The GE DV1 ($129) is a high definition pocket camcorder capable of recording 1920 x 1080p video to SDHC cards. It is waterproof to a depth of 15 feet, can be dropped from a height of 5 feet and is dust proof.
GE DV1 at a Glance
The Good: Low cost, durable, easy to use.
The Bad: So-so video quality.
The GE DV1 records 1080p HD video in the H.264 format via a 5-megapixel CMOS image sensor. Indoors, footage off the DV1 can get noisy but nothing out of the ordinary for a low cost pocket camcorder. There is some noticeable over-exposure, particularly in sunlight, but the colors reproduced crisply. All in all, the video is serviceable, but you shouldn't expect it to compare with the more expensive Full HD camcorders on the market.
The DV1 offers several quality settings, from 1080p/30 frames per second (fps) to a useful 720p option at 60fps for filming faster action. You can also drop recording quality to 1440 x 1080 and 640 x 480, but there's no practical reason to do so.
The DV1 also snaps 5-megapixel still photos. If you're dealing with plenty of ambient light and a still subject, the photos are decent. Otherwise, it's best to stick to video, as the images will blur. Fairly uniquely among pocket camcorders, the DV1 can also snap 2-megapixel photos while recording. These images are hit-and-miss and you can only take up to six, but the feature itself is nice to have.
The DV1 packs a 4x digital zoom lens with digital image stabilization. As with all digital zooms on pocket models, this one just ramps up the digital noise so it doesn't add much.
The big selling point with the DV1 is obviously the rugged and waterproof body design. As mentioned above, the DV1 can be submerged in up to 15 feet of water (that's deeper than Kodak's Playsport Zx3) but more than that, it can be dropped from a height of 5 feet and it's sealed against dust. This makes it one of the more rugged camcorders on the market. If you're big into outdoor activities, it's a good choice.
Obviously, a rugged camcorder will impose some trade-offs on the design. To wit: the DV1 is a bit bulkier and heavier than other pocket cams on the market - but not obtrusively so. It can still be slipped into a pocket or purse quite easily. The memory card port, flip-out USB plug and other connectors are housed securely behind latched doors to keep the elements out. But they open easily. While many pocket camcorders have jumped on the touch-screen bandwagon, the DV1 has nice, large tactile buttons for recording, playback, snapping stills, entering the menu and deleting photos. They can all be pressed easily while wearing gloves. The only exception is the power button, which sits rather flush with the side of the camcorder and might present a problem for a gloved hand.
The GE DV1 offers a pretty bare bones feature set, which isn't surprising given its low cost. You'll find settings for adjusting white balance (including an underwater mode), a high dynamic range mode for stills and video recording, exposure metering (stills and video), and a continuous shooting mode for photographs at 7fps.
Menu & Display
You'll access what features the DV1 has through a bright 2-inch display (you can also adjust the brightness manually in the settings). The menu layout is straightforward and easy to navigate, though when you enter it, you'll start with the still photo features, not the video, which is a bit odd.
While filming, the DV1 uses just the top portion of the display. The bottom is filled with a menu displaying your current settings - such as whether you're in HDR mode and your resolution. It can also display a histogram while recording, which is pretty rare to see at this price.
The DV1 records to SDHC cards and comes with no built-in memory. So you'll need to factor in the cost of a card to the DV1's bottom line (unless you already have one).
When it comes to camcorders that can be tossed into the water or survive a fall onto the concrete without shattering, your choices are pretty limited so the DV1 doesn't have many direct competitors to compare it to. That said, it's more rugged and can be dunked deeper than Kodak's PlaySport Zx3 (cheaper too), but doesn't offer Kodak's video quality or feature set. So if you need a bare-bones camcorder for a trip to the beach or an outdoor adventure, the DV1 is a good option. At $129, it's attractively priced to be a good companion video camera to those who don't want to risk a higher-end model during their death-defying white water rafting trips.