I wanted to add a review of the Praktica DVC 5.2 FHD
) - it didn't get mentioned too often here or only in the wrong context (DXG-596, it has nothing to do with that model). It is a cheap hybrid camcorder. Prices start at 150 € plus 9 € shipping and 170 Pound in the UK in price comparisons on the internet. I didn't find prices for the U.S. yet.
Img. 1: Front View. The Flash sits in a different position compared to the Toshiba Camileo H20, but that is just a cosmetical difference.
Img. 2: The rear side of the Praktica DVC 5.2 HD. The controls are easy to reach.
Img. 3: In the bottom you plug-in the battery (NP-60 form factor) and the SD(HC)-card. There is also a standard tripod mount.
It is the same make as the Toshiba Camileo H20
) and Yashica ADV-530 HD
). Other than those, the Praktica doesn't offer an electronic image stabilizer (EIS) in the VGA and CIF resolutions. In a review with a proper test which I found on the net they conclude that the EIS is useless anyway; in CIF resolution it allegedly even worsens the shaking. Unfortunately I can't find that review anymore.
The camera supports plenty of recording resolutions: 1440x1080 @ 29.97 fps (16:9 anamorph resulting in 1920x1080 pixel resolution), 1280x720 @ 29.97 fps, WVGA 848x480 @ 59,91 fps, 640x480 @ 29.97 fps and finally 352x240 @ 29.97 fps. It supports the NTSC TV system therefore. With more recent equipment like high definition TVs and players like the WDTV that is no problem in Europe though. Also for downscaling to standard definition resolutions for example for DVD creation in NTSC this is no problem. I tested that on some different players and "young" TVs (oldest was 5 years old) and they all played back the content properly.
I was using the camera for short clips only yet and mainly compare it to my old Aiptek AHD-300 - which I got fed up of because of the bad sound quality and the missing optical zoom. The sound quality of the Praktica is really good. The motor for the zoom and autofocus is inaudible in the clips. There is no trick needed like muting the sound like other hybrid cams use.
Video 1: Demo consisting of three clips in darkness and three in the break of dawn.
The Praktica DVC 5.2 FHD behaves best in daylight situations. In those the autofocus works fast and reliable. In dark conditions the image often isn't as sharp as it could be though. This is due to the contrast-mask which the Praktica 5.2 uses for adjusting the focus - and the contrast is very low in the dark, of course. The nightshot mode results in the same reduced framerate clips as setting EV to +1. You can see that in the demo clip I uploaded to Youtube. The clips themselves are still at 29.97 fps, but the motion is not as fluent.
Video 2: Testing the Zoom and the Autofocus.
The camera has to be moved very calm due to the lacking optical image stabilizer. In one part of the clip I was running to work and just stopped with the camera in my hand. This results in bad shaking in the video. You should avoid zooming in such situations, you can clearly see an annoying wobble-effect. A steadycam would be the way to go with the Praktica.
Video 3: Macro mode test.
The controls are easy to reach and self-explanatory. There isn't much you can do in the settings, just change the resolution, choose another white balance type, hint the scene mode (skin, night shot...), enable or disable Macro mode and change EV. You can see the options in the data sheet on the manufacturer website.
Video 4: Low Light test; flat is lit just with LED spots.
The RGB noise from the sensor in Low Light conditions is acceptable in my opinion, my Aiptek AHD-300 didn't cope better with that. All in all I like the Praktica camera. Anyhow I still can't wait to get hold on a camera featuring Ambarella A5 + the 10 MP sensor as it should give better quality results.
Video 5: Using a mini tripod to hold the camera to see if the shaking gets better.
The average bitrates the camera produces are:
1080p @30 fps ~ 8 MBit in average
720p @ 30 fps ~ 4 MBit in average
Pictures shot in native 5 MPixel resolution are compressed to 2.5 - 3 MB per image. That is a data rate native 5-MPixel-digicams specialized in photography use as well.
Video 6: Nice view (1), the alps from austria and suisse are cloud-free.
You certainly need something to stabilize the camera when doing pans while zooming in.
Video 7: Nice view (2), nice nature with the alps in the background.
Better, but with a tripod the clip would definatly shake less and would look more beautiful.
Img. 4: Dead tree in front of a nice chapel
Zoom doesn't work when taking stills. I zoomed so much that only the dead tree and the chapel were in the image - but when pressing the photography-button, the camera went back into total perspective. Also pictures in weak light conditions are blurred and thus unusable. You still want to take a good digicam (like my Fuji F40fd) with you if you think you don't have the best light conditions where you want to take photographs.
I made another test clip with the DVC 5.2 FHD, this time while riding a car - I see such clips often here so that might be nice for comparisons. I cut out the audio as I was talking to a friend all the time and that would be wasting everybodys nerves:
Video 8: Riding a car from south germany to austria.
I didn't find a way to get to the service menu yet. So I can't tell the firmware version used in my cam. There is no firmware update publicly available on the internet. I asked the Praktica support and they don't have a newer firmware version either.
Any questions? Comments are appreciated! :-) Sorry for the "bad language", I'm no native english speaker.