camcorders

Canon DC40 Camcorder Review

May 17, 2006
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Performance

Video Performance*(7.0)*

The Canon DC40 features a 1/2.8" CCD, larger than any other single chip DVD camcorder on the market. This chip has 4.29 gross MP, with 2.74 effective MP in 16:9 with image stabilization on, 2.99 effective MP in 16:9 with the image stabilization off, and 3.5 effective MP in 4:3.

At 3000 lux, the DC40 had excellent color performance. Every color was strong but not oversaturated. The contrast was excellent, as well, with dark blacks and bright whites. The picture was not the sharpest, however. Most of its edges show some serious artifacts, probably due to bad compression. Diagonal and curved lines show a lot of stair-stepping. These problems are at least as bad as those in the Sony DVD405, which we complained about in that review. Noise was much worse than in the DVD405 and appeared to flare up around any areas of contrast. Note, in the zoomed image below, the noise that appears along the dotted line on the left and the sides of the resolution trumpets.

Comparatively, the DVD405 had roughly the same color performance, with more reds, while the DC40 has more greens. The DVD405 has more apparent sharpness than the DC40, but the stronger contrast between black and white makes the jaggies more visible in the DVD405.

 

A crop of the Canon DC40 (zoomed about 200%)

The same portion of the chart from the Sony DCR-DVD405 (200% zoom)

The Panasonic VDR-D300, which has three 1/6" CCDs, produced a much sharper image, with equally vivid colors, at only $100 more.

Last year’s DC20, with a 1/3.9" CCD, actually showed far fewer artifacts. Color balance was about the same, but the colors were slightly less vivid. The DC10, which had a smaller 1/4" CCD, produced an image with a more faded look. Its picture was also less sharp, though it did not have the artifacts that appeared in the DC40.

While Canon proved itself great at reproducing colors, it failed to make a sharp final product.

  **Video Performance**
 Canon DC40  7.0
 Sony DCR-DVD405  7.2
Panasonic VDR-D300   7.75
 Canon DC10  7.0

**Video Resolution ***(13.0)*

The resolution of the DC40’s stills were tested by shooting a standard ISO 12233 resolution chart and running stills from that footage through Imatest imaging software. In 4:3 aspect ratio, the DC40 produced 455.9 lines of horizontal resolution and 284.3 lines of vertical resolution, yielding an approximate total of 129612.37. In 16:9 aspect ratio, the camcorder produced 476.4 lines of horizontal resolution and 302.4 lines of vertical resolution, yielding an approximate resolution of 144063.36.

The chart below shows how the DC40 fared against the competition in video resolution.

 **Video Resolution** 
 Canon DC40  13.0
 Sony DCR-DVD405  14.2
 Panasonic VDR-D300  16.5
 Canon DC10  10.3

**Low Light Performance ***(4.5)

*The Canon DC40 was tested, like all camcorders here, for its low light performance by shooting at 60 lux and 15 lux, both of which can be a challenge for a camcorder, which are not as sensitive to light as the human eye. 

At 60 lux, the large 1/2.8" CCD was able to provide a fair amount light, but not as much as we expected. Low light has typically not been Canon’s strength, and the DC40 does not appear to be turning the tide. The main problem was brightness. Noise did not increase significantly. Color balance did not fail (that is to say, auto gain did not skew certain colors). But the colors, which were vivid at 3000 lux, fail to pop at 60 lux. 

 By contrast, the Sony DCR-DVD405 had very strong colors. This seems to be a result of strong gain, but the camcorder was able to keep the noise in check. The entire picture was brighter, overall, as well. 

The Canon DC20, with a slightly smaller CCD, produced much duller colors. This is, in part, probably related to the difference in chip size, but the new DC40 also seems to have slightly higher saturation levels. The Panasonic VDR-D300, with three small CCDs, did not have a bright image at all, not did color distinction look that good. 

The DC40 also offers shutter speed control in a Shutter Priority mode. This allows you to shift the shutter speed while the camcorder automatically adjusts the other exposure controls. At 1/30th of a second, the image was much brighter. While this setting would tend to blur fast moving objects, the blur would not be overwhelming. 

At 1/15th of a second, the image became very bright and vivid, but at this speed, moving objects would blur significantly.

At 15 lux in auto mode, the DC40 has lost most of the color information. This is very disappointing for a chip of this size. The Sony DVD405 managed to push some colors through, thanks to heavy saturation. At this light level, it’s probably better to have some color rather than accurate color. The Canon DC20 was much darker, almost greyscale. The Panasonic VDR-D300 produced strong greens, but most of the other colors failed to show through.

At 15 lux with a 1/30th shutter speed, the image was brighter, and might be a recommended for users. At 1/15th of a second, the image looked great, but would only be useful for non-moving subjects (a still life of fruit at midnight, perhaps?).

  **Low Light Performance**
 Canon DC40  4.5
 Sony DCR-DVD405  5.75
 Panasonic VDR-D300  3.5
Canon DC10   4.0

Wide Angle* (9.4)*

The Canon DC40 DVD camcorder provides users with both 16:9 and 4:3 recording formats. Although we expected to see the same type of successful results found with Canon’s MiniDV camcorders, we were surprised to find otherwise upon testing. The Canon DC40 was tested in both 16:9 and 4:3 formats and, with both, this camcorder produced a 47 degree field of view. This is surprising and a bit disappointing: for $899, widescreen on a DVD camcorder should be standard. Unfortunately, the DC40 engages a crop and zoom technique that eliminates information from the top and bottom of an image when switched from 4:3 to 16:9. This cropping technique is actually the exact opposite of what should occur in 16:9 format.

 

 

 

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Sections

  1. Performance
  2. Format
  3. Tour
  4. Auto/Manual Controls
  5. Still Features
  6. Handling and Use
  7. Audio/Playback/Connectivity
  8. Other Features
  9. Comparisons/Conclusion
  10. Specs/Ratings
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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