Review: Mustek DV5000
Don Bradbury reviews an inexpensive option for basic digital video, digital still photography, MP3 playing, and voice recording among other things.
|We like||Pixel count; higher spec lens; integral flash; AA battery power|
|We don't like||Now larger and heavier; internal memory is redundant if a card is used|
The Mustek DV4000 digital video and stills camera, voice recorder, and MP3 player, we thought was quite a reasonable buy at the price, in our recent review which you can still see here. The DV5000 has added more pixels (now 3.1 Mp, or 4.1Mp by interpolation), a six element lens to replace the former five elements, and now, AA battery power instead of the slender rechargeable Lithium Ion battery of the DV4000.
The latter move is both good and bad news, but good on balance. AA batteries are universally available so you need never run out of power or have to wait for an internal power source to charge up. The downside is that AA batteries are not as efficient as rechargeables in this application and are more bulky. The thickness of the main body of the device has risen by around 50% to accommodate this. The DV5000 is still relatively small and pocketable, however, and that's the important thing.
The integral flash unit works decently, though its located below and close to the lens, which could give rise to some red-eye, and it does display some fall-off in illumination towards the edges of the frame - as you might expect. All the same, its inclusion will be welcomed by snap-shooting photographers. The main problem is that you have to switch the flash options within the menus, and that takes a little time. The best thing is to leave it set to auto.
As expected, the extra pixels of the CMOS sensor, and the extra lens element, both contribute somewhat to the quality of picture, though shots capacity, especially for video, remains low. Worst in this respect is that the supplied 32MB of memory is now internal, and if you add a SD/MMC card to boost it, you lose access to the internal memory. All of your still shots, video footage, MP3 files, and voice recordings will now only use the external memory you've added.
There's an omission from the manual that was not present in the DV4000 manual; the macro lens setting gives you focus at 25cm range, but neither the pack information nor the manual point this out. It's useful for getting close-up, though our test images were soft and lacking in detail at this range.
The DV5000 also gives you access to direct print facilities. Useful if you want to bypass the PC and use a direct printer connection.
Minor changes to the lens aperture and focal length, shutter speed range, and design layout mean that the DV5000 nominally enhances only the functions mentioned. Voice recording remains as before, quite respectable, and MP3 files play as with the DV4000; the device's other functions are essentially unchanged.
Of course when you attach the DV5000 to a PC with a flash memory card inserted, two sources of storage are now shown instead of the one with the DV4000, and this is the mode in which you may move files from internal memory to a flash card or visa versa as well as to and from the PC.
The lens is still fixed focus, nominally 70cm to infinity, with just the 25cm macro settings (which remains rather too easily engaged by lens rotation). Without the benefit of auto-focus, your shots need to be within the depth of focus of the lens for the conditions. In poor light, non-flash, conditions you might be disappointed with the sharpness of some of your pictures. Under brighter conditions depth of focus gets you out of trouble in this respect.
The flash unit tends to burn out highlights rather easily, but for a unit pitched at this price, with such a range of additional functionality, readers might think this carping. Many snap-shooters prefer brighter pictures in any event, rather than murky shots with all the shadow detail retained. The flash can be switched between ON, OFF and AUTO, though no range is mentioned in the multi-language manual. We thought the auto setting permitted ambient light shots at rather too low a light level, but in other respects it worked well enough.
As before, you get a USB cable, AV cable (for TV viewing - which did not work on the audio channel; we had to borrow the one from the DV4000 pack), carrying strap and soft case, earphones, and mini-tripod, together with 2x Duracall Ultra batteries, but strangely, this time no lens cap. VideoStudio SE, Photo Express SE, Cool 360, Acrobat reader and installation, camera, and video capture drivers complete the package.
The more ambitious will soon buy additional memory to extend maximum recording times. At the highest quality settings this gave us 59 stills, a little over 10 mins of video (though this depends somewhat on the type of subject), and 22 mins of voice, all extendable by reducing the quality settings.
With minor cosmetic changes to the design, the DV5000 works in a similar manner to the DV4000 - to which review readers are therefore referred for a more detailed discussion of the functions, facilities, and general performance.
With the improved resolution, added flash, and more convenient power source, the Mustek DV5000 continues to be an interesting prospect for those requiring a multi-functional device that includes stills photography, video clips, voice recording, and MP3 playing, with webcam, and card reader as the bonus functions.