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With its tiny CCD, the DC201 was never going to lead the pack in terms of video quality, and it mostly met our expectations during testing. With adequate lighting, colours look vibrant, but as with most consumer camcorders in this price range the electronics deliberately over-saturate as that's generally what users want. The picture is also quite grainy, even in bright sunlight. We'd rather have the colour performance, though, so this is not a huge worry.
The noise is more of an impediment as the illumination is reduced. In the equivalent of a living room lit by a couple of 100W tungsten bulbs, there is still plenty of colour, but the image looks quite fuzzy due to increased noise. Again, the everyday user is probably going to want colour over pin sharpness, but there are better performers in this price range, such as Panasonic's NV-GS230. So the DC201 is acceptable in the all important shooting condition that is indoor family events, but hardly the best in its class.
Dropping the light levels still further, however, makes the DC201's picture essentially unusable. Although there is still a reasonable amount of colour information there - surprisingly more than the three-chip Panasonic NV-GS230 can muster - the grain rises to such an extent that most detail disappears. This blurriness won't be acceptable to most consumers.
Being a DVD-based camcorder, the DC201's footage can be edited in most mainstream apps - so long as you have a DVD drive. A slot-loading one won't do either, as it won't be compatible with 8cm optical discs. If not, you're out of luck as there's no integrated USB port for taking video directly from the camcorder. The Canon isn't exactly brimming with other connectivity options, either. There's a proprietary minijack for hooking up composite analogue video and RCA audio, and that's it.
The Canon DC201 is not exactly an exciting camcorder. But it is extremely cheap, and as usual with Canon camcorders the range of manual settings is comprehensive and easy to use. Whilst our concerns with the practicality of the DVD recording format remain, if you're willing to put up with carrying around a bag full of media then the DC201 makes for good value, if not particularly stunning image quality.
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