GE Digital DV1 £80
20th May 2011 | 09:00
You can take the waterproof GE DV1 anywhere – as long as you have room in your pockets
Don't weep for the fate of single-function devices. They have had their time. Faced with a page of sums, you've probably moved past reaching for a dedicated pocket calculator; you'll load a calculator app on your phone or even just type the equations straight in to Google.
You won't fill your pockets with a selection of clattering plastic boxes when a single slimline unit will do. The era of wide functionality is unquestionably upon us.
There's a counter argument, of course: why should you send the decathlete onto the track when the 100m expert is the one breaking the world records? It's a good point.
A specialised unit like this should theoretically best any comparably priced multi-function device. If you're a photographer, it's unlikely that you'll use the camera of a £400 smart phone in favour of a similarly priced DSLR. We say all this because the handheld video camera market appears to be spluttering its last breath.
Cisco, fresh from buying the rights to the Flip camera, has abruptly pulled it from the market as part of an overhaul of its consumer products division. When what looks like the market leader drops out of the race, things have got to be pretty bad, right?
GE's DV1 doesn't do an awful lot to assuage our fears, although it's a perfectly good device in isolation. It sports much the same form factor as the Flip – a small, portrait aligned nugget with little in the way of controls beyond a 'Record' button.
There's a USB connnector for charging and transferring video to your PC, and an SD slot for storage. The screen is larger than most in the category, and of a higher pixel density; next to the final generation of Flip cameras, we're inclined to pick this one every time, though little of it is used for video – over half is dedicated to the settings you're currently using.
Video quality is also good. There's the option to record in 720p at 60fps, which produces some very slick (though shaky) footage. It will also do 1,920 x 1,080 at 30fps, or you can choose slightly lower, softer resolutions and frame rates.
Movies come out in MOV format, and as long as you've set your white balance correctly, you should have no problems. A trip to sunny Weston-super-Mare left us with a particularly blue set of clips, so it's a shame the DV1 couldn't automatically save us our blushes.
The videos are also a little muddy. We found them a small step above the most recent generation of Flip cameras, at least in terms of footage in sunlight – footage shot under electric light at night is pretty grainy. Clarity is also quite poor, particularly at the 1080p end.
Paucity of features
As a single-function device, for £80, the DV1 does its job very well. It's a workhorse. If all you want is a point-and-shoot camcorder to take wobbly videos of your kittens, it's as good as, if not better than, anything else out there.
Here's the problem, though: aside from its rugged waterproof casing, which promises 5m of water resistance and 5ft of shockproofing, there's nothing that makes the DV1 any better than a compact camera of the same price. You'll certainly find more in the way of flexibility with a compact camera, along with features like optical zoom and better shake reduction than the DV1 can muster.
You'll soon be able take video of a similar standard with your mobile phone; we took some footage with an iPhone 4, which, though grainy, was about as effective, and we were able to edit and tweak the video all on the same device. It won't be long before mobile phones are able to take better quality video, offer 10m waterproofing, and whip up a tasty omelette at the same time.
So enjoy it while it lasts, because while single-function devices still have a lot of life left in them – and this is great if you're going to be splashing around – we can hear this particular sector of the market wheezing out a death rattle.
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