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.
Of course, you don't need software to get your photos and videos off the device. You can just take out your SD card and stick it in a card reader or connect the DV1 to a computer via the pop-out USB connector and drag and drop your files from the camera. It's located under a locked door on the left side along with a Mini-HDMI port. (A door on the right side protects the SD/SDHC card slot.)
The USB connector is used for charging, too, and an extension cable is included to make it easier to plug into your computer or the bundled wall adapter. The battery is sealed in the device, which is irksome mainly because battery life is so short. GE rates the life at 29 minutes when recording in full HD. During testing I recorded in a mix of resolutions and it lasted longer than 30 minutes, but not by much.
As for the rest of its design, the DV1 isn't bad, but it could be improved. The casing is a bit slick with nothing to help grip on the back or sides--not really what you want for a rugged device. The controls are easy enough to understand. In the center you have a directional pad with a record button in the center. The pad is used for menu navigation as well as controlling the 4x digital zoom, changing white balance, and viewing a histogram. It feels spongy, likely due to the DV1's waterproofing. To its left is a rocker button for shooting still photos and reviewing your recordings; an identical button is on the right side for opening the menu system and deleting files. To shoot a video you just need to turn it on (it starts up in a couple seconds) and press record.
However, when you turn it on, the bottom third of the screen is covered in miscellaneous setting information laid out in strangely divided boxes. That means that only about two thirds of the screen is for framing shots, while the rest is cluttered with information that's probably of little importance to the majority of its targeted users.
On the other hand, the DV1 does offer more settings than most in this category. Too bad its menus are oddly arranged. For example, you might expect video setup options to be the first thing you find, but instead you get two sets of photo settings. It's not that it's difficult to navigate, just somewhat confusing and unnecessary for a pocket video camera at this price.
The GE DV1 is an OK minicamcorder for Web video. If it weren't for the rugged construction and low price I'd say skip it altogether. But if you want something inexpensive for YouTube moments at the beach, pool, or hiking, it's sufficient.
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