Panasonic PV DV402 Digital Palmcorder - Continuing the Tradition of Excellence
Feature packed. Nice zoom capabilities. Web-camera ready. Affordable.
Use of the on-board light drains battery rather quickly.
The Bottom Line:
More camera than most will ever need, this one is a sure-fire winner in this heavily competitive market.
If you've read some of my earlier reviews, you know that I'm a pretty big fan of Panasonic digital camcorders. Their initial PV-DV line were quality built, packed with features, intuitively designed, and offered all of this, and more, at a reasonable price.
Now, as Panasonic is entering into their second generation of producing Digital camcorders, they've addressed earlier issues, packed even more features, made their cameras even more dynamics, and have still kept their prices VERY affordable.
A prime example of this technology and direction is there new angular looking PV-DV402. Their first generation of camcorders all ended with a '00' (i.e. PV-DV400, 200, etc.) For the most part, 2nd generation cameras end with the '02' designation.
With several models to choose from, the PV-DV402 is in the middle of the Panasonic pack - offering solid features while keeping the asking price under well under $1,000. Those two factors will make this camera a winner, hands down. So let's take a closer look at the specifications behind this superb 2nd generation digital camera.
First, like most other digital cameras, the PV-DV402 utilizes a mini-DV format (which is now widely considered the industry digital standard). This medium is compact, light-weight, and offers superior resolution and clarity of your digital video.
Helping you get just the right shot and angle, the PV-DV402 is equipped with an impressive 10x Hi-definition optical zoom lens coupled with a 700x digital zoom. As I've mentioned in previous reviews on video cameras similar to this one, having a multi-hundred digital zoom is more of a marketing ploy that a feasible and usable feature. When you get beyond 100x, you run into some serious pixelation of your video, making it essentially useless. However, because this camera employs a single CCD (akin to a single megapixel on a digital still camera), the digital zoom is far more useable between 10 and 100x than a non-CCD digital camera from their 1st generation line offers.
In addition to the superb lens and zoom capabilities, the PV-DV402 offers Panasonic's MagicVu(tm) IR Filter - giving you the ability to shoot in near-total darkness. The images, which have to be within a 10 foot radius of the camera, do come out grainy, and are only available in black & white, green or blue coloring. Still, it's a nice little added feature - which is more common place today - for when you want to take video of that pesky UFO that keeps buzzing your house at 3am.
Establishing the shot has never been easier, thanks to the 3?" diagonal color LCD Monitor. It brightly displays your subject, even when using the camera outdoors in bright sunlight. But if you'd rather go the traditional route, the viewfinder works just as well and is non-digital, offering you a truer, sharper, albeit smaller image.
Some of the newer features employed in this, and similar Panasonic models, include the following:
The PV-DV402 is equipped with a built-in Web Camera that gives you the ability to send live video to family and friends over the Internet. Additionally, you can use the camera to videoconference with a party that has a compatible/similar camera. You can even set up the PV-DV402 as a simple home monitoring device. So, whenever you're away from home, you can easily access the camcorder from the Web.
MPEG4 Movie Messenger(tm) System
Movies aren't just for viewing on your TV anymore. With a built-in MPEG4 high compression format, you can dump your video using a USB or IEEE 1394 connection right into your PC for immediate distribution via email. The quality is surprisingly good despite the small size (clip length dependant of course) of the files it creates.
Mega Still(tm) Pictures
Most digital cameras give you the ability of taking digital stills, but usually their resolution and quality left a lot to be desired. Not so with the PV-DV402. Through its 680,000 pixel CCD engine, you can shoot amazing one-million pixel (1280x960 interpolated) still images. The result is sharp, crisp reproduction of your most cherished pictures.
A nice little feature that really does work! As you zoom in on the picture, the audio will also zoom in so that you can pinpoint distant sound emanating from your subject. I've tested this out with birds at 200 feet while other background noise was present. The birds were clearly heard! It's amazing and a feature not found in many other brands.
DUAL Digital Electronic Image Stabilization (Record and Playback)
Unless you're rock steady, your video will be prone to some hand jittering shaking. Fortunately, with the dual image stabilizer that's built into the PV-DV402, you'll shoot picture perfect video that your friends will swear was done with the aid of a tri-pod. And even if you forget to activate it while recording, you can implement it on playback. Now that's convenient!
ArcSoft? Editing Software Package Included
Now that you've taken a bunch of video, it's high time you edit it into something a little more 'pleasing' to your general audience. Panasonic now bundles a complete suite of ArcSoft? editing software. It's the perfect way to enhance, retouch or add special effects to your favorite moments. For digital stills, PhotoShot(tm) is also included.
And let's not forget about the IR remote control - a handy little device when you are utilizing a tri-pod with this camera.
One area where Panasonic hasn't really pushed the envelope is digital special effects. The PV-DV402 comes with a series of built-in effects, but they effectively mirror those that were included on earlier models. That doesn't and shouldn't deter you from their usefulness and uniqueness, but I was hoping for some more eye-popping effects. Included effects are:
* Digital Zoom (Playback) -- Enlarges the center of the playback image by 2x
* Digital Mirror (Record and Playback) -- Creates a mirror-like symmetrical image
* Strobe (Record and Playback) -- Digitally "freezes" a series of images
* Mosaic (Record and Playback) -- Turns the image into a mosaic pattern
* Slim (Record and Playback) -- Expands the image vertically
* Stretch (Record and Playback) -- Expands the image horizontally
* Trail (Record and Playback) -- Forms multiple impressions of all images in motion which gradually fade out as the motion comes to a halt, creating a "trail" effect as if the image is leaving pieces of itself behind
Monotone (Playback) -- The image plays back in black and white
* Sepia (Playback) -- Creates the impression of antiquity by applying a brownish sepia tone
* Gain Up (Record) -- Responds to light with super-sensitivity so you can record in low lighting
To get your shot just right, the PV-DV402 offers a 5-Mode Programmable Auto Exposure. The options here include:
* Sports mode for recording fast action scenes
* Portrait mode for recording only subjects in the foreground, while ignoring subjects in the background.
* Low-light mode for recording in extreme low light conditions.
* Spot-light mode for recording in situations where subjects are under a spotlight(s).
* Surf & Snow mode for recording in locations with a high degree of "Dazzle", such as snow slopes and the seashore.
Also worth mentioning is the built-in light which will drain your battery far faster than anything else, but it does enhance the colors especially when shooting in doors.
Connecting your PV-DV402 is also straight forward, including RCA, S-Video, USB and IEEE connections, you'll have every possible option of exporting and viewing your video that you could need.
Finally, power consumption, depending on whether you use the on-board light and/or the LCD display varies, but is relatively good. The included battery should net you about an hour of standard use. With the larger battery pack
All in all, Panasonic has, once again, coupled incredible technology, numerous features, superior craftsmanship in an affordably packaged unit. You can spend far more money and get far less camera. If you're in the market, by all means, check out this camera. You won't be disappointed.
Thanks, as always, for reading. Below is a summary list of specifications/features for the PV-DV402.
* 3-Way PC Link
* PHOTOVU LINK (USB Connection)
* i.LINK(tm) (IEEE 1394 PC Interface)
* Card Link (SD Memory Card)
* IR Remote Control
* DUAL Digital Electronic Image Stabilization (Record & Playback)
* 700x Digital Zoom
* 10x Hi-Definition Optical Zoom
* 680,000 Pixel CCD
* Built-in Light
* Web Camera
* MPEG4 Movie Messenger(tm) System
* Mega Still (tm) Pictures
* Built-in SD Drive
* Zoom Mic
* SD Memory Card Slot
* 8MB SD Memory Card
* ArcSoft? Editing Software (4 titles)
* MagicVu(tm) IR Filter (0 lux)
* PhotoShot(tm) Built-in Digital Still Camera
* MagicPix(tm) Images
* Easy Cassette Eject