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Survey: 10 stabilised digital cameras
by Vincent Alzieu
Published on May 18, 2006

These compacts take nice pictures overall, but they also do more and can be occasionally used as camcorders. Quality probably isn’t good enough to spend hours in movie editing but those who don’t have camcorders will be glad to use their compacts for those special memories. Videos are restricted to 640 x 480 for now (to be compared to the 768 x 576 pixels of SD cameras). Nevertheless, the difference is made in flow and sound quality rather than level of detail. Even at 30 images per second, camera sequences sometimes freeze. Sound quality is also much lower than with real camcorders.

To compare here are two extract made with “real” camcorders. The Canon uses mini DV tapes and costs approximately 420€. The Sony DCR-DVD404 records directly on DVD. This is one of the Japanese manufacturer’s high end products at approximately 750€.

Canon MV960
Sony DCR-DVD404

Canon Ixus 800-IS, VGA 30 fps
Casio Exilim S600, VGA 30 fps
FujiFilm FinePix F11, VGA 30 fps
Konica Minolta Dimage X1, VGA 20 fps
Nikon Coolpix P4, VGA 30 fps
Olympus Mju 720 SW, VGA 15 fps
Pentax Optio W10, VGA 30 fps
Panasonic DMCFX01, VGA 30 fps
Ricoh Caplio R3, 320x240 pixels 30 fps
Sony DSC-T9

One camera is really better than the others. Canon produces flowing sequences with a level of detail that is above average. You just have to look at the voluminous rabbit scarf to see this. Also, the optic zoom can be activated in sequences. The only disadvantage is that the camera doesn’t have a speaker. It records sequences with sound but reads them on the camera without. It is a little frustrating when you don’t have a computer on hand and you want to immediately review sequences.

Just after comes Panasonic which, despite an overexposure in this test, is as good as Canon’s in most situations.

Then comes Casio, FujiFilm, Nikon and Pentax. It is generally flowing and sufficiently detailed for anybody to watch on a big monitor without quality issues. (Note: for good videos you need to imperatively have good memory cards; a slow one = time restriction, more jumps). It isn’t as good as the two previous cameras and is far from the flowing of other camcorders but it’s OK. You will enjoy their use.

For Olympus and Konica Minolta, the level of detail is a little low and for Sony it sometimes freezes (it isn’t due to the card, we used a SanDisk MS Pro Duo, the Ultra II). This isn’t really surprising for the two first one as these cameras do not have 30 images per second but 15 and 20 fps, respectively.

Finally, the video of the Ricoh Capio R3 seems to come from another era. At 320 x 240 pixels it’s more of a toy.

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