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The DVD camcorder used to command a premium. But now you can pick them up for a similarly low cost to DV models. The Canon DC201 is one of the most economical we've seen yet. Coming in at under £200, it's virtually pocket money by camcorder standards. Only a few models from Samsung and Hitachi are currently cheaper. So what is the DC201 missing to allow its keen price?
Based around a single 1/6in CCD with 800,000 pixels, the DC201 is very much a budget specification. Such small CCDs invariably entail poor performance in low light. The tiny sensor does have one advantage, however. Because it's so small, the lens is able to provide a large optical zoom. In the DC201's case, it's a whopping 30x - much larger than the usual 10-20x found on consumer camcorders. If you like video pixellated, you can add digital zoom for up to 800x, too, although we would always recommend you don't bother.
The DC201 records to 8cm DVD-R and RW, but also supports dual-layer media. Three quality levels are available - XP running at 9Mbits/sec, SP at 6Mbits/sec, and LP at 3Mbits/sec. In the top XP mode, a single-layer DVD will hold just 20 minutes, but a dual-layer one has almost twice the capacity (2.6GB versus 1.4GB), so will fit a more respectable 35 minutes. Nevertheless, this is still the format's most major drawback now that hard disk-based and SD models (with a large enough memory card) can hold hours of footage.
As this is a cheap camcorder for consumers, the DC201 is not surprisingly low on enthusiast options. It has no accessory shoe, microphone input or headphone output. But hardly anyone would buy a camcorder in this class for these things anyway. It is at least small and comfortable to use, and a convenient switch on the side opens the built-in lens cover, rather than having a dangling cap.