Datavideo DN-60 Field Recorder Reviewed

If you’ve got an aging DV or HDV camcorder whose heads are beginning to fail, or perhaps you simply want to step into the digital age, but your older camera still delivers great footage, then strapping a direct-capture-device onto that prized piece of video history may be exactly what the geriatrician ordered.

Getting Older

Like all of us, camcorders eventually begin to age and parts don’t work as well as they once did. Even then they may still have a lot of life left in them and aren’t ready for the Soylent Green factory just yet. With two cameras fitting that description, a Canon XL2 and a JVC GY-DV100U, one begins looking for the camcorder fountain of youth. Some great products exist on the market today that are quite capable of meeting that need, but may be cost prohibitive, particularly when you have multiple units waiting to be sprung from the video retirement home. The Datavideo Corporation, however, may have come to the rescue with its DV/HDV Compact Flash card recorder – the DN-60.

Checkin’ It Out

With one exception, the box comes packed with exactly what’s needed to get the job done. Besides the recorder itself, there are two FireWire cables: 1 – 6-pin to 6-pin and 1 – 4-pin to 6-pin; an external power supply, an instruction booklet and a 16GB Compact Flash card. The missing item is a hot shoe adapter of sufficient height to mount the unit on the camcorder with enough clearance to accommodate the FireWire cable. The FireWire port is inconveniently located on the back of the unit in close proximity to, and potentially interfering with, the 1/4-inch threaded camera mount. Perhaps a better location would have been along one of the sides or on the front.

Lying on its back we see that the on/off switch protrudes from the left side of the unit with the DC In port residing on the right. The DN-60 seems to be quite sturdy, with care taken to protect these two features by providing a protruding plastic ridge around them to deflect any potentially damaging blows.

A rotary control knob, the Menu Navigation Button, lives on the front of the unit. Below it is the CF card bay with its sliding door and eject button. A monochrome display window is used in conjunction with the control knob to adjust the numerous settings and perform the various functions the DN-60 is capable of. Rotate to change menu options and press it to make selections.

The main menu scrolls horizontally across the screen and consists of five options: Record Mode, Play Mode, Tools, Setup and Status. Scrolling to one of these and pressing the Menu Navigation Button reveals more options that may be adjusted as needed. In Setup you may set the appropriate file type including AVI, MOV and MXF in SD mode and M2T in HDV mode. Here you may also set up the Pre-record and Timelapse functions, switch between SD and HDV modes, and save User 1 or User 2 settings for rapid changeover in the field.

Cards may be formatted with either the FAT32 or NTFS file system. FAT32 works well with older computers but limits file size to 2GB. The NTFS file system doesn’t have this restriction. Set the signal type by choosing either 50Hz or 60Hz DV or HDV. Note that each card can record only SD or HDV, not both. While using this device isn’t hard, setting it up may require you to actually read the instructions. In addition to the included booklet, Datavideo has a nifty little Quick Setup Guide available online at.

Rejuvenated

Both of the aforementioned cameras had reached that point in their lives where some sort of crutch was needed. The DN-60 proved to be such a crutch. Once set up the unit was mounted on the camcorder and connected to its FireWire port. With a DV tape in place the DN-60 can be set to Sync To Tape and recording operations will be controlled by the camera. We chose to go tapeless, switched the unit on and let ‘er run. The result was beautifully captured footage.

There is one last step to be aware of before you pop the CF card out and into your computer’s card reader. Once you’ve finished recording you’ll need to navigate to Tools then Make Media Files to finalize your footage and make it readable to your computer. Without this step the computer will think the card is empty.

Tapeless digital capture is a wonderful thing. It solves the worn out heads problem and makes for a faster, more efficient workflow, and now, with the DN-60, it can be affordable too.


Tech Specs

Audio/Video In/Out: IEEE-1394 Firewire, 6-pin

Compatible CF Cards: SanDisk Extreme, Extreme Pro, Extreme III, Ultra; 2GB – 64GB

Approximate CF Card Record Times: 8GB – 37min; 16GB – 1hr 14min; 32GB – 2hr 28min

Digital Input Formats: DV25, DVC Pro-25, DVC Pro-50, HDV

Video File Support: AVI, MOV, MXF-OP1A, M2T (HDV format); QuickTime HDV and MXF-OP1A through conversion program

Operating File System Compatibility: FAT32, NTFS

Power: 4 – AA batteries; external power adapter

Size (H x W x D): 4.4″ (112mm) x 2.9″ (74mm) x 1.1″ (28mm)

Weight: 5.7oz (160g)

Strengths

  • Less cost than competitors
  • 8 second pre-record buffer in SD
  • Uses common AA batteries

Weaknesses

  • No pre-record buffer in HDV
  • Unfortunate placement of FireWire port

Summary

Lacking some of the bells and whistles of its pricier competitors, but Datavideo’s DN-60 compact flash card recorder gets the job done at a fraction of the cost.

Datavideo Corporation

7048 Elmer Avenue

Whittier, CA 90602

www.datavideo.us

$559

Mark Holder is a video producer and trainer.

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