Manufacturers are cramming so many functions into their products these days, it's hard to know which ones to refer to as all-in-one devices. If anything qualifies, it would have to be the cell phone-size Panasonic D-snap SV-AV50, which combines a 1.95-megapixel camera, a 320x240 MPEG-4 video camcorder, a digital voice recorder, an MP3- and AAC-format music player, and a digital video recorder that can grab and play TV programs. That's impressive, but you won't find many of the features normally associated with those functions--there's no optical zoom, for example--and the resulting quality is uneven. The SV-AV50 is so small you really can carry it anywhere, though you'll have to lower your expectations and maybe expect some puzzled looks when it comes to sharing its recorded content. If you're a quality-first kind of person, you'll want to steer clear. But if you feel that almost any photo or video is better than none, read on. Remarkably small and lightweight at 4 by 1.95 by 0.81 inches and 4.2 ounces with the battery installed, the stylish Panasonic D-snap SV-AV50 can fit into a shirt pocket with plenty of room to spare. A side panel swings out and twists to position the 2-inch LCD on one side of the unit and the lens on the other. The screen swivels 180 degrees to allow self-portrait, overhead, and floor-level shots. The rounded, silver-colored case (it's also available in blue) is constructed of sturdy plastic with metal trim. It appears to be durable, as do the buttons that line the back of the case. The D-snap is made for handheld use, so there's no tripod mount.
We found the tiny, back-mounted jog ball difficult to control. We sometimes overshot the menu selection we wanted and had to backtrack. The LCD menus, however, are clearly marked and logically organized, in part because each function has only a few options. A mode button lets you toggle through photos, videos, and voice when recording and through photos, videos, voice, and music when playing back.
The SV-AV50 is so lightweight, you won't become tired holding it for extended periods of time. The real challenge is making sure you don't place a finger too close to the lens. The fixed lens provides a wide-angle perspective, which means that your finger doesn't have to be directly in front of it in order to show up in the picture. Given the vertical orientation of the case and the back-mounted controls, it can be hard to get a grip while staying clear of the lens. We found it best to use the right thumb for the bottom controls and the left hand for the top controls. One-handed shooting works well, as long as you don't need to access the controls. With no optical zoom, capturing photos and videos is a simple point-and-shoot operation.
Like circus clowns who keep rolling out of a small car, an extraordinary number of functions are packed into this tiny device. But while the Panasonic D-snap SV-AV50 shines in the number of functions it offers, none is anywhere close to full featured.
You can save photos as JPEG files at three resolutions (1,600x1,200, 1,280x960, or 640x480) and two compression rates (Fine and Normal). There are four MPEG-4 video settings: Extra Fine (320x240 at 30fps), Super Fine (320x240 at 15fps), Fine (320x240 at 12fps), and Economy (176x144 at 6fps). A 2.5X digital zoom is available, though it's hardly worth using, as it significantly reduces the image quality. Monaural voice recordings are saved in a proprietary format.
Panasonic provides a software program to help you bring your music into the D-snap SV-AV50. SD-Jukebox 4.0 converts your CDs to 96Kbps AAC files and transfers them to the device via a USB connection. You bypass the computer entirely when bringing prerecorded video into the D-snap. In addition to recharging the battery, the USB cradle acts as an A/V input/output adapter. A supplied cable provides composite-video and stereo-audio plugs, which you can connect directly to a VCR, a DVR, an A/V receiver, or a TV for video recording and playback.