Fisher FVD-C1 SD Card Camcorder Review
$800

Sanyo Fisher Company

21605 Plummer St.

Chatsworth, CA 91311

(818) 998-7322

There are plenty of times when you might want to capture the fun on video or stills but don't want to lug around a full-sized camcorder and camera. And even the best camera phones will deliver just barely useable video quality or length. The latest class of pocket camcorders attempts to fill that gap.

The Fisher FVD-C1 Pocket Camcorder is convenient, compact and cute. It records MPEG-4 video at several resolutions with 48KHz 16-bit stereo audio and produces surprisingly detailed 3.2 megapixel still images. It comes with a puck-sized docking station for charging and interface with a TV, computer or compatible printer.

Of course with something this small something's gotta give. The major drawbacks are the MPEG-4 files that are not compatible with most popular editing packages (you can use the bundled Ulead software) and an autofocus that can have a hard time finding subjects. But if you like to be ready for anything and your current camcorder won't fit into your back pocket, then the C1 is worth checking out.

Is that a Camera in Your Pocket?

The C1 is just a tad larger than a modern cell phone, easily fitting into a pocket or purse. Not only is the small size convenient but it opens up new shooting possibilities. At just 6.1 ounces fully outfitted, it's a cinch to hold at arms length above your head for high angles. Same thing with low angles and walking or running shots. It makes even the very retro Under-the-Armpit Reverse angle shot easy.

The pistol grip body fits comfortably in an average-sized hand of a man or woman. The sparse controls fall naturally below your thumb. Nearly everything except record, still, autofocus, zoom, and mode controls are accessed by menus. The controls are very small but with practice, all shooting and playback features are easily controlled. A remote control not much larger than a keychain fob provides complete access to menu and playback functions while the camera is in the docking station.

Zoom

The C1 has a 5.8x optical and a 10.3x digital zoom. A nice feature stops the zoom at the limits of the optical range. Press the zoom control again and you get into the digital zoom zone. Images get noisy and pixilated at about halfway into the digital range. The zoom control is about as simple as it gets. A slider switch gives you just one apparent speed in and out. So forget about trying to finesse a subtle zoom into a close-up. It's going to get there at the same rate every time.

Focus

During our test shots the auto focus worked best in scenes with plenty of light and average contrast. The C1's autofocus had more trouble finding and holding focus in scenes where light levels or contrast were low. For instance, shooting inside a home with only tungsten light sources can be a challenge for the C1. We also found the autofocus spends a good deal of time hunting if you are shooting while walking or running. Unfortunately, there is no manual focus.

Image Stabilization

Another feature ditched for the small package was image stabilization. This is a feature nearly all modern camcorders have. But we were surprised at how much we didn't miss it. The palm-sized camcorder allows you to place it on nearly any steady surface from a table to car hood to even the belt loop on a pair of pants. We found our shots made while simply hand holding were noticeably more stable than when using a standard-sized camcorder.

Mic/Audio

There are two tiny microphones on the rear of the LCD flip out monitor. Our test shots recording a speaking subject six-feet from the camera had no mechanical noise since there is no tape mechanism. The MPEG-4 AAC compression the C1 uses does generate it's own noise in the higher frequencies but for most point-and-shoot situations this is not objectionable. Like most on-camera mic systems low frequency response is poor.

Image Quality

To get the file size small enough to fit up to 21 minutes of best-quality video on a 512MB SD disk the C1 needs to use the high compression rates of MPEG-4. You will see a small amount of artifacting on some scenes, but under decent lighting conditions the overall image quality is good. High contrast scenes will quickly lose image detail in extreme dark and light areas, but that is about par for a small single-chip camera. Colors are not overly saturated though reds are most prominent.

AWB

The Auto White Balance worked well in most situations and did a good job getting flesh tones right. It took the C1 about 5 seconds to adjust color accurately when moving from shooting outside to inside. We did have, however, two problems. Under florescent light, we were not able to get satisfactory color using the fluorescent preset (there is no fully manual white balance). We also found the AWB can drift after pausing recording and resuming under the same lighting conditions.

Conclusion

The C1 is a marvel of compromise for size. Sure, the C1 lacks silky-smooth controls, image stabilization, crisp autofocus and completely accurate white balance. But remember: this camera is all about fun so we can overlook some drops in quality. The C1 is simply built for convenience. And while most users won't be evading the KGB in a Jaguar, there's no denying the C1's cool appeal. Just try not doing a double-hand grip while pulling the trigger and yelling "freeze"… errr, "action."

Brian Peterson is Videomaker’s Editor in Chief.

TECH SPECS

Picture Formats: Video — MPEG-4; Stills – JPEG

Audio Format: MPEG-4 (AAC compression) 48kHz sampling rate 16-bit stereo format

Data storage format: SD Memory Card

Lens: F3.5 (wide) to 3.7 (Tele). No filter threads

Optical Zoom: 5.8x zoom

Digital Zoom: 1x to 10x digital zoom

Number of CCDs: 1

Size of CCDs: Image Sensor 1 — 1/ 2.7" CCD

Effective Pixels on CCD: Approx 3,200 k

Video resolution: 640 x 480; 320 x 240; 176 x 144

LCD Monitor: 1.5" TFT color LCD monitor

Viewfinder: None

Focus: TTL-type AF

White balance: Full Auto TTL; Manual: Fine/Cloud/Fluorescent/Incandescent lamp White setting

Dimensions: 69(W) x 108(H) x 34(D)mm

Weight: 155 grams (w/o battery and card)

Memory Card Included: 512MB SD

Shutter Speed: 1/30 – 1/10,000 sec.

Image Stabilization: None

Analog Video In: None

Analog Video Out: NTSC / PAL composite video

Audio In: None

Analog Audio Out: Stereo sound via docking station or connecting adapter

Digital Interface: USB 2.0 high-speed mode (via docking station or connecting adapter)

Manual Audio Level Controls: No

Speaker: Yes

External Battery Charger Provided: Yes

Battery Type: Lithium-ion

IR Remote Control Provided: Yes

STRENGTHS

  • Very compact
  • Decent quality picture and sound
  • WEAKNESSES

  • Autofocus struggles in low-light situations
  • No image stabilization
  • Limited support by editing software
  • SUMMARY

    Remembering that this camera is all about fun helps you to overlook some quality loss.

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