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|Jul 21, 2005, 1:17 AM||#1|
Join Date: Jul 2005
After having the Digilife DDV-S670 and now the DDV-720 for a few months, I've had time to get a better idea of their pros and cons. Since the cameras have sold well, I thought I'd write the review to include the comparison to the Aiptek DV-4500.
Digilife DDV-S670: smallest, best quality feel
Digilfe DDV-720: nice, not a toy
Aiptek DV4500: largest, acceptable quality feel, paint wears off quickly
Compared to the Aiptek DV4500, the Digilife DDV-S670 is about 20% smaller and lighter. The Digilife DDV-720 comes in between them. The Digilife's have a quality feel better than the Aiptek, and much better than the various Musteks I've handled. But not as good as, say, a $400 digital camera. None of these feel like toys. In fact, people who handle the 720 comment that it feels nice in the hand.
The Aiptek occasionally hung during playback. It also occasionally got a corrupted video clip, but this went away as the cameragot older. It may have been because of me gradually learning to do something better, like not rush operating it. The Digilife's have almost never hung, and I've never had a corrupt video from them.
Digilife DDV-720: good to excellent, 30fps, motion stabilization, handles contrast and low light well
Digilfe DDV-S670: good to excellent, 30fps, handles contrast and low light well, videos start with blank pauses
Aiptek DV4500: acceptable
The Digilife's do 640x480 at 30 frames per second, with two levels of detail available. They also do 320x280 at 30fps. The Aiptek DV4500 does 640x480 at 11fps, and 352x288 at 30fps. I would say that ignoring the fps differences, the Digilife's either compress less or smarter, allowing better detail at the same resolution. Unlike the Aiptek, the Digilife's do not compress evergreen trees into blocky digital fuzz. I would go as far as saying some people used to typical video cameras would be satisfied with the video output of the Digilife's.
The Digilife's handle contrast far better than the Aiptek DV4500. In testing, if the Aiptek was exposed for the brighter parts of a scene, the dark parts were almost black, devoid of detail. On the same scene, the darker area was not dark on the Digilife's, and all subject matter in the shaded area was clear and in color.
When panning the DDV-S670, up to a certain rate of panning speed, all detail remained clear. Above a certain speed, the images "ghosted", and of course this got worse the faster the panning. Rapid panning is a video non-no anyway. By comparison, the Aitpek's image was noticably poorer quality and "jerky" even during slow panning. The faster the panning, the much worse it got. So the Digilife's showed not just better detail whether panning or not, plus minimal or no "jerkiness". The Digilife's captured video looked tremendously better during playback. At 320x240/30fps, the Digilife's had better contrast and smoother action than the Aiptek at 640x480/11fps, but was more grainy. Just what you'd expect.
I suspect the Digilife's image processing system can handle differences between frames up to a certain rate of change. Up to that point, panned shots and moving subjects will remain sharp. But over that limit, you start to get detail "smearing", which gets worse as the rate of change increases. The Aiptek doesn't seem to have a threshold - the faster the camera pans or the subject moves, the worse it looks in a linear fashion. At any given pan speed, the Digilife videos look far better.
It's important to point out that when you're playing with these cameras using the display screens, the Digilife will show lots of smearing. But that's because of the slow response of its screen. Output to a computer or tv will look far better. The Aiptek has a faster-reacting screen.
Since the Digilife's handle low light far better, they are much more useful for videoing indoors than the Aiptek, which requires bright lighting. The Digilife's do slow their frame rates in dim light, so fast movement will result in smearing.
The DDV-S670's screen, when you start recording a video, goes blank for a second. Unfortunately this is being recorded, so when you play it back, every video starts with a black screen for a second. This is an unwelcome characteristic. Apparently you can use Video Studio to clip off that blank bit, but that's a nuisance. The 720 does this blank thing also, but it's so brief you don't really notice it. More like 1/4 sec. on the 720.
The 720's motion stabilization is a definite plus. But it has limitations Digilife doesn't tell you about. It only works in video mode, not for stills. You can't use the zoom with stabilization turned on. You can turn it off, set a zoom, and turn it back on, but you can't zoom during videos with stabilization on. Stabilization uses only a portion of the sensor surface, so it's like zooming in about 10%, with a corresponding loss of resolution. That loss is not readily noticable. And the stabilization isn't a miracle cure. It helps, but don't expect it to fix all unwanted camera movements. I use it almost all the time. The latest version of the S670 is supposed to have it, but it's just starting to show up for sale.
A plus for the Aiptek is that it has an exposure zone control, that can be changed instantly and during filming, while the Digilife's have no exposure zone control in video mode.
Digilife DDV-720: good to excellent, handles contrast and low light well, "night" mode, burst mode
Digilfe DDV-S670: good to excellent, handles contrast and low light well, "night" mode, burst mode
Aiptek DV4500: acceptable to good
The Digilife's 3.1megapixel advanced "T4" CMOS sensors does a better job than the Aiptek's 2.1 CMOS sensor. The Aiptek was almost useless for stills indoors without using the flash, while the Digilife's were fine at normal indoor light levels. The Digilife also has a low-light mode for stills, but this uses a slow shutter speed that blurs anything moving, and may suggest using a tripod. In the darkest usable circumstances, this "night" mode also results in lines and spots on the pictures.
The Aiptek has an exposure zone control that can be changed instantly, and has four settings. On the other hand, the Digilife's have a zone control for stills, but it requires going into the menu system and has only three choices.
The Digilife's allow stills to be taken in a "burst" of 5 shots. This takes some time to set up, so it's no good for spontaneous shots. When set for burst mode, you press the sutter and the shutter tone sounds once. A rotating "hourglass" icon appears on the screen for about 5 seconds, while the camera takes 5 shots. You can pan during this, but there's no indication exactly when each shot is taken. This is a good way to catch things in motion, but also builds up a lot of shots for deletion.
Digilife's can also combine 2 stills side-by-side, but I've never found a use for that. Odd to include such a strange feature when so many really useful things were left off the Digilife's.
Startup Time, Time to Switch Modes
Aiptek DV-4500: ~5 seconds to startup, instant switching
Digilife DDV-720: 5 seconds to start, almost instant switching
Digilife DDV-S670: 5 seconds to start, almost instant switching
While the Digilife's power on when you open the screen, and default to video mode, the Aiptek requires depressing the tiny power button, and you have to check what mode the exposed thumbwheel has ended up in. Switching between modes could be done anytime with the thumbwheel, and was instant.
The Digilife's times are good, IF the memory card is empty. With an almost full 512Mb Sd card, the Digilife's take an excruciating 10 seconds to get themselves ready for use. And an additional 5 seconds or so whenever you want to change modes.
If you don't wait long enough, the camera will either do nothing, or end up in a mode you don't want and aren't aware of. This results in plenty of shots of your shoes. In bright light, it's difficult to tell what it's doing since the control icons are invisible on the washed-out screen. Takes a lot of patience.
Unfortunately, a lot happens in the first 10-15 seconds after you notice something you want to video or take a picture of. So this excessive lag is a big annoyance as your memory card fills up. It may help to not use the internal memory to store videos, stills or music. That way the camera might be able to use more internal memory and so be able to load and unload subroutines faster.
After you take a video or still, the cameras need a few seconds to finish storing. This seems about equal on all three cameras. If you rush, and shut it off before it's done, you risk losing or corrupting your shots.
Digilife DDV-720: large screen, "slow", rotate & pivot, too dim in bright light
Digilfe DDV-S670: large screen, "slow", rotate & pivot, accidental power-on, too dim in bright light
Aiptek DV4500: very small screen, "fast", washes out in bright light, no rotation
The Digilife's 2" screens are almost twice as large as the Aiptek's 1.5", and are a joy to use by comparison. However, the Aiptek's screen is "faster". The Digilife screens pivot and swivel, much better than the Aiptek's, which only opens 90 degrees. None of them swivel, which would be even better. The Aiptek's simple flip-open screen is nice when you're in a hurry to get the camera operating, but holding the Aiptek is limited to one position.
When you pivot/rotate the Digilife's screens beyond a certain point, the displays reverse side-to-side and top-to-bottom. That way the image doesn't end up upside down or backwards.
Using any of them in extremely bright conditions (all snow and sunshine), the screens are almost unreadable. This is a problem due to the use of on-screen controls, and since the Digilife's are more dependent on the screen for control, they suffer worse than the Aiptek.
When the S670 is turned off, and the screen is closed, pushing the screen slightly to one side causes the camera to power on. This could lead to dead batteries if, for instance the camera is packed in luggage and some pressure came on it.
I discovered there are two surprisingly strong magnets in the outer corners of the DDV-S670's clamshell screen. These aid in keeping the screen closed, but may possibly pose a risk of interfering with memory chips etc. Something to know about, anyway.
Digilife DDV-720: 3-step focus, resists flaring
Digilfe DDV-S670: 3-step focus, resists flaring
Aiptek DV4500: 2-step focus, bad sun flare
The glass over the Digilife's lenses is very exposed. But for the same reason, it's very easy to clean, and only the very center overlaps the lens inside. The Aiptek has a better protected lens, but suffers badly from lens flare. I had to rig up a hood for the Aiptek lens, or shots pointed anywhere towards the sun were ruined. No such need for the Digilife's.
The Digilife's lenses have three focus adjustment positions, which is better than the Aiptek's two. The Digilife's display an icon on the screen when the lens is in the closeup mode, while the Aiptek has no indicator. This reduces the chances of accidentally leaving the lens in the wrong focus, which, believe me, I did frequently with the Aiptek and spoiled a lot of footage of unrepeatable scenes. You can't tell if you've done this on-the-spot since the small displays always look "sharp". However, the Digilife has no on-screen indication if the lens is in its middle, portrait position, which will result in blurred distance shots.
As for lens distortion, this did not show up during testing with any of the cameras. But in actual use, certain movements will result in a little "drunken" distortion around the periphery of the videos. Which means the lenses do distort. However, these tiny lenses do an amazing job given how small they are.
None of these three cameras has an optical viewfinder. The S670 has a rounded mirror on the front so you can position self-portraits -- if for some odd reason you happen not to use the screen for this.
None of the three are capable of macro closeups. If you want a little better, you can use the zoom and take stills.
Since the cameras lack autofocus, and there is no optical viewfinder, and everything always looks sharp in the display, the best way to guage closeup distances is to set up something like a box, and a ruler or scale, and move the camera along the scale while taking closeups. Examine them to find the sharpest, which will tell you the ideal distance. The tiny lenses have a focal depth (?) of only 1cm or so, so the distance is critical. My Digilife does closeups at 16-17cm, which I have measured off along my hand.
Digilife DDV-720: almost useless for videos, useful to a point for stills, useful for examination of stills
Digilfe DDV-S670: almost useless for videos, useful to a point for stills, useful for examination of stills
Aiptek DV4500: almost useless for videos, less useful for stills than the Digilife's
The Digilife's have an 8x digital zoom, compared to the Aiptek's 4x. Now, after using the Aiptek's zoom you might assume it's pretty useless because the shots are so grainy to begin with. Well, the Digilife's better detail (from the higher resolution sensor) allows conservative use of the digital zoom for stills without compromising quality too much. Since the video resolutions are the same, using the Digilife's zoom will hurt videos as much as the Aiptek's. More so if you go out to 8x on the Digilfe. I see no use for that.
The Digilife's zoom is a little smoother than the Aiptek's. Thus, you tend to click through the Aiptek's zoom stages so you can control how much zoom you stop at. This results in "clicks" on the video soundtrack, and this is worse on the Aiptek due to its better microphone. Clicking the Digilife's zoom buttons also records clicks on the soundtrack, but you tend to press and hold the zoom buttons because the zoom reaches where you want it a little slower.
The zoom feature also works for playback of stills. The Digilfe's 8x zoom is much more handy here than the Aiptek's 4x zoom. And the Digilife's higher resolution retains more detail farther into the zoom.
Aiptek DV-4500: zone control, 4-preset light types
Digilife DDV-720: no zone control, 3-preset light types
Digilife DDV-S670: no zone control, 3-preset light types
All three cameras have a manual exposure control for videos. It seems to have no effect on any of them, probably because there's no way to turn off the automatic exposure control. I really don't know why they provide a totally non-functional "feature".
The Digilife's "night" mode is not available for videos. It greatly increases the brightness of very dim subjects, but also introduces light-blue specks and lines on the image. It seems to me it would be better to take a picture in dim light without the night mode on, and brighten it up using software, than to brighten it with the camera and end up with these artifacts.
I'm so happy with how the Digilife handles video at normal indoor light levels, I'm not worried about whether it can video in dark conditions.
While the Aiptek has a zone control so you can determine what portion of the lens/sensor is used to determine the auto exposure, the Digilife's lack this important feature. The Aiptek also has a selection of 4 "types" of light such as incandescent, compared to the Digilife's 3.
Screen Icon Shutoff
Digilife DDV-720: ok
Digilfe DDV-S670: ok
Aiptek DV4500: only 50% can be turned off
The screen icons on the Digilife's can all be turned off for replay or taping. This is unlike the Musteks I've seen, on which nothing could be turned off, and on the Aiptek, where one of the two lines of icons can be turned off.
The screen icons on the Digilife's can only be turned off BETWEEN shots, not during them, and you can't turn them off in slide show mode.
Aiptek DV4500: buttons too small and close together, best playback options
Digilife DDV-720: best buttons, frustrating playback features and lack of them
Digilfe DDV-S670: ok buttons, frustrating playback features and lack of them, "sideways" layout
While the Aiptek DV4500 could be prepared for use and operated with one hand, the DDV-S670 cannot. The 720 is better, but you can't get the screen in position for use with one hand. While the Aiptek's tiny and clustered controls often resulted in operating mistakes, the Digilife's controls are larger and well-spaced. The S670 has two shutter buttons for convenience. The Digilife's turn on when the screen is opened. The Aiptek has a difficult tiny power button. The S670 has sort of been designed to accommodate vertical shots, which just succeeds in making it a little more awkard to use.
During playback, the Aiptek's volume control is available for the soundtrack of videos, while the Digilife's lack this control. The S670's miserable little speaker is almost useless for video playback.
The Aiptek allows you to skip forward and back during playback of videos, but the Digilife's lacks such controls.
Yet another problem is that when the Digilife's videos are played back, at the end of each clip, the camera pauses displaying the opening frame of the video. This is disruptive in the sequence of a storyline. When the Aiptek reaches the end of a video clip, it pauses displaying the final frame. This transitions far better into the next clip.
A common use of these cameras is to take a mix of stills and video clips, during, say, a vacation. When you do a presentation, or record the images to video, you want to present the mix in chronological order. This is no problem with the Aiptek. Unfortunately the Digilife's are programmed so that you have to go back to the menus to switch between playback of stills or videos.
As if that weren't enough of a problem, when you switch to video playback or stills playback, the camera always goes back to the start of the list of files. This means that to switch back and forth between stills and videos, you have to change modes, and then search for the file you want. What a stupid hassle! But it's not all.
The Digilife's have a slide show mode for stills or videos, while the Aiptek does not. Unfortunately, the Digilife's "shows" always start at the first still or video you have in it. You can't control where the show starts. Seems dumb. You also can't control how long stills are displayed during the slideshow.
All three cameras have a "thumbnail" mode for selecting shots or videos. The Digilife's display this fine on a tv screen, while the Aiptek will display only filenames in thumbnail mode on a tv screen.
The Aiptek uses one folder for both stills and video clips, numbers them sequentially, and can sense the difference between them. The Digilife's uses separate folders for stills and videos, and handles them differently.
I found that when the Digilife's are connected to your computer, you can copy stills to the folder used for videos, and copy video files to the folder used for stills. You can play them back from those locations, but the stills are at 640x480 and look lousy from the video folder, and the videos show up, but won't run from the stills folder. By comparison, the Aiptek DV4500 has no problems mixing stills and videos.
Because the Digilife's use the same socket for earphones and the a/v cable, and is not auto-sensing, you have to go to a menu to select between them. This is inconvenient. The micro jack would be easy to damage, while the Aiptek uses a mini jack.
The Digilife's also have a "sharpness" control, but the output looks so good I'm not going to bother using that. It probably is the same as the sharpness correction on image editing software, which highlights the edges of things at the cost of some detail. Yet another silly feature at the expense of useful ones.
The S670 has a "sideways" layout supposedly to accomodate a theme of taking portrait shots. Unfortunately this ends up requiring that you rotate the portrait shots and videos 90 degrees in post production, and ends up positioning the on-screen menus sideways for normal, landscape, useage. All this makes it very awkward for one-handed operation.
The Digilife's show time remaining for video capacity and the number of stills you still have space for. The Aiptek lacks this valuable feature.
Digilife DDV-S670: harder to cover flash with finger
All three cameras have flashes, useful only up to about 2m, and not usable for videos. On the Aiptek and the 720, you have to be careful since it's natural to put one finger exactly on top of the flash lens. None of these three cameras has an anti-redeye function, but the flash can be turned off on all of them. They take some time to recharge between flashes.
Digilife DDV-720: date stamp, date/time retained over battery change
Digilfe DDV-S670: date/time retained over battery change
Aiptek DV4500: no date stamp, date/time lost when battery cover is opened
There is a date and time function on all the cameras. The Digilife's retain the date and time if you open the battery door, but the Aiptek does not. So you don't bother with it on the Aiptek, since you end up opening the battery door so often. The Digilife's clocks don't keep very good time, and the 720 allows you to put a tacky date stamp the stills.
The latest, but thus far unseen, version of the S670 has a date stamp function. None of them do a time stamp.
Battery / Life
Aiptek DV4500: universal AA's, fast charge
Digilife DDV-720: common NP60, costs more than AA's, drains faster, 3hr charge, tiny
Digilfe DDV-S670: common NP60, costs more than AA's, drains faster, 3hr charge, tiny
The Digilife's are supposed to get 2-3 hours usage, with the screen on, from rechargable NP60 1000mah batteries. Actual use suggests that's optimistic. The Aiptek gets about 3 hours from 2-AA 2000mah NiMH rechargables. The Digilife's battery is a common version, and not terribly expensive. Charges in 3 hours, while you can get AA's that charge in as little as 15 minutes.
Secure Digial Memory / Memory Use
Aiptek DV4500: slower, therefore cheaper and gives more capacity, usable internal memory
The Digilife's are rated at a thoughput speed of 1.8Mbps. This equates to a 12x SD card. On the other hand, the Aiptek should be able to make do with a slower card. All these cameras were rated at 512Mb cards. However, a user found the Digilife's work fine with 1Gb cards, and Digilife soon updated their specs to 1Gb after that.
The Aiptek can put roughly 120 minutes of 640x480 video on a 512Mb card, while the Digilife's faster frame rate allows only 37 minutes on the same card.
If you use too slow a card in any of these cameras, you will get even more jerky video and/or audio dropouts. MP3's are such slow throughput you can use any old card for them. Same with stills, but a slow card will delay camera startup and make saves take longer.
Although all three cameras have 16Mb of integrated memory, the Digilife's use almost all of it for camera operations. So it's deceptive to advertise it as having that memory, when only 4Mb is available for use. Pretty useless. On the Aiptek, 15 of the 16Mb is available, giving over 3 minutes of video capture, or 4 songs.
Digilife DDV-720: .jpg, MPEG4 avi's
Digilfe DDV-S670: .jpg, MPEG4 avi's
Aiptek DV4500: .jpg,, MPEG4 asf's
Both cameras record stills as .jpg's. The Aiptek records videos in Microsoft's proprietary .asf format, while the Digilife's record videos in the less constrained .avi format. If you insert a memory card containing an .asf file into the Digilife's, or copy one to their internal memory, they will hang on power up. Format the used card in the old camera before using it in the Digilife's, or get a new card. DON'T try copying a .asf file to the Digilife's internal memory - you may only be able to fix this by connecting it to your computer and formatting the internal memory.
Aiptek DV4500: background whine, better displays and controls, good speaker, painful earphones
Digilife DDV-720: louder, inferior display, lacks controls, can't delete songs, comfy earphones
Digilfe DDV-S670: useless speaker, louder, inferior display, lacks controls, can't delete songs , comfy earphones
The Digilife has no background whine like you get from the Aiptek's amplifier, and to my untrained ear, the Diglife's sound "cleaner". Unlike the Aiptek's painful earphones, the Digilife's are comfortable. The Aiptek has a much better speaker than the S670, which is so small it barely works. The Digilife's volume with earphones is LOUD. I always used the Aiptek at full volume, but I can't turn up the Digilife's all the way. Since the earphones use different plugs, I couldn't check to see if the difference is the earphones themselves. If such a thing exists, the Aiptek could use earphones that have their own amplifier.
The Aiptek has controls for bass and "depth", while the Digilife does not have controls for anything like that. Both of them turn off the screen if you close it while in mp3 mode.
On the Digilife's, the mp3 mode display shows what track is playing (twice in fact) but does not display the song's name, nor the overall length of the song. It does show how long the song has been playing - which is kind of silly if you can't tell how long the song is. The Aiptek displays that, plus information such as the song's name and its duration.
You can "fast forward" and back during songs on the Aiptek, while you can't do this on the Digilife.
Amazingly, there is no way on the Digilife's to delete MP3's unless the camera is connected to a computer! What were they thinking?
Voice Memo / Audio Recording / Speaker / Microphone
Aiptek DV4500: sensitive microphone, system whine, wind noise
Digilife DDV-720: insensitive microphone, loud system noise, wind noise
Digilfe DDV-S670: insensitive microphone, loud system noise, less wind noise, useless speaker
I compared them in Voice Memo mode. Side by side, recording my voice at the same time. Replayed through their speakers, all sounded like crap. If anything, the Aiptek had lower volume. Played back through the earphones, all sounded loud and clear, with the Digilife's higher output allowing even greater volume. The Aiptek's background whine was annoyingly apparent in voice mode during the pauses in speech.
The Aiptek's speaker does a very good job playing music or the audio portion of videos. It does a much better job and provides more volume than the S670's tiny speaker. The 720's speaker was in between.
I do a lot of videos outdoors, and I was amazed at the Aiptek's ability to pick up very quiet sounds, like a bird chirping that you can bearly hear yourself while recording, and also being able to handle loud noises like thunder. Obviously, it's a compressing microphone.
The Aiptek and the 720 had a lot of trouble with wind noise, while the S670's front-mounted microphone has far less wind noise. I rigged a foam mic muff for the Aiptek, and may have to do that for the 720.
The Digilife's audio recording system records excessive internal white noise. This is so pronounced that all but quite distinct desired sounds are wiped out. Disappointing, since the audio track is so important to videos.
With the microphones built into the cameras, all these cameras are vulnerable to recording noise from operation of the controls, straps rubbing against the cameras, or your fingers or hands moving on the camera body. The Digilife's come with a wrist/neck strap with a chrome connector. This thing rattles against the camera and records perfectly on the audio track.
Digilife DDV-720: yes!
Digilfe DDV-S670: nope
Aiptek DV4500: nope
The remote deserves its own section, and only the 720 has one. This is useful in several modes. For playback, you can put the camera with the tv etc. and control it from anywhere in the room. You can mount the camera on a tripod and operate it from a distance, which can be useful, for instance, for putting yourself in the action. For stills, it's more useful than the timer.
Experimenting determined that with a fresh battery, it will work over as much as twice the rated 3m range. Surprisingly, it will work at half that distance even from behind the camera! I assume that's from reflected infrared, and means you're not limited to using the remote from directly in front of it. You do have to push firmly on the remote's buttons to ensure a signal is sent, and the remote has no audio feedback to tell you if the selection has registered.
Of course there's a downside. The Digilife's take a long time to switch modes, and if you don't wait long enough, the 720 goes into unwanted modes. From a distance, even with the screen pointed at you, you can't tell what mode it's in. In daylight, you also can't see the red led on the front to be able to tell if it's running. So for a one-shot deal, like one video clip, it's ok. But if you want to do a video, then a still, then a video from a distance using the remote, good luck getting the sequence right.
Another limitation is that you can't power the camera on and off using the remote. You have another component to keep track of. Still, it's a great feature.
Aiptek DV4500: tripod socket, tripod, self-standing
Digilife DDV-720: tripod socket, no tripod
Digilfe DDV-S670: no tripod socket or tripod, clumsy
Although the on-line manual refers to using a tripod to improve filming, the S670 has no tripod socket, and the package did not include a tripod. The Aiptek DV4500 came with a tripod, and has a socket. The case designs allow the Aiptek to easily stand up by itself, while the S670 is very unstable. The 720 did not include a tripod, but I bought a tiny one with telescopic legs for it.
Aiptek DV4500: acceptable
Digilife DDV-720: unacceptable
Digilfe DDV-S670: unacceptable
Aiptek provides a better printed manual, have lots of on-line troubleshooting information, and you can actually phone real human beings to get help.
On the other hand, the printed Digilife manuals are severely shortened versions of the full manual on the cd-rom. There were no factory warranty registration cards, and nothing clearly indentifying who built the cameras. Digilife's website lacks troubleshooting information.
Neither of the companies answer emails. The contact information on their websites is just company humor.
There is a third, older version of the DDV-S670. It has a 1.5" screen, "3T" sensor, and the screen folds but does not pivot. You can distinguish it from the newer DDV-S670 by the handstrap attachment point that sticks out of the top of the camera. The DDV-720 is also called a DDV-7000, and there's a DDV-6000, which is a DDV-660 with motion stabilization. More and more rebranded versions of all three of these cameras are showing up.
Recent additions to the Aiptek line include the DV5900, 4100, 4100M, and 5700. The 5900 is a 4500 with 3.1Mp sensor, while the 4100 is a larger camera with 640x480 at 25fps. The 4100M is like a 4100 in a small case. The new 5700 is 640x480 at 30fps, with motion stabilization.
Digilife will soon release the DDV-810 and 820, which add autofocus, 2GB Sd card support and video-in features to what the 720 offers. The 820 adds a higher resolution sensor to that. None of the makers provide enough information to be able to tell if any of the annoying little feature deficiencies have been fixed. Their website also lists a bunch of newer models.
It's interesting that the Aiptek and Digilife cameras are so different. I would have imagined they would work more similarly, but obviously that's not the case. But they are little computers, with limitations on operating systems, memory, programming, and perhaps patents. You would think the manufacturers could efficiently post full feature sets on their websites. For instance, IF I knew Digilife had fixed a lot of the S670/720's annoyances on the 810/820, I'd probably buy one. But without knowing, I won't, and I can't go to a store to look at one and see what they've done.
|Aug 2, 2005, 4:37 PM||#2|
Join Date: Aug 2005
I've purchased a VB-720 from www.vublue.com. The unit appears to be virtually identical to the Digilife DDV-720. I say virutally because there appear tobe at least twoupgrades: My VB-720 does have exposure zone controls (centre, multi and spot), plus there are 9 levels to the manual exposure compensation control.
I compared my VB-720's to the performance of a couple of my friend's cameras (a Nikon Coolpix and a Sony of some sort). In informal testing it appears that the VB-720 has a sensitivity in still mode of an equivalent from ISO 100 to ISO 400. However, in video mode, it appears to be locked in ISO 100.
The VB-720 records video acceptably at office lighting levels, but the video function is virtually unusable at household lighting levels.
In your review, you mentioned that you were pleased with the DDV-720's low light video performance. I was wondering how you find the performance in household lighting.
|Aug 2, 2005, 11:30 PM||#3|
Join Date: Jul 2005
My camera actually is a VB-720 from VU Blue. I just call it a DDV-720 to avoid confusion. I think the vendor bought enough of them to get a custom nameplate.
I'll check again in both video and still mode to see if it has exposure zone control. It does have exposure brightness control in both still and video mode, but in video mode any manual settings seem to be overridden by the auto exposure and light type systems. "It has mind of its own" in video, and you have to be very careful to minimize the effects of the camera changing its brightness and light type settings of the subject matter.
For instance, I shot some video while downhill skiing last winter. As I moved through skiers and areas of light and shade, the brightness and the light type settings kept changing, resulting in distracting and sudden changes in the appearance of the clips. Similar things happen if you pan from a forest to the sky.
You probably are right about shooting video with household lighting. It's ok in a bright room, or one with light coming from a window behind you. Certainly ok at office light levels, which is also from multiple sources. Just be careful that indoors it uses a longer exposure and so will blur anything moving quickly.
Come to think of it, we can check the firmware versions. If anything has changed on the camera, it will have a different firmware rev number. You can get the number off your camera using the instructions from the Nisis DV6 Firmware Upgrade topic:
- Switch camera on
- With your left thumb hold the REC/PLAY button down
- With your right hand push the W button once
- On your screen will be the F/W version.
Mine is: D3-Digilife-E1224P 044D.F007. It will be interesting to hear what yours is. I assume the latter numbers are a hexadecimal memory address.
Later... I checked the camera, and in video mode, it has an exposure/brighness control, which is overridden by the autoexposure during video. In stills mode, you're right, it has an exposure zone control. I'll have to change the review. But while the Aiptek's zone control was for both stills and video, and could be changed instantly and even while filming, the Digilife is for stills only, and requires going into the setup mode. I can't see doing that except in the most leisurely circumstances. And I practically never have extra time to mess around with the camera.
|Aug 3, 2005, 1:48 AM||#4|
Join Date: Aug 2005
...okay...that's pretty cool...
Firmware rev is: D3-DigiLife-E0401P-OV 0463.0002
1.) Any other tricks or tips?
2.) Are you aware of any way to update the firmware?
3.) I got almost all my info from www.ispan.com.tw. Is there a better source of information - I can't seem to locate the DigiLife home page.
4.) Does your S670 appear to be "newer" than the VB-720? For example, is it any better in low light for video? As reported by some other (DDV-720) users, my VB-720 actually reports itself to be a DDV-660 when connected to the computer. I'm thinking that the 720 is actually a "tricked out" 660 while the 670 is actually the newer model; what do you think?
|Aug 3, 2005, 9:24 PM||#5|
Join Date: Jul 2005
There are other tips and tricks about this camera buried in the large amounts of crap on Digital World Info, but it would take quite a bit of digging to find anything. I've moved my efforts here because this is a properly managed site where the accumulating information is safe.
Short of hiring a programmer, I know of no way to upgrade the firmware without Digilife's help. And so far they've been no help at all.
I think "Digilife" is like a model name. They seem to be made by a company called "Life Technologies".
I sold the S670 after I got the 720. I know what you mean about "660" popping up in various parts of the 720's operation, but I think the 660 came before the 670, then the S670, then the 720. The 720 is, as you say, an elaboration of the 660. The 720 adds motion stabilization and the remote control to what the 660 and S670 feature, making it a more advanced camera.
It's interesting that your camera has different firmware from mine. It would be interesting to know why. Maybe as suppliers change components provided to the camara makers, they'd have to revise the firmware even if the operation and features didn't change at all. But there may be improvements we haven't tracked down, or are too minor to notice.
A manufacturer that supports firmware upgrades would be setting themselves up for a support problem. The amount of information and care that would be required to do things like that properly would be significant. That would balance against customers being happier with their cameras, (but that might hurt sales of better ones).
|Aug 14, 2005, 9:53 AM||#6|
Join Date: Aug 2005
which is better?
digilife dv720 or hanshing dv306?
|Aug 15, 2005, 5:48 PM||#7|
Join Date: Jul 2005
Hi gx3k, and welcome to the discussion,
I think the Digilife DDV-720 wins hands-down.
It does 640x480 video at 30frames per second, as opposed to 15 on the Hanshing.
It has a remote control and image stabilization. 8x digital zoom compared to 4x. Much larger screen, and can use 1Gb Sd cards, not 512Mb.
The Hanshing HS-DV4140 is a better match, with a better sensor than the Digilife, but still no remote or IS.
|Sep 9, 2005, 7:27 PM||#8|
Join Date: Sep 2005
Thanks for the reply that you have given to me in the digital world forum on the incapability of flash to be used during night mode. Seems that in order to do this, the flash must be set to slow sync mode which is not a feature. Likewise, there is no option for flash fill-in or to force it on as the setting is only auto or off which is quite a limitaton as well.
Again with regards to DDV-720, I've bought mine (last May) which says DDV-660. However, the feature of motion stabilization and remote control were included. As what you have said, these added features are what differentiate DDV-660 to DDV-720. Seems a little bit confusing.
Getting off with Digilife, I've recently saw and new hybird digicam which was posted in the eBay - Megxon M500 which is being classified as a multi media player. I've read the specs and details an it is quite impressive. The very impressive feature that is has is that it could record TV programs (it has a video and audio in jacks to make records from the TV) and some minor ones like built-in games, etc. If you're interested please look into www.megxon.com. Other than this, do you have additonal information or reviews that you could provide on thisa hybrid digicam? I'm having second thoughts to replace my DDV-720 with the Megxon M500.
|Sep 9, 2005, 8:49 PM||#9|
Join Date: Jul 2005
Glad to hear from you here, since I'm trying to stay away from DWI.
As for the flash limitations, lack of manual controls is part of the price to be paid for these cheap cameras.
It sounds like there was a mistake with the packaging etc. of your camera, since the 660 definitely did not have a remote or image stabilization. Maybe the 660 isn't made anymore so whoever is selling them just throws in a 720. Lucky for you.
Thanks for the link to Megxon. I hadn't heard of them.
A couple of new Digilife's are hitting the market. There are plenty of DDV-V1's on eBay, and I've seen the odd M1. The V1 is the DDV-810. All the Digilife cameras beyond the 720 have a video-in function, so they're more comparable to the Megxon than the 720. The Megxon M500 has higher resolution sensor for stills, and the games. It isn't clear from the specs if it takes 640x480 video at 20 or 30 frames per second, so that's something to watch out for.
The latest Digilife's have the advantage of a more flexible screen, more control over the focus distance, and the remote control. I have a V1 on order to replace my 720, since I don't feel the need for more resolution for stills, and all these cameras do video at 640x480 regardless of their pixel rating for stills. What I really would like to see now is an optical zoom on the sub $250usd cameras.
I should add that so far, I can't recall hearing of anyone having trouble with a Digilife hybrid, while the Megxon name is an unknown.
|Sep 9, 2005, 9:43 PM||#10|
Join Date: Sep 2005
Thanks again for the reply.
Indeed, the DDV-810 (w/c I've checked out in the ispan website) is really a very impressive camera as comapred w/ the DDV-720. You've stated that the DDV-810 provide more control over focus distance. Can you expound on this?
Likewise, I'll also do the same thing to consider as one the DDV-810 as a replacement for my DDV-720. However, aside from all the features of the 810 (w/c I need), what I want for a hybrid digicam is to have more manual control over the flash to include forced on (or fill-in) as well as slow sync (all of them with red eye reduction) that would be at pace or at sync with night mode or scene. Plus a lamp assist that would provide illumination during low light conditions to have a better view in the LCD viewfinder is a must (for still and video recording). To have manual control for the LCD viewfinder backlight (that could control its brightness) would also be a plus. I'm requiring all of this since branded types of digicams w/c I've tried (specifically Canon) can take very good quality of pictures during low light conditions and could be able to clearly see the object in the LCD viewfinder with the aid of the assist lamp and backlight control. As you can see, I'm incline more of taking pictures and videos with low light conditions (indoor, household lighting during birthdays and partys). Do you know any non-expensive hybrid digicam that have all of these?
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