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Product Review
 

Concord EYE-Q 5345z (5 MP) Snapshot, Eye-Q 4363z (4 MP) Snapshot, and DV2020 Video Cameras

November, 2004

John E. Johnson, Jr.

 

Click Photo Above to See Larger Version

Specifications:

5345z

● 5 MegaPixels
● 3X Optical Zoom; 4X Digital Zoom
● 1.5" LCD
● MPEG-4 Movie Mode
● Uses SD and MC Memory Cards
● Built-In Flash
● Uses Two AA Rechargeable Batteries
    (Batteries and Charger Included)
● Dimensions: 1" H x 3" W x 1" D
● Weight: 1 Pound
● MSRP: $379.99 USA

 

4363z

● 4 MegaPixels
● 3X Optical Zoom; 6X Digital Zoom
● 1.5" LCD
● MPEG-4 Movie Mode
● Uses SD Memory Cards
● Built-In Flash
● Uses Two AA Batteries
● Dimensions: 1" H x 3.5" W x 1" D
● Weight: 1 Pound
● MSRP: $249.99 USA

 

DV2020

● Records Video in AVI Format
● Fixed Focus Lens (1 Meter to Infinity)
● 1.5" LCD
● Snapshot Mode
● Uses SD Memory Cards
● Built-In Flash
● Uses Rechargeable Lithium Battery
    (Battery and Charger Included)
● Dimensions: 3.5" H x 1.5" W x 2" D
● Weight: 1 Pound
● MSRP: $229.99 USA

 

Concord Camera

www.concord-camera.com

Introduction

Recently, Concord Camera announced a new video camera, the DV2020. Well, that is not news you might say. But, in this case, it is, because the video camera will fit in your shirt pocket, stores the videos on SD memory cards, and is only $230. It will also take snapshots.

The DV2020 uses the AVI format, in a highly compressed arrangement, which means a couple of things. One is that the videos don't take up much space in storage. Secondly, the resolution is more like VHS than DV.

So, what do you want for $230? Well, as it turns out, you get what you pay for, as described below.

Concord also sent me their 5345z, which is a 5 MP (MegaPixel) snapshot camera, and the 4363z, which is a 4 MP snapshot camera. They will both also take videos. Since I had them all here at the same time, I thought I would publish the review together, especially since digital cameras these days seem to have both snapshot and video capabilities, regardless of their primary intent.

Therefore, the goal of this review was to determine what kind of basic digital camera would be best for both types of use (snapshots and videos), if there is such a camera. However, keep in mind that the videos from these small digital cameras are really just for sending vacation clips to your family and friends. They are not meant to replace a conventional video camera.

The Designs

The DV2020 obviously uses a very small sensor, because the lens is tiny. This implies a short focal length, which allows for having it be a fixed focus design.

Fixed focus lenses have been around for decades. Those of old enough to remember our Kodak Brownie cameras may not have known then that it used a fixed focus lens, but it did. It also used large gauge roll film, so the focal length was not short. They got around this by the lens having an f/8 aperture which ensured that everything from about 6 feet on was in focus.

The DV2020 can use a larger aperture because the focal length is short, in order to deliver a full field image on a small sensor. Short focal length lenses have larger depths of field (the range of distance that everything appears in focus).

The 5345z and 4363, on the other hand, have larger lenses, because the sensors are larger. The DV2020 specifies having a maximum resolution setting of 2048x1536, and the 5345z has 2560x1920, with the 4363 having 2272x1704. You might think that the snapshot quality of the DV2020 would be close to the other two cameras. Read on.

The DV2020 has all of its controls accessed from the Menu button on the rear of the camera, with a small dial to change the selections, and a large dial to change the mode (movie vs. shapshots).

There are several choices for resolution both for movies and still photos. To change the selection in movie mode, you depress the small dial. Then you are presented with five basic settings: 320x240 in three different qualities, and 160x120 in two qualities. For still photos, there are three resolutions: 2048x1536, 1600x1200, and 800x600.

With the 5345z and 4363z, you get more resolution settings for still photos, from the maximum resolution listed above, down to 640x480. But, you only get one setting for movie mode with the 5345z and two for the 4363z. The video appears to be recorded at 15 frames per second.

Here is a photo of the rear panels of all three cameras:

Click on the photo to see a more detailed version. The 5345z is on the left, the 4363z is in the middle, and the DV2020 is on the right.

The 5345z and 4363z have pretty much the same controls, but they are laid out quite differently.

You set the menu options with the Menu button and then use the dial to change settings. Both cameras have such things as White Balance, EV Shift (changes the ISO), Self Timer, ISO, AF (Auto Focus) Area, Metering Area, and Digital Zoom (both cameras have 3x optical zoom). The 5345z adds the ability to set the Sharpness, Saturation, Contrast, and Flash Intensity.

The 5345z has one feature that I really like, namely a grid that can be overlain on the image. This lets you line up the horizon or any other part of your picture. It is especially helpful when taking panorama photos.

All three cameras use SD Memory Cards, and all three have some built-in memory. The number of still photos that the memory cards can store is like other cameras, but the video storage is worth mentioning here. The DV2020 can record 11 minutes of video on a 128MB card at its highest resolution setting, and 1 hour 24 minutes at its lowest resolution setting. This has importance not only to the card you have in the camera, but to what you might be doing with the files, because the DV2020 is really designed to produce videos that you can e-mail to your friends, rather than to make home videos of your vacations and childrens' birthday parties.

Software comes with all the cameras. I found that I needed to install drivers for the 5345z and DV2020, but the 4363z seemed to be recognized by Windows without the driver. Even if you don't install the drivers though, you can simply take the SD card out and put it in a card reader in order to transfer the files to your computer. The DV2020 instruction manual states that you need the included software to view the videos, but it turns out that Windows Media Player shows them just fine. So, when you send some videos to your family while you are on vacation, they should be able to view them without any additional software.

OK, Let's Take a Look at Some Pictures

I found all three cameras very easy to use. They recorded lots of pictures or videos without the need to recharge batteries very often. Odd that the DV2020 comes with a Lithium Ion rechargeable battery, while the 5345z came with rechargeable AA batteries, or in the case of the 4363z, it only came with some regular alkaline non-rechargeable batteries. Usually, it is the expensive cameras that come with Lithium Ion batteries. I suppose the video format of the DV2020 requires more power, but its generally low resolution would imply that this is not the case.

Below are shown three photos, one taken with each camera. The ocean is in the distance, the foreground has numerous trees that result in shadows with high contrast.

5345z

4363z

DV2020

All three photos look similar at this size. However, click on each photo to see a large version, and the differences become apparent. I have included an inset of the center of the photo placed in the bottom right corner of each photo, at full size.

You can see that, while the photo from the 5345z is sharp and properly white balanced, the photo from the 4363z has a slight pink cast to it (this is correctable with any photo editor, but it is better to have the pictures not need adjustment). Both are sharp, although the 1 MP difference is noticeable. The ocean is visible even with all the contrasty objects throughout the field of view. The DV2020 photo on the other hand, while having proper white balance, is not sharp at all, and the inset shows this clearly. Also, notice that the ocean and sky are washed out. I had quite a bit of trouble getting proper exposure with the DV2020, which didn't do very well when the field was contrasty. So, even though the stated resolution is 2048x1536, the image is no where near as sharp as the 4363z at 2272x1704. The difference is not accounted for by just the slight reduction in resolution specification of the DV2020. It is more likely due to lens quality and the size of the sensor (2 MP). The 2048x1536 resolution is interpolated. Therefore, you can't base your choice of camera just on the specified resolution.

As to video modes, I took videos of a beach scene using the three cameras. Here are the results. Click on each of the links below to download the video. It should play on Windows Media Player.

5345z          4363z          DV2020

The video for the 5345z does not have any sound because it does not support audio, so to me, the 5345z video capability is not useful (but its snapshot quality is excellent). The video for the 4363z has both picture and sound, and is much better quality than the video from the 2020. Since the 4363z is almost the same price as the 2020, it would seem to have the better cost/performance ratio. However, the SD card that I had on hand worked in the 2020 but not in either the 5345z or 4363z. Also, the video file size for the 2020 is smaller than the video files from the 5345z or 4363z. So, for taking short videos on vacation, e-mailing them back home, saying, "Hi Grandma and Grandpa, we are having a great time," the 2020 might be the best choice, since the files are smaller. Its snapshot capabilities are not satisfactory though. To me, I would use the 4363z, even though it has larger video files, because the video quality is better, and the snapshot quality is very much better.

We noticed some issues in playing the video files from the three cameras. I had trouble with the 4363z video playing in Windows Media Player, while Steve Smallcombe had trouble with the 2020 video. Brian Florian had no trouble playing any of the three videos. The 4363z video file crashed Pinnacle Studio 9.1, Pinnacle Liquid 6.0 played it, but with no audio, and ULead Media Studio Pro played it fine, with picture and sound. Apparently, the codecs installed on different computers vary enough that they cannot properly decode every AVI file. I have the same difficulty with AVIs created in high-end non-linear video editors, captured from regular DV cameras, so it affects video capturing, viewing, and editing throughout the range of video editing software products that are out there. I am even having trouble getting AVI files captured in one video editor to be opened in another video editor, and both editors are made by the same company! Remember all the trouble we had with some DVDs playing on certain DVD players but not others? It was a huge problem at first, and now seems to be minor, although it still happens occasionally. Well, apparently it remains a big issue in the digital video camera capturing, editing, and playing arena. This is something that really needs to be fixed if the industry wants to sell lots of video editing products to consumers.

Conclusions

I think that trying to get a digital camera that does both video and still photography, and does them both well, in the budget arena may be futile. None of the three cameras tested here were great performers in this regard (but, in my experiences with a lot of cameras, they perform very well against their competition in general). I imagine it is a common problem, in that just too much is expected for $400 and down, and it is not something peculiar to Concord, who make cameras for lots of companies out there. At this point, I would suggest that you buy a snapshot camera for its snapshot capabilities (the Concord 5345z is very good at that), and get a good quality dedicated DV camera for videos. If you must get an inexpensive digital camera that does both, the Concord 4363z is the best choice of the three cameras reviewed here. Remember though, the video quality is suitable only for e-mailing videos to your friends and family. It is not intended for archiving family videos of vacations and events.


- John E. Johnson, Jr. -

 

Copyright 2004 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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