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TCL Products

I had seen a gadget which I was interested on. The TCL DV-009 digital video camera. Had anybody tried to use this unit? Is the captured video and the pictures ok? Had you tried converting the captured video to DVD or VCD format and tested it on its corresponding players? Is it clear?
Key Specifications/Special Features:

Sensor: 1/2.5" CCD, 8.0M pixels (interpolated)
Lens: F=2.8-4.9 , f=6.3mm-18.9mm
Electronic Shutter speed: 1/1000-2 sec
Exposure: auto/manual: 1/3 EV step, -2.0 to +2.0EV
Internal memory: 32MB NAND flash memory
External memory: SD/MMC card up to 2GB Max.
Movie: QVGA MPEG4 30fps (max), VGA MPEG4 30fps, AVI file format, special anti-shake function
Video: with TV-out function, NTSC and PAL system compatible
Voice recorder: 44kbits 16bit mono, WAV file format
MP3 player: MP3 stereo
Display: 540deg rotation available, 2.0inch color TFT LCD display
Zoom: 1X-3X (optical zoom), 1X-16X (digital zoom)
Auto power off after 60/180/300 seconds idle in any modes
DC adapter: 5V, 1.5A
Battery: rechargeable Li-ion batteries, USB power
Dimensions (L x W x H): 120 x 51 x 26.6mm
Weight: 250g
Product Certifications:

Certificate Standard:CE

Certificate Number:SZS0411024

Issue Date:25-Jan-2004

Expiry Date:25-Jan-2010

Certification Agent: Compliance Certification Services (Shenzhen) Inc.

Certificate Standard:FCC

Certificate Number:SZE0411006

Issue Date:15-Jan-2004

Expiry Date:01-Jan-2025

Certification Agent: Compliance Certification Services (Shenzhen) Inc.


Owners of more professional cameras seem to regard the hybrids as toys. Other than a few excellent reviews by Dan's Data of Australia a couple of years ago, and reviews of some top-end units by Steve of this site, few serious digital still camera (dsc) or digital video (dv) camera experts have published reviews of these cameras. Some other costly hybrids such as the Xacti, Everio and the latest Panasonc have had a few serious reviews.

Hybrid cameras generally combine video, stills, mp3 players and sound recorders. Since they don't do any of these functions as well as more specialized devices, one might wonder what their niche is in the market. They can also act as file transfer devices, web cams and pc cams. Although the vast majority that have mp3 players lack the controls of real mp3 players, they have speakers, which mp3 players lack. They come with kits of software, cables etc. to enable many of their capabilities.

I compare them to Palm Pilots. Just because they don't do anything as well as desktop computers, has not prevented them from being extremely useful. The same goes for "Leatherman" tools and Swiss Army knives. Their versatility and synergy of features is what makes them useful, rather than doing any one thing extremely well.

Another problem delaying acceptance of these cameras is that the first models appearing a couple of years ago evolved from webcams. These "pencams" were very limited, but cheap, and so perhaps appealed to kids. Within a year, the first high end versions such as the Sanyo Xacti were introduced, but these suffered from lack of exposure. During the last year a large number of medium cost hybrids have appeared, and the number of high end ones is increasing.

While the digital image processing systems came from dsc technology, the camera chips and video processing came from web cams and cell phones. Made by companies like OmniVision and Zoran, these "cameras on a chip" are seeing most use for surveillance cameras, cell phone cameras, and vehicle cameras.

For years I had idly considered getting both a digital still camera and a video cam. When I learned of the existence of the hybrids, it was obviously a way to "test the waters" of both. I wasn't expecting that I would gradually take more videos and less stills. There's no question many situations are best suited to stills. But if a picture is worth a thousand words, even a grainy jerky short video can be worth a lot of stills. It adds sound, for one thing. Shots that would make no sense for still pictures can make captivating videos. Videos capture the feeling of a dynamic situation in ways that stills cannot, making it easier to relive and convey the event.

The first reaction of every dsc owner I showed my first hybrid to, was: "My camera takes videos too." The problem was that without compression, the video modes on the dsc's ate up memory so fast that very little could be filmed. In general, what good is one video clip from your vacation? Are you going to set up the infrastructure to display that one clip? The advantage of the hybrids was that they could easily store an hour or more of video, making video a viable medium.

Another wrinkle is that stills, albeit compressed 640x480, can be clipped out of videos. At 30 frames per second, this means you can pick and choose exactly the frame or frames that best capture what you want.

The cheap price of most hybrids makes them more suited to risky situations than treasured dsc's or video cameras. I get all sorts of footage that I wouldn't dare take, or wouldn't have time to take, if I had a more costly camera and its attendant storage issues. So which is better, lower quality or no images at all? The low prices of some also means that a year from now, the techno-depreciation on a more costly model will be as much as the cheap camera cost.

The combination of features holds possibilities that are not immediately evident. For instance, I found the a/v cable that came with the Digilife can be used to connect the camera to a living room stereo system. Now what would possess me to hook my camera to a stereo?! Well, our stereo doesn't have an MP3 player, and this turns the camera into an MP3 tuner. You can hardly believe it when you realize the loud, quality stereo sound coming from your speakers is originating on an SD card in your tiny video camera.

At this point, I should describe the variety of hybrids on the market. At the low end, are the "pencams". The latest and best of these, the Eujoy, "enjoys" considerable popularity. Next come the low range hybrids, which added mp3 players. Most of these, like the Mustek DV2000, lack basic features such as flashes, and take jerky 640x480 video at 11 frames per second. They have low resolution sensors and don't work well in low light. Next came the wave of improved models such as the Mustek DV4500 and Aiptek DV4500. They had flashes and higher resolution. Unusual among them was the Mustek DV5500. Although the 5500 was a step up in many ways, it had disastrous reilability issues.

About this time a number of high end cameras appeared. Sanyo/Fisher's C1, JVC's Everio, Pentax's Optio MX and MX4, and Samsung's Xacti. There are three "holy grail" features for the hybrids. These are: 640x480 at 30fps, optical zoom, and image stabilization. These more expensive hybrids offered most, or even exceeded the holy grail set of features. Panasonic put out a series of other hybrids that didn't seem to offer feature sets that justified their prices. Recently, the mainstream camera makers have offered an increasing range of top-end hybrids, including a few with 3-sensor image capture systems.

Then there's the cleverly named DejaView. Though it lacks high resolution, it has a remote-mount camera head, and when active, pressing the shutter saves the 30 seconds of video PRIOR to the shutter being pressed. So you never miss anything because your camera's not ready. Similar in concept is the Tony Hawk helmet cam, intended for skateboarders and without the "replay" capability.

Another interesting variation is the H12 - H18, which is remarkably tiny for its capabilities, and features an LED flash that can be used for videos. All the other cameras except the Miniket use more traditional flashes that can't be used for video.

The next big change was the appearance of Digilife hybrid cameras. They were the first hybrids in the lower price bracket to offer 640x480 at 30fps, and image stabilization. Their latest cameras feature a/v-in ports. This allows digitizing tv shows, and the a/v-in port can be used to connect external/remote "spycam" lenses. Indeed, Digilife keeps depicting a tv tuner to plug into this port, making the camera into a television. However, this accessory has yet to appear for sale.

Most of Digilife's cameras also include IR remotes, which only one of the high end hybrids has, and very few dsc's have. Digilife has a hybrid with optical zoom and autofocus scheduled for sale in early 2006. Digilife hybrids are being sold under a confusing array of other brand names including competitors Mustek and Aiptek.

All this time the Radio Controlled Aircraft hobbyists were very much aware of these cameras. They dismantle them, and mount them on their model planes. By hacking the power-off, shutter and power supply features, they developed very cheap aerial still and video photography, which they share over the Internet.

What does the future hold for the hybrids? Digital still cameras all have video modes now. Adoption of MPEG4 technology is giving the dsc's viable video capacity. Mp3 players are still rare, but showing up in dsc's. Indeed, the discontinued Benq DCS40 had all that, plus FM radio! With optical zooms and lower prices per equivalent feature set due to larger volumes, one would think there will be no reason to have hybrids.

Coming from the other direction, and impacting both dsc's and hybrids, are multi-functional cell phones with video, mp3 and even gps functions.

The concept of the hybrid may end up being tied to the layout of the cameras. The "micro video camera" layout allows easy one-handed (right or left) operation, and more options for positioning the screen. This compares to the "dsc posture" of both hands holding a camera out from the operator's face. The mid-to-high end hybrids probably will always be a step ahead of the cell phones in terms of video capability and storage. In addition, it appears the manufacturers are going to exploit the audio/visual potential of the cameras.

At first the hybrids were available only over the Internet. This has changed as first-tier manufacturers have started releasing versions, and mass retailers like HSN and Target have been selling them.

As the hybrids started appearing, a forum for the Mustek models was set up in a digital camera discussion site called Digital-World Info. All the other "affordable" models of hybrids were lumped in with the Musteks. Over time, this forum built up the best collection of information about the hybrids available on the Internet. Unfortunately the site suffered from neglect by whomever owns it, and in order to preserve the collection of information and avoid frequent disruption by hackers, the main contributors to that forum decided to relocate to Steve's site. Where we have done very well and been quite content as the activity level just keeps expanding.

The hybrids appeal to an international audience, and also attract young people. So an aspect of hybrid discussions that is taken in stride is some very basic questions, and imperfect grammar.

With the video modes of dsc's becoming more usable, dsc owners will increasingly use that mode. Taking video puts you into a complex of considerations quite different from the still photography world, and having ventured a little farther down that path, hopefully the hybrid users can assist dsc owners as they get into video. (True videographers are so far beyond what low-end dv entails, it's hard to tell what they're talking about.) We also think more expert dsc photographers could put a bit of novelty into their craft by trying a hybrid.
mrgutterminds: you could have just posted the link to that Razz
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