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Manufacturers are winding down their standard definition camcorder ranges, particularly DV. But if you don't plan on switching over to a high definition TV anytime soon, buying a high definition camcorder could be a bit of a waste of money - particularly when you can pick up a DV model for around £200, tapes cost a few quid, and software capable of editing the footage is bundled with Windows.
Canon's MD160 is one of only three consumer-oriented DV camcorders the company still sells in the UK. It's actually the flagship of the range, unless you spend thousands for one of the professional models. However, Canon is assuming that enthusiasts will be looking towards different formats, so this is very much a point-and-shoot model, with a £200 price tag and tiny palmcorder dimensions to match.
Getting it taped
As with most camcorders at the low end of the price scale, the MD160 is based around a tiny sensor - in this case, a 1/6in CCD with 1.07Mpixels. This provides the ability to take stills up to 1,152 x 864, with an SDHC slot integrated to record them onto removable storage. This is not exactly going to even give your camera phone a run for its money, though.
The MD160 isn't packed with features, either. There is no accessory shoe, and no microphone or headphone jacks are provided. The lens doesn't have a screw thread, so you can't fit any filters or adapters to expand your shooting options. Tapes load from the bottom, too, so you will need to unscrew the camcorder from your tripod's quick-release plate to change tapes. Not surprisingly at this price, the image stabilisation is the less effective electronic version rather than optical.
Our feelings are rather negative about companies quoting huge numbers for digital zooms, as these blow up the image digitally to achieve the magnification, which reduces resolution. But the MD160 sports a whopping 35x optical zoom, which is about the largest we've seen on any consumer camcorder. It also has a built-in lens cover operated by a slider, which will save you from having a plastic disc flopping around when you're shooting.