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Comparison of Four 800,000-Pixel Camcorders

Inputs/ Outputs

DV And Analog Inputs/ Outputs

All of the camcorders in this group have a complete set of DV and analog inputs/ outputs (composite and S-video). These inputs literally turn a camcorder into a digital/ analog video recorder. For instance, a Sony DCR-TRV22 can record a film from a computer (DV input), VCR or Hi8 camcorder (analog inputs). This is obviously very useful if you want to retrieve your shots on film or digitize an old VHS cassette on MiniDV.

The Hitachi DZ-MV350 comes with a USB 2.0 interface instead of the usual four-pin FireWire. This is a good choice, since at 480 Mbps USB 2.0 has an output higher than FireWire. Of course, only a computer with the new USB 2.0 interface will be able to take full advantage of this speed, regardless of whether it is a PC or an Apple. Of course, the camera will work with USB 1.1 as well - just not at full speed. The Hitachi DZ-MV350 can transfer DVD to PC using a special software kit supplied with its USB 2.0 drivers. Editing sequences on software is a delicate operation because each clip is a separate MPEG-2 file which freezes the image for half a second when you view it on TV. Fortunately, Hitachi has provided advanced editing functions on the camcorder to let you organize your clips with their transitions, cuts and titles in real time on the DVD, so you don't have to use a computer to edit your video!

USB Input

The USB input is now standard on camcorders. It is mainly used for transferring photos to a computer, but can also serve to turn the camcorder into a Webcam. You just install the drivers, plug in the camcorder with the USB and run a video conference program like NetMeeting. Try it and you'll see! But remember you need to set a parameter in the menu to use the Webcam mode (e.g. "USB Streaming" in the menu on the Sony DCR-TRV22).

Mike And Headphone Inputs

The mikes integrated on camcorders are often of poor quality - especially the one on the JVC GR-DX95, which picks up sound from the back instead of the front - and so an input for an external mike is absolutely essential. Isn't it just typical that the JVC GR-DX95 is the camcorder without a mike input... A headphone jack is always a good idea for controlling sound, or just listening to the cassette in peace.