Canon DC220 Camcorder Review
Handling and Use
Ease of Use* (7.5)*
The DC220 is even easier to master than the DC50 because it has less options, including no flash or video light, and limited automatic and manual controls. The menu is less extensive, placing the DC220 within the reach of most novice consumer DVD camcorder crowd. This is strictly a point-and shooter camcorder. Despite its basic offerings, the DC220 sports a rear-mounted joystick, which enables one-handed operation. All the power lies at your thumb, and Canon’s quick menu can be accessed by pressing the center of the joystick for instant adjustment.
Now the DC220’s low strung hand strap is a double edged sword. On one hand, the strap is an example of what camcorder handling should not be. The DC220 will flop to the side if not clenched with a death grip. On the other hand, opening the disc hatch is a lot easier. Most DVD camcorders have a disc hatch that gets tangled up with the hand strap and offers a reduced opening range. In the end, we’d rather have a better hand strap—it’s the only thing connecting you to the camcorder, and the demand for comfort on long day of shooting is quite high.
The manual lens cover switch is a good idea for responsible people, but for most families and amateurs, it will only be used once—to open the lens for the first video recording. It will then never be closed again. Scratches will accumulate, debris will pile up, and you’ll be wondering why the DC220’s already subpar image looks even worse. Remember to close that lens cover! The DC50 features an automatic lens enclosure.
Overall the DC220 handles well, thanks to its rear-mounted joystick, light weight, and simplified control layout—but there are a few sticks in the spokes. For one, the hand strap is cheap and inefficient, certain buttons are inconveniently placed, and the viewfinder is a sorry sight.
The rear-mounted joystick reigns supreme amongst consumer camcorders—most Canons and all Panasonics feature them. The best thing about a rear-mounted joystick is that you can control everything with one hand. Panasonic takes it a step further by placing the menu button within the immediate vicinity of the joystick to ensure a rapid adjustment. The DC220 is not quite as gifted. Its menu button is located in the ring of controls embedded on the left side of the camcorder. Because of this, the shooter is forced to reach around and tilt the DC220 at an angle in order to press the menu button. This diverts the camcorder from its subject and eats up time. Manual control freaks will find this most vexing.
The DC220 is not a tank. You can haul it around all day and not suffer from arthritis or a dislocated shoulder. It makes those trips all the way out to Grandma’s house in the Poconos all the more worthwhile.
One thing you’ll notice about the DC220’s architecture is that it is highly simplified and minimalistic. The battery engulfs the LCD cavity, which is usually home to most of the menu controls and the memory card slot. Your only option is a ring of buttons located at the top right of the LCD cavity. For most point-and-shooters, this is a dream. Fewer bells and whistles means reduced bewilderment.
Now let’s talk about that infamous Canon hand strap. It’s thin, it’s cheap, it cuts into your hand, an it’s strung pretty low, contributing to the DC220’s tendency to flop to the side of your palm at a 90 degree angle. Canon should take notes from Sony—the HDR-HC7 is a great example with its breathable mesh construction and pillow-like padding. The DC220’s hand strap will diminish your tolerance for longer shoots.
Lastly, it’s time to mention another Canon classic—the non-extendable, miniscule hard plastic knob they call the DC220’s viewfinder. What is it with Canon? Between their hand straps, record start/stop buttons, and lame viewfinders, you’d think you were buying a prototype. This "viewfinder" is highly uninviting. Most shooters will use the LCD screen, but those looking to save battery will pretty much get the shaft.
The DC220’s menu structure is classic Canon. The rear-mounted joystick is the sole control, allowing you to scroll and select, all in one touch. Finagling the joystick will take a little while to get the hang of, but once you do, you’ll never want a touch screen or touchpad again. Canon and Panasonic are at the forefront of sensible handling design, and you’ll notice that with the DC220.
Pressing the center of the joystick brings up a small submenu that consists of quick playback, digital image effects on/off, exposure, and focus. Pressing down on the joystick toggles between the three pages and shifting the joystick in the direction of the option selects that option. Pressing the center of the joystick again does away with the quick menu, so you can adjust on the fly.
|Function menu||Main, or administration, menu|
The function button located in the ring of controls on the left side of the DC220 brings up the function menu. Here, you have your program AEs: Auto, Shutter-Priority AE, and Portrait. Next is the white balance: Auto, daylight, tungsten, and manual set. Image effects come after and include vivid, neutral, and soft skin detail. The DC220 has a wealth of digital effects also: fade-t, wipe, black and white, sepia, art, and mosaic. You can choose between quality settings in the next row: XP, SP, and LP. The DC220’s still image recording sizes are listed next and are composed of fine and superfine settings. Lastly, the administrative menu can be selected at the bottom of the list.
The DC220’s administrative menu is identical to the DC50’s except for the remote control option found in the system setup screen. From the top, the camera setup encompasses auto slow shutter, digital zoom, zoom speed, image stabilization, widescreen, self timer, and wind screen settings. Next is disc operations which includes disc info and disc initialize. The display setup follows and offers brightness, LCD monitor, TV screen, markers, language, and demo mode settings. System setup is next and includes controls for camera beep, power save, standby, and file numbers. You can set the date and time within the date and time tab that follows the system setup.
The digital still menu is essentially the same, aside from a few minor changes. The joystick menu is missing the quick playback feature; the function menu offers two different still sizes—1024 x 768 and 640 x 480; and the administrative menu includes focus priority, review, and media selection.
For the tourist on the go, the DC220 is highly portable, measuring in at 54 x 90 x 128mm (2.1 x 3.5 x 5.0 in.) with a weight of 405g (14.3 oz.). Not only will the DC220 fit in a small camcorder bag with room to spare, but it will fit in most oversized cargo pockets—for those who dare to wear cargo pants. The only issue you’ll run into involves the cell phone-sized battery found within the DC220’s shallow LCD cavity. The DC220’s wafer of a battery is flush with the LCD screen, eliminating the possibility for an extended shooting session. This means you have to stock up on batteries just for a good half day of shooting. Canon’s battery design is not the best. During transport, the DC220 should stand its ground as long as you cover the lens. Remember to cover the lens! Make it a mantra because all it takes is one grain of sand in a cluttered beach bag to render your DVD memory machine an injured shelf dweller.
LCD and Viewfinder* (5.0)*
The DC220 is equipped with a 2.7" wide LCD screen with a 123,000 pixel display. The image is crisp, although this is not in any way an accurate representation of what you’ll end up with during playback. Along the bottom of the LCD screen is a horizontal panel consisting of four buttons: zoom in, zoom out, record start/stop, and playlist. During playback, the buttons double as rewind, fast forward, play/pause, and stop. The flattened buttons are similar to a mini BOSE sound system remote control. The LCD hinge is feeble but what else do you expect in this price range? Even the Canon HV20’s LCD is lacking in the sturdiness department.
Canon has a knack for designing cheap, uncomfortable viewfinders, and the DC220 is a prime example. Is it better than not including one at all? Perhaps, but only in the way that getting coal for Christmas is better than getting nothing. The small, hard plastic stub does not extend or feature a rubberized eyecup, much like the entry-level ZR camcorder line. The screen is 0.27" wide and has the same 123,000 pixel resolution as the LCD screen. The DC220’s viewfinder is 3/4 the size of the DC50’s, and it features the dioptric adjuster underneath the bottom ridge. Very cheap, Canon, very, very cheap.
Battery Life* (7.7)*
The DC220 ships with the BP-208 battery pack, a slim battery that slips into the LCD cavity. This is a severely limiting portability issue, as the camcorder can take an expanded battery pack. You're stuck with the life capacity of this battery or a second one, if you choose to purchase it. We tested the BP-208 for its life during continuous recording. The LCD was open and the backlight on. No manual control or zoom was engaged. When the disc needed to be changed, the DC power was plugged in. In total, the battery lasted a total of 76 minutes and 53 seconds (1 hour, 6 minutes, and 53 seconds) - a truly sorry performance.
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