Price When Reviewed: £1,299
Whether a digital-video professional or a keen amateur, you’ve probably lamented at some point that the heaviness and bulky nature of most prosumer MiniDV cameras make every filming session a pre-planned event. A good-quality camera that’s small enough to fit in your pocket and lightweight enough to carry at all times is likely to be high on your wishlist. Thanks to Canon, you can now cross that one off your Christmas list. Continuing down its path to miniaturization, Canon has introduced the MV3 range of DV cameras. This stunning little camera is small enough to fit into the palm of your hand, yet offers tons of features for capturing motion and still images. Unlike previous Canon models, the MV3’s features a vertical design, which is a vast improvement on the ugly squat shape of the MV30. Similar in design to the JVC models – the GR-DVX8 and the GR-DVX9/10 – and Sony’s DCR PC5, the MV3 is even smaller with dimensions of 48-x-106-x-86mm and a weight of just 390g. Small but bijou The compact design is a result of Canon’s latest technology along with a slim lithium ion battery, a simpler layout and fewer switches. That said, however, no compromise has been made when it comes to the quality, features or functions. With an improved progressive scan 800,000 pixel CCD and RGB primary colour filter, the MV3 produces sharp images with impressive colour reproduction. An image stablizer is included – that works in both video and photo shooting modes – which helps reduce the effect of shaky hands. Most of the MV3’s controls, positioned on the back of the camera, can be easily accessed by the thumb, with the forefinger and index finger controlling the photo button and the zoom on the side. That said, getting a comfortable grip on the MV3 may vary from user to user, depending on how large your hand is. For most, some care needs to be taken to avoid wrapping the first or second fingers around to touch the lens. Once your grip is sorted, you should find using the camera reasonably comfortable for short periods of time, at least. Accessing the pressure-sensitive zoom control button, however, was a little tricky as it’s fairly sensitive and so it takes a while to master smooth zooms. Other features include a new smaller lens with a 10x optical zoom and 40x digital zoom, a 200,000 pixel, 2.5 inch LCD monitor mounted on the side of the camera which gives clear, sharp images, and a new three-element stereo microphone system located on top of the unit. The DV out (DV in/out ports on the MV3i and MV3i MC models) and composite video and sound jacks are found on the back of the camera. Ports for headphone, external microphone, LANC controller, and S-video output are available only on an (included) separate docking unit – which helps account for the reduced size of the camera. Manual control The MV3 offers seven autoexposure modes for different shooting situations including an easy recording option, as well as full manual control over focus, exposure, white balance and shutter speed. For those feeling extra creative, there are four special effects available – art, B&W, sepia and mosaic – along with digital fades. The MC version that we looked at is the first Canon DV camera to have a MultiMedia Card (MMC) slot. Using the 8MB card supplied, you can capture around 100 still images in Standard mode and around 60 images in Fine mode. The MV3 MC also offers you the chance to liven up your productions with special effects. The MMC comes pre-loaded with several images that you can chroma-key or luma-key into your video, and you can use video with a blue background to superimpose on a still. You can also use your own images for this, which is a good idea as the provided ones are of the cheesy, greeting-card style. The camera’s main disappointment lies with its battery. The LCD – bright and accurate though it is – saps battery juice at an alarming rate. Don’t expect much more than 45-50 minutes using the included Li-ion battery before being confronted by the “replace battery” message. You could use the viewfinder instead, of course, but it’s uncomfortable to use for any length of time. Buy one of the optional larger batteries. These substantially extend the camera’s recording ability, although they reduce its streamline appearance. Be aware also, that the MV3 draws power even when off, so it’s best to remove the battery for storage overnight or longer. Other minor drawbacks include a slightly slow autofocus that’s particularly noticeable in low-light conditions; awkward dial positions for memory card record and memory card playback (on opposite sides of the Power dial); and the microphone’s position on the top of the camera doesn’t appear to help audio recording quality, as it picks up a lot of ambient noise. Overall though, the MV3 is a great miniDV camera: small enough to take anywhere, with tons of features and capable of great video quality in normal shooting conditions.