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If you own a modern Mac (with a FireWire connection), then you’ll be able to use iMovie. That’s assuming you have a DV camera. The MV4i MC is an ideal first step into digital-movie making. It’s small and compact, full of features – and at under £1,000, it’s good value for money.
This camera is small: at only 48-x-106-x-86mm and 390g, it really is pocket sized. This is important, if a camera is clunky, it’s more likely to get left behind for that hiking trip or sightseeing tour. If you’re buying a camera to do wedding videos, there is a distinct advantage to a bigger model; people take you more seriously if you’ve a big camera. If you’re shooting for your own amusement, then small is beautiful.
The controls layout could be better – I kept putting my hand over the stereo microphones. But with a camera this small, organizing the controls will always be tricky.
When buying a DV camera, remember you’ll most likely want one with DV in and out, like this model. Otherwise, video can get stuck on a Mac. With video in and out, iMovies can be moved to digital tape, from where it can be easily transferred to VHS. Of course, with a SuperDrive-equipped Mac, you could just output to DVD.
Unlike some DV cameras, the MV4i doesn’t come with frivolous gadgets, though there are some nice features, and many of these are useful – rather than flashy. One such feature is the still-image capture. This lets the user take a snapshot directly to a MultiMedia Card (MMC). Unfortunately, getting the images off the MMC isn’t quite as straightforward, as it requires a card reader that isn’t included in the package. The image quality is reasonable, but a dedicated still camera is still better.
The camera has a few digital effects that might get some use. However, if the film is edited in iMovie, then effects can be added later.
Battery life is pretty good, easily outlasting the length of the tape. The early mini DV cameras I tested couldn’t keep pace with the 60-minute tapes. Recharging is swift, and the camera can be plugged directly into the mains.
The small size is good, but it does make the controls a fiddly. There is a built-in image stabilizer and 10x optical zoom, both of which make for good images.
The price is more than a basic DV camera, but less than the feature-laden gimmicky ones. The MV4i MC falls in the middle ground, with the right mix of price and features.