The digital stills capability of camcorders is finally starting to be more than just a gimmick; a number of manufacturers are now exceeding the 3Mp (megapixel) level with their premium models. But Canon has been relatively slow to bring its camcorders up to this level. With the MVX4i, the firm hopes to redress the balance.

The MVX4i offers a whopping 4Mp for still images - nearly twice that of its predecessor, the MVX3i. This is true CCD (charge-coupled device) resolution, too - a single 1/2.8in sensor allows native stills photography at 2,304x1,736.

Canon has returned to the upright palmcorder format, and the MVX4i is comfortable to use and compact. It does have its drawbacks, however, such as a tripod-unfriendly bottom-loading tape mechanism.

While this isn't targeted at the Hollywood wannabe, it does have a good level of manual control. A dial gives access to the numerous auto-exposure modes. Other buttons let you control focus with the jog-wheel and enable the built-in video light.

Perhaps the most unique feature is the manual audio control, which again works with the menu wheel. There is a microphone minijack hidden underneath the LCD panel, and a complementary headphone jack to listen to the results. But annoyingly, there's no accessory shoe on top of the device for attaching an external mic or video light.

Video performance in daylight was excellent, with faithful, vibrant colour reproduction and good resolution. Results were similarly impressive under strong artificial light, although grain became evident in poorer illumination. The auto-focus could be rather jumpy when zoomed in fully to middle distances in fairly low light.

Canon MVX4i: Specs

  • 4.3Mp CCD
  • DV recording to MiniDV tape
  • f1.8, 18x optical zoom
  • 2,304x1,736 still resolution
  • FireWire-in/-out, A/V-in/-out, 51x101x102mm
  • 410g
  • 4.3Mp CCD
  • DV recording to MiniDV tape
  • f1.8, 18x optical zoom
  • 2,304x1,736 still resolution
  • FireWire-in/-out, A/V-in/-out, 51x101x102mm
  • 410g

OUR VERDICT

The MVX4i is a great little camcorder, offering strong digital photography and comprehensive manual control. But it's also extremely expensive. If the price comes down over the coming months, this will be hard to resist.

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