The camcorder that we use here at WebsiteVideoGuide is a Canon MVX350i. By no means a new camera but great for what we need, making [tag]website videos[/tag]. In fact you can get by with a camcorder with less quality and attributes but this camera was a good buy and has the main functions that we recommend. It has a Firewire output, a remote microphone input, a remote control and a quality lens.
With good video quality, thanks to its megapixel CCD, a 20x optical zoom, loads of special effects and usable photo capabilities, the MVX350i offers a good range of features for a MiniDV camera in its price range.
On the right side of the camera, you’ll find a top-loading tape door, you can swap both tapes and the battery (which snaps on to the rear) without removing the MVX350i from a tripod which is convenient. On the left, above the SD/MMC slot, sits a 64mm (2.5-inch) LCD. Around the front, you’ll find a focus-assist lamp, a stereo microphone, a little flash for stills and an LED for illuminating video.tape loading
Canon crams most of the buttons into the area that’s exposed when you fold out the LCD, a tight arrangement that will make you appreciate the camera’s all-automatic Easy mode. Playback, effects, focus and other nearby buttons are not the easiest to navigate without looking at the controls.
The MVX350i boasts a relatively generous complement of analogue and digital ports: FireWire, USB, and analogue audio and video RCA inputs and outputs. Perhaps in a concession to its compact size, an S-video connector is notably absent. The camera also accommodates an external microphone and headphones. Lastly, an accessory shoe is available for attaching an external light or microphone.
A 20x optical zoom lens sets the Canon MVX350i apart from many similar priced models. This camcorder also comes with Canon’s WA-34 0.7x wide-angle attachment, which gives a wider angle of view for indoor and panoramic shots. If the 20x zoom isn’t enough reach for you, you can screw on the optional 1.5x teleconverter accessory to get an impressive 30x optical zoom. Using the MVX350i’s menus, you can also enable 80x or 400x digital zooms, but the image quality is extremely compromised at digital-zoom levels.
Wide-screen HDTV owners will appreciate the MVX350i’s excellent 16:9 wide-screen mode. Unlike some camcorders, which stretch a standard-definition image to fill a wide-screen display, the MVX350i uses the full width of its CCD to record the video image. On 16:9 displays, this results in a noticeably sharper full-screen image with no distortion. Keep in mind, however, that though the MVX350i will record in wide-screen mode, it does not record at HDTV resolution. Resolution remains at 720×480, with only the aspect ratio altered.
There is a typical array of automatic exposure modes on the camera, including Sports, Portrait, Spotlight, Low Light and Sand & Snow. In addition to a slow-shutter mode, the camera features an LED that illuminates nearby objects in dark situations. The MVX350i offers a number of manual adjustments, including exposure shift, focus, white balance and shutter speed. The Easy mode does an admirable job of automatically adjusting all the camera’s settings, which you’ll appreciate, given the cumbersome use of the jog dial to change most of these settings.
The MVX350i shoots still images at 1,280×960 or 640×480, and it can capture Motion JPEG AVI movies at 320×240 or 160×120 pixels. A 32MB MultiMediaCard (MMC) is included for saving either stills or video clips; the camera can also use SD cards. The built-in flash offers a red-eye-reduction mode.
In most shooting conditions, the Canon MVX350i’s automatic modes perform well. Auto exposure and auto white balance are very quick, and auto focus is snappy in bright situations. In more dimly lit environments, auto focus can take a second or two to lock on to a subject. The digital image stabilizer does an excellent job of smoothing the movements of a shaky shooting hand.
The manual controls work as you’d expect, but are difficult to manipulate, particularly when you’re shooting. You focus manually by using the jog dial mounted directly in front of the LCD, which isn’t in the easiest spot to reach when shooting and doesn’t offer the speed or precision you get from a focus ring.
Pic remote control. The MVX350i’s built-in microphone performs well, but it’s not highly directional and was sensitive enough to pick up the sound of the plastic buttons being pressed as we adjusted settings while shooting. We recommend the use of an external microphone for better quality sound in your presentation videos.
In daylight and brightly lit situations, the MVX350i records vibrant, sharp video. Colours are accurate, edges are crisp and well defined, and textures are very evident.
A nice, inexpensive camcorder with the attributes that we require, namely a [tag]firewire[/tag] port, a remote control, an external microphone port and a good quality lens. This is not the only camcorder available with these attributes so visit your local store or look around the internet to find what you require within your budget.