recording functions, saving a few pennies isn't worth the low audio levels, the weak LCD, the skimpy 8MB of onboard memory, and the confusing menus. If you want better than adequate recordings, expect to pay more or switch to a specialized device.