Comparison of Four 800,000-Pixel Camcorders

Image Stabilizer

All the camcorders in this test have a digital image stabilizer, which digitally reinterprets the image. A stabilizer is generally designed to compensate for shaky hands (visible in zoom mode) but not sudden jerks. Unlike the optical stabilizer which works with mobile lenses, the digital ones use part of the sensor to process the image. This causes a slight loss of quality that is only perceptible in dim light. We noticed substantial differences between models here. The Sony DCR-TRV22 and Canon Elura 50 catch the image very well in zoom mode. But the JVC does not compensate much for shaking. You can see for yourself how small the difference is between "with" and "without" stabilizer in our pictures below.

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A camcorder with stabilizerA camcorder without stabilizer

16/9 Mode

Though each camcorder has a 16/9 mode, there are two types of display: anamorphic and letterbox. In 16/9 anamorphic, the image is stretched vertically from the top to the bottom of the screen. Anamorphic is only compatible with 16/9 TVs. On a regular 4/3 screen the image would be deformed. And while some camcorders (Sony DCR-TRV22) have a 16/9-compatible LCD screen that displays the image properly with black bands to fill in the gaps, others (Canon Elura 50) display a "stretched" image, which is not very pleasing to look at.

In 16/9 letterbox mode, black bands are inset from the top and bottom of the image to give a "movie" effect. The 4/3 format is fully preserved and you can run the film on a standard TV with no problem. The JVC GR-DX95 has both 16/9 modes.


Shooting Comfort: Screen And Viewfinder

The screen and the viewfinder are what you use to control the shot. And since you are likely to have your eye glued to them, you should choose the best. In most cases, the viewfinder has to be pulled out before you can use it. The screen is always in color and can be adjusted to take impressive shots (panning over a crowd or low angle shots). The Sony DCR-TRV22 takes the prize here with its color viewfinder of 113,000 pixels and LCD screen of 123,200 pixels. The JVC GR-DX95 has the biggest screen of all the compacts on the market at three inches for 200,000 pixels! This is a fine performance, but the black and white viewfinder spoils it a bit. The Canon Elura 50 has the smallest screen of the lot (two inches), which seems very tight.