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Old Mar 7, 2007, 11:17 PM   #1
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First off, I want to give thanks to fishycomics for his awesome reviews with the hybrid cameras. Its because of his reviews that I bought one of these.

Before you go out and buy this model, please read the noisy focus problem below.


**Update 3/12/07** Reply from Aiptek:

This is the sounds from lens motor.

When you used zoom in/out and it record by microphone.

It's because of microphone too sensitive .

We will try to solve this problem.

And we'll let you know if there is a solution.

Sorry about that.

And thank you for your notice.


Heres my reply:

I never use zoom. Also, the lens focuses allot when it doesn't really need to.

Yes, I agree, the microphone is too sensitive and it is recording the focus motor. Thank you for answering my e-mail and let me know as soon as you get a fix.



Hopefully they will give me a new firmware to test. The mic is way too sensative.
If they take the mic down a couple of notches, hopefully the noise won't be picked up.


**Update 3/09/07** I can't stand the noisy focus problem! I was taking some video shots, and everytime I moved it, it makes that darn focus noise. This thing is going back to the store. I'm picking up myself a IS-DV2 to tie me over until the PocketDV T300 comes here to the states. http://www.aiptek.com.tw/english/product/dv/dvt300.htm

**Update 3/08/07** I have sent Aiptek TW support an email about the noisy focus issue. I will keep everyone up to date.


I am writing to report the Aiptek MZ-DV has a serious focus issue. It makes allot of noise when it is trying to focus. Its loud enough for the mic to pick up the focus sounds. I have uploaded a video on YouTube to show you:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulq5kuD4aBw

Is their any firmware fix for this? Maybe reduce the mic's recording? Maybe add a feature to disable auto-focus?

Please let me know if their is a solution. Thank you!

I also tried to cover upthe mic to see if I can limit the sound the mic is picking up, but that didn't work. It sounded as loudwhen it wasn't covered. I believe it is because the mic is picking up the vibrations of the lens focus. I think if Aiptek can either tone down the mic's recording sensativity, that might reduce the noisy lens focus.

Or if Aiptek can just make a firmware that will have a menu option for you to disable auto-focus, and it will default to fixed focus.

Now on to the review.....

The Aiptek MZ-DV, otherwise known as Z200 Pro outside of the US, is the top of the line hybrid camera Aiptek has to offer. Heres some stats:
Video Recording Resolutions
D1 ([email protected], which is 480P), VGA ([email protected]) and QVGA ([email protected]). Also has 2 built in LED lights to help with low light conditions. The video camera function can capture 4:3 or 16:9 widescreen. The camera does not have a real sensor that can capture real 16:9 widescreen (the camera digitally crops the video). So use it only when you want the "look" of 16:9. The video is captured in MPEG4 video (ASF file). The audio is recorded in ADPCM mono mixed (the left and right speaker has sound when played back).
Photos
1M, 3M, 5M and 8M. Flash stobe included. The cameras native megapixel resolution is actually 5M. The camera basically stretches out the image to 8M. I would keep it on the native 5M at all times.
Battery Life
Includes a NP60 at 1000mah, good for 110 minutes of video or 130 shots of photos. Aiptek recommends you charge the battery for 8 hours before usage, but after about 3.5 hours of first time charging, the battery LED indicator on the back says it was fully charged. You can buy a higher capacity NP60 1200mah on eBay. A neat feature is you can charge the battery inside the camera. This takes away one more thing you have to lug around. You can also charge the battery via a USB port. NOTE: Make sure to charge the battery for at least 30 minutes if you want to test it out when you first get it. If you don't, the camera will appear to be turned on (blue LED indicator light in the back) but the LCD screen will not function.

The camera also has 3x optical zoom (and 24x digital zoom). There is a video/audio composite cord included to view your video and photos on a TV. It can also play MP3 and do voice recordings. It works really well.

Keep in mind this is not meant for serious video taking or photographing. These type of camera's do not have the type of lens and CCD's to match your traditional higher end camcorder or digital camera models. These are meant to take out to the beach, making a short video to post on YouTube or to capture your kid hitting you in the groin with a bat. But the video quality on these are pretty good. The picture quality is also good, but Canon, Kodak and Sony shouldn't lose any sleep because the pictures taken from the Aiptek aren't as good.

The package comes with headphones, AC charger, camera wrist strap, CD drivers (to transfer files via USB) and instruction manual. Blister packs are always annoying, and this one is no exception. Be sure to have a blade or knife handy to open the package.
The camera is made of plastic. The lens, and some of the highlighted casing is made of metal. It feels sturdy, but not solid. Its not going to fall apart on you, but I wouldn't want to drop this thing on concrete.

Video Test
Like I said before, the video quality is not HD, but its one of the few cameras that can take video at D1 resolution which is basically 480P HD video. And yes, it does take D1 video at 30fps, despite what the Aiptek website says (the Aiptek site says it can only take D1 at 20fps, which is NOT true). I believe this is a typo on their behalf. Heres some video samples:

Note: all videos are taken without stabilization, no zoom and at D1 resolution.
Outdoors day shot
Outdoors day shot with movement
Indoors with lights
Indoors with low lights
Inside with LED lights
Night shot
Zoom function
**I will upload these videos soon!**

Outdoors, the camera captures good detail and lighting. The camera shines outside, but indoors is a different story. Its definately not the worst indoors camcorder, but unless you have good lighting (at least 60 watt lighting where your going to be shooting) the video will be very dark to the point where you will not see your subjects.

The LED lights come in handy, but don't expect them to light up the room by any means. Its not because the LED lights are not bright enough (Their almost blindingly bright, you can probably use it as a flashlight), its because the LED lights do not create a good spread, so it creates a circle of light. It works well within 2-3 feet of the subject. Very neat feature, and this is one of the big reasons why I was sold on this model.

To capture low light in the night shot mode, the camera is capturing all the light it can, so the shutter slows down. The video is very jumpy and is capturing at a very low frame rate. I wouldn't recommend using this mode unless you are not moving the camera much. In no ways is this going to be better then Sony's NightShot, but once again, its better then not having it.

The biggest complaint is when the camera is trying to focus, the mic picks up the noise when it happens. Oddly, the mic is placed all the way to the right of the LCD screen. I believe the vibration of the lens focus is enough to have the very sensative mic pick it up. Aiptek needs to come out with a firmware to fix this, as this is very annoying when your moving the camera to different subjects, the noisy lens focus noise is in the video. Remember, i'm not using the zoom feature. I'm just moving the camera. Check it out:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulq5kuD4aBw


However, if you are shooting video that has allot of noise (highway scenes, public parks, background noise.. etc..), you can hardly hear the focus issue.

Another complaint is the inability to know how much more video you can record. The device does not have a count down time function, so your left to guess how much video you can shoot. It does have the number of video files you have created, but thats pointless. I hope Aiptek includes a count down feature on the next release. But since the battery lasts for 110 minutes, and if you get a 2GB SD card (can capture 160 minutes of VGA video), you can just watch your battery meter, as the battery will die before you run out of recording space.

Conclusion
Because of the noisy focus problem, I can not recommend the camera. The next choice would be the Aiptek MPVR+ (sells for about $150). But it doesn't have the LED lights or D1 resolution video recording. Or when Aiptek releases the PocketDV T300 here in the states (http://www.aiptek.com.tw/english/product/dv/dvt300.htm), it will be the best choice. It has everything the MZ-DV has (except it has 16MB less internal memory, the MZ-DV has 32MB, and uses AA batteries) except it does not have autofocus, which means no focus noise!

Pros:
Captures D1 720x480 at 30fps resolution.
LED lights built in for low light (or no light) conditions.
Shockingly good photographs.
Accepts 4GB SD cards.
USB battery recharging.
Charge the battery inside the camera.
Optical zoom.
Has the look of a more expensive camcorder.
Price.

Cons:
Biggest issue: Mic picks up noise when the lens is trying to focus.
No video remaining timer. Your left to guess how much your SD card can record.
Nightshot mode. Its almost useless.
Annoying startup chime (but only lasts for 2 seconds) that you can't deactivate.
No lens cap.

Rating
4 out of 10

If there was no noisy focus problem, I would give it a 8 out of 10! Aiptek, please fix it!





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Old Mar 7, 2007, 11:37 PM   #2
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Oddly, of all the gripes I have with the MZ-DV, noisy focusing isn't one of them.
There are a couple of reason for this:
1. Gross focusing changes are so slow, I tend to view the attendant video useless and likely to be edited out. Finer focusing changes don't make much noise.
2. I have not noticed the focusing noise in my videos other than in the quietest settings, in which case I could probably just cover the mic completely if I wanted to eliminate the noise, or remove the sound in post. In just about every real-life setting, the zoom noise has never bugged me.
Of course now that you've made such a big deal about it, I probably will start noticing it

I have some questions for you:
How do you find the stabilizer performance? Do you get similar results as I have (see video uploads above and my comments in the MZ-DV thread)?
How do you find the infinity focus/scenic shooting? Do you get sharp focus on wide scenes?
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Old Mar 7, 2007, 11:56 PM   #3
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Welcome SSRB, and thanks for the review!
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Old Mar 8, 2007, 12:05 AM   #4
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mzdvguy wrote:
Quote:
Oddly, of all the gripes I have with the MZ-DV, noisy focusing isn't one of them.
There are a couple of reason for this:
1. Gross focusing changes are so slow, I tend to view the attendant video useless and likely to be edited out. Finer focusing changes don't make much noise.
2. I have not noticed the focusing noise in my videos other than in the quietest settings, in which case I could probably just cover the mic completely if I wanted to eliminate the noise, or remove the sound in post. In just about every real-life setting, the zoom noise has never bugged me.
Of course now that you've made such a big deal about it, I probably will start noticing it

I have some questions for you:
How do you find the stabilizer performance? Do you get similar results as I have (see video uploads above and my comments in the MZ-DV thread)?
How do you find the infinity focus/scenic shooting? Do you get sharp focus on wide scenes?
It may simply be device variation as seems to be common with camcorders in general.

Some have complained about focusing noise on the Sanyo Xacti series and I heard it in one clip someone had, yet my device is silent.

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Old Mar 8, 2007, 12:08 AM   #5
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Well since SSRB mentioned it I took some video in a silent situation and I can hear the noise. Checked some of my old clips and the noise is there in some, but it doesn't bug me that much and it's hard to hear over most ambient noise ...

I'm going to try to experiment with baffling and/or sound dampening to see if I can minimize it, just for kicks.
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Old Mar 8, 2007, 2:54 PM   #6
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mzdvguy wrote:
Quote:
Oddly, of all the gripes I have with the MZ-DV, noisy focusing isn't one of them.
There are a couple of reason for this:
1. Gross focusing changes are so slow, I tend to view the attendant video useless and likely to be edited out. Finer focusing changes don't make much noise.
2. I have not noticed the focusing noise in my videos other than in the quietest settings, in which case I could probably just cover the mic completely if I wanted to eliminate the noise, or remove the sound in post. In just about every real-life setting, the zoom noise has never bugged me.
Of course now that you've made such a big deal about it, I probably will start noticing it

I have some questions for you:
How do you find the stabilizer performance? Do you get similar results as I have (see video uploads above and my comments in the MZ-DV thread)?
How do you find the infinity focus/scenic shooting? Do you get sharp focus on wide scenes?
The stabilizer performance works but it degrades the video a little bit. Digital video stabilization technique shifts the electronic image from frame to frame of video, enough to counteract the motion. It uses pixels outside of the video image thats visible to provide a buffer for the motion. I would leave this option off. And yes I do get simular results from your videos.

The focus is a little soft, but it isnt much better then the MPVR+.
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Old Mar 8, 2007, 4:33 PM   #7
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SSRB,

As Sg welcomes you I have made this a pinned post in the brief hybrid section with the others. the review you written up is excellent, and thank you for the Kind words. I am glad we the site can help one make a choice?

As for Noise? it is sad to hear the mic picks up the sounds of revolving parts.

I never noticed any sound on my Mustek dv4500 or 3500, but hmm the Aiptek mpvr? I will not be picky but I can hear when I zoom in/out some sound but probably me and the joystick?

the Mustek it is more of electronic clicking like a swatch watch LOL

So what I do is edit but when you need that priceless video, I bite my tongue, , live with it? b/c if I did not have a hybrid I be w/o a video, and this is why I goten into it late. wished we did it earlier?

Zooming as a talked about topic with focus on a different thread how the MZ-DV or zoom-dv cannot lock on like a pro camcorder ? we must also understand as pointed out these are PC CAMCORDERS. that is all.
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Old Mar 8, 2007, 4:55 PM   #8
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fishycomics wrote:
Quote:
SSRB,

As Sg welcomes you I have made this a pinned post in the brief hybrid section with the others. the review you written up is excellent, and thank you for the Kind words. I am glad we the site can help one make a choice?

As for Noise? it is sad to hear the mic picks up the sounds of revolving parts.

I never noticed any sound on my Mustek dv4500 or 3500, but hmm the Aiptek mpvr? I will not be picky but I can hear when I zoom in/out some sound but probably me and the joystick?

the Mustek it is more of electronic clicking like a swatch watch LOL

So what I do is edit but when you need that priceless video, I bite my tongue, , live with it? b/c if I did not have a hybrid I be w/o a video, and this is why I goten into it late. wished we did it earlier?

Zooming as a talked about topic with focus on a different thread how the MZ-DV or zoom-dv cannot lock on like a pro camcorder ? we must also understand as pointed out these are PC CAMCORDERS. that is all.
Thanks for the compliment!

True, it is only a PC Camcorder, but it is Aiptek's top of the line (and its not cheap at $200) and for it to make that kind of noise should be unacceptable to them. Hopefully they will get a firmware fix. I think the mic is so sensative, it picks up anything and everything. Or they could add a feature to have an option to disable the focus, and set it to a fixed mode.
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Old Mar 8, 2007, 5:46 PM   #9
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agree that they can improve on such a economy hybrid of top dollar?

the mic if on the lcd is sodered to a board, and wonder if it is simular to the IS-DV design.

I wanted to mod a mic, but found that if I turn the lcd to the front, and the mic to me i can narrate my future videos as i tested this out. it did work better, but again these mics are super sensitiev, wonder if a volum econtrol would do , or just old fashion cotton over the peice.

there was no room for a filter or movement , for me so I abandoned my project and learned to live with it.

so t if you try to turn the mic around or filter it see if that helps?
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Old Mar 8, 2007, 7:15 PM   #10
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fishycomics wrote:
Quote:
agree that they can improve on such a economy hybrid of top dollar?

the mic if on the lcd is sodered to a board, and wonder if it is simular to the IS-DV design.

I wanted to mod a mic, but found that if I turn the lcd to the front, and the mic to me i can narrate my future videos as i tested this out. it did work better, but again these mics are super sensitiev, wonder if a volum econtrol would do , or just old fashion cotton over the peice.

there was no room for a filter or movement , for me so I abandoned my project and learned to live with it.

so t if you try to turn the mic around or filter it see if that helps?
I tried covering the mic, filtering it and flipping the LCD screen around but it doesn't help. I think if Aiptek can release a firmware for the MZ-DV that can either reduce the mics sensativity or have a menu option to disable the auto-focus (so it defaults to the fixed focus).
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