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Old Jan 14, 2008, 9:15 PM   #1
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Finally I got the Digilife DDV-730. I won't have the Sanyo CG65 for another weeek, so I'll do a detailed comparison later.

If the DDV-730 had been available a few years ago, we would have regarded it as a dream hybrid. The optical zoom means it's an affordable hybrid with all the "holy grail" features we wished for back in 2004. Even today, for casual use, it has pretty well everything anyone could want. Look at the features:

- 7Mp Sony CCD sensor
- D1 and 640x480 video at 30fps
- 640x480 is 3Mbps, 720x480 is 2.6Mbps
- led flash acts as a lamp for video
- 3x optical zoom
- image stabilization
- motion detection
- pmp and .txt file playback
- enhanced mp3 player, with reasonably good speaker
- manual controls for many functions
- easy intuitive controls
- many controls can be done instantly using buttons

Here's what I don't like about it:

- no on-board deletion of mp3 files
- no video-in port
- no remote control
- slow startup
- no battery retention tab under the battery cover

- and some may find the lack of HD and H.264 to be problems. Not me, yet.
- no face recognition
- no super-macro
- no histogram
- no games

I was under the impression that with an led for illuminating video, it must have a regular flash for stills. But I couldn't see one. So it was a bit of a surprise to see how they've implemented a stills flash. It just turns on the led while the camera takes the still. No attempt to synchronize them, but it does allow you to see what your "flash" picture is going to look like. It is good for illumination at 6 feet. Makes an excellent flashlight also.

Not only does it take the camera 5-6 seconds to power up, taking stills involves a further delay. The shutter is a 2-stage thing, with the first step activating the autofocus. At least you don't have to worry about leaving it set with the wrong focus.

The 3x optical zoom works well. It zooms more slowly than I'm used to. Not as slow as a pro video camera, but slow enough that it isn't distracting. And it means the autofocus keeps up to the zoom. I noticed no apparent sound on the audio track from the zoom or autofocus. I may find some when I listen to the output with earphones, but already that's impressive.

I was a bit annoyed to find you can't free up space on a memory card while in the field, by deleting mp3 files. That was a big deal back when 256Mb sd cards cost $100 and cameras could only accept 512Mb cards. But with today's large capacity/cheap sd cards, it doesn't matter much.

The mp3 player lacks a resume function, but the music title presentation is set up so you can rapidly get back to where you were in the playlist.

On playback, rather than display how long a video clip has been running, it counts down to zero. An interesting approach. Wheras the mp3 player is the opposite - it shows how long a track has been playing.

Unlike the annoying feature on the DDV-5120A where the image stabilization defaults to "off" every time you turn the camera off, the 730 retains the setting. Hurrah!

The high bit rate definitely results in less compression artifacts. I was disappointed the colors weren't more vivid, but I tested it in snow on an overcast day. Where, incidentally, the screen was practically unreadable in the bright light. Dim light performance was not impressive.

I haven't had a chance yet to take a close look at the video and stills quality, nor a careful "listen" to the mp3.

Something that's really lame is the function selection control. The fancy screen menu shows some rotating panels with "pictures" "text" "music" etc. But it scrolls through them in the direction opposite to what's shown on the screen. Oops. Did no one test this?

First impression is that mounting the microphone on the screen, instead of the top or front of the camera, reduces wind noise.

General quality/appearance is better than the DDV-920. Even a bit classy. Although it appears to be the same size as the 920, it's actually about a centimeter taller, which means it's a good handful. It seems to share DNA with the DDV-720/920 as opposed to the DDV-810/5120A. I've always liked the 720/920 execution better than the 810/5120A.

So far I see little to complain about the DDV-730. Definitely a keeper. Unlike the 5120A, which has overstayed its welcome. The 920 will be kept for its video-in function.

I also don't understand why so many people prefer Aiptek hybrids over Digilife. Unlike the Aipteks, this camera has no problems "out of the box". It works well and has a very full feature set.
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Old Jan 14, 2008, 10:45 PM   #2
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Aipteks are available.

DigiLife cameras have practically no distribution... at least not where I live.

I've never seen one in the store.

Otherwise, I might have a closer look.

The Aipteks are in my local Target and Circuit City and Best Buy stores.

My Circuit City store also features DXG cameras.

But I've never seen a DigiLife on display anywhere.

I suspect that's the reason.

Private Idaho

sgspirit wrote:I also don't understand why so many people prefer Aiptek hybrids over Digilife.* Unlike the Aipteks, this camera has no problems "out of the box".* It works well and has a very full feature set.
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Old Jan 15, 2008, 11:25 PM   #3
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Good point. I hadn't realized the most recent Aipteks were so easily available in the US. Now I understand why there are so many views for the Aiptek topics here.

Here in Canada, places such as Canadian Tire, Best Buy, The Source, closeout stores etc. sometimes sell hybrids. But they are NEVER the latest models of the Aiptek/Digilife/Mustek brands or rebrands. A year ago they were selling clones of the DDV-720; this year they have rebranded DDV-810's and 920's. So if you want one of Aiptek's current models, you have to get it from eBay. And if you're on eBay, you may as well get the latest Digilife.

----------------------------------------

A little update on the 730. The low light performance is lousy compared to the DDV-920. Don't ask me why. The DDV-920 is two years old, and has no special sensor. The 730 has a ballyhooed Sony CCD sensor, and almost twice the data rate. Maybe they cranked it up too far. I'm also becoming suspicious of the claimed 30fps. Looks more like 20-25. And the 730 doesn't handle contrast nearly as well as the 920. Boo.

You can hear the 730's zoom mechanism if you put it against your ear. But having the microphone on the swing-out screen completely isolates it from the zoom noise. I can't detect any noise from the autofocus, but it must be using the zoom mechanism.

The 2-stage press to take a still requires a bit of force to trigger the shutter. This can result in camera shake.

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Old Jan 28, 2008, 11:28 PM   #4
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I still haven't used the new cameras much, and it's too cold outside to do comparison testing. But here's a few more impressions.

The DDV-730 does not come with a remote control. Surprise. I thought only Aiptek made them optional. Anyway, I have others and hardly ever use them. I've corrected the Hybrid List to specify the remote is optional.

The DDV-730's videos have a distinct fine-scale jerky pattern when panning. Even when panning slowly, as though the frame rate is slower than 30fps. Looks crappy, and I haven't seen anything like that since the 15fps hybrids.

Now for the worst discovery. It turns out this DDV-730 can't zoom when the image stabilization is turned on.

Now, I have a question for the people who designed this camera. If you were shooting video, and zooming at the same time, would or would not image stabilization become more desirable as the zoom increased? Why put a nice optical zoom on a camera, then block it when IS is turned on?

You can shut the IS off, and zoom while filming. And the zoom is nice and slow, and the camera records no noise from it. Or, with IS on, you can zoom before you start filming.

This is so lame it's not funny. It's also a reminder of the differences between first-tier and second-tier camera manufacturers. Samsung and Sanyo wouldn't stoop to, or dare, to put out a camera with such a limitation. They'd spend the few extra cents to give the camera enough cpu power and memory to load and run both subroutines at the same time, and price the camera accordingly.

This sort of thing is why I've used a Samsung dsc for almost all my video for the past two years, and why my new Sanyo CG65 is going to be preferred over the 730.
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Old Jan 29, 2008, 8:30 AM   #5
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sgspirit wrote:
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This sort of thing is why I've used a Samsung dsc for almost all my video for the past two years, and why my new Sanyo CG65 is going to be preferred over the 730.
As you mentioned, I suspect it either has to do with available CPU power or just laziness on the programming side because it becomes much more complicated. I suspect the focus sub-routines on these type cameras do consume a lot of CPU power because they have to examine each frame and run an algorithm that determines how many sharp edges there are and decides which way to move the focus motor.

The Sanyo CG6 will allow me to zoom while taking video and all, but Imust admit that it doesn't always work. About 50% of the time, the camera looses focus for a few seconds when I do this. It usually only happens when zooming into something. Zooming out, usually doesn't cause this.
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Old Jan 29, 2008, 8:37 AM   #6
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zoom they say is a great tool it crops the pic/vid it must record and re-record back into the cam, thus probably not enough mem for this. some say why bother when you already have software to do this.
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Old Jan 29, 2008, 4:58 PM   #7
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fishycomics wrote:
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zoom they say is a great tool it crops the pic/vid it must record and re-record back into the cam, thus probably not enough mem for this. some say why bother when you already have software to do this.
He was talking about an optical zoom. You can't re-create that in software. And if these cheap camera manufactures would do their digital zooms correctly where it made use of the entire imager then you wouldn't be able to recreate that either.
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Old Jan 29, 2008, 5:06 PM   #8
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ah needed caffeen in the Am thanks

Zoom I read deals with a cropping and was digital .
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Old Jan 29, 2008, 11:33 PM   #9
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fishycomics, so far as I can tell, you have to "use up" the optical zoom before you get into the digital zoom. On the CG65, you can shut off the availabilty of the digital zoom. Don't ask me why, but I shut mine off because I'm not going to use it and it can only maybe save processing power. You can't shut it off on the DDV-730.

adric22, your reply clarified something for me. Of course, the optical zoom would be independent of the cpu and memory except for the logic to control the motor or whatever it uses. But managing the autofocus during an optical zoom would require processing. So autofocus + image stabilization = confounded Digilife. And btw, they don't mention this in the manual.

Come to think of it, would some implementations of IS be hopelessly confused by the image changes during an optical zoom? It might think the camera is shaking in all four directions at once. Not that this problem hasn't been solved by other manufacturers...

There MAY be something wrong with the camera. It seems to me I did an optical zoom with IS on, once, just after I got the camera. But I'm not sure I had IS turned on. The manual cautions that you can't use the digital zoom while IS is turned on, but says nothing about the optical zoom. That's funny because you can't even get to the digital zoom until the optical zoom is used up.

Maybe I'll check it with motion detection turned on. Probably with motion detection, optical zoom and IS, the screen will fall off:-)
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Old Feb 1, 2008, 9:30 AM   #10
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Hi, I am interested in how the motion detection works in this line of cameras.

I have tried to find a downloadable manual but no luck.
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