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Review: The Concord DVx

When I first heard about the $199.99 DVX by Concord, I thought of those commercials that you see on late-night TV: It's a camera! It's an MP3 player! It's a voice recorder! It's a flashlight! It's a coffee-maker! Except for the coffee part (unfortunately), the DVX actually does all this.
When I first heard about the $199.99 DVX by Concord, I thought of those commercials that you see on late-night TV: It's a camera! It's an MP3 player! It's a voice recorder! It's a flashlight! It's a coffee-maker!

Except for the coffee part (unfortunately), the DVX actually does all this. The device contains within its compact frame an MPEG-4 video, a 2 megapixel digital still camera (with up to 4 megapixels through in-camera interpolation), a stereo MP3 player, a digital voice recorder, an SD/MMC card reader, and an LED flashlight. All that in a tiny (4.1 x 0.6 x 2.4 inches) form factor that makes it eminently portable.

I was intrigued by the innovative way the DVx is designed. To start with, the camera's front cover is removable, not only in order to install the rechargeable Li-ion battery, but to store an extra memory card, and allow users to replace the cover with something more to their stylistic taste (at least, when more are available).

The DVX's lens arrangement is also very interesting. Both the lens and the LEDs are contained on a rotating tube that travels 230 degrees. This not only allows you to photograph objects above you without craning your neck, but lets you take pictures of yourself (or objects behind you) without having to turn the device around. When you're not using the camera, the lens/LED combination rotates so that it is contained within device body.

All features are displayed and operated using six control buttons and a 1.5-inch color LCD viewer. Three of the buttons are located on the face of the unit, just below the display: a cursor/select button, a toggle for bringing up the operating menus for each mode, and an on/off switch for the display.

The power button and a Mode button are located on the side of the unit; the latter brings up a menu of the DVX's six functions (which it calls Modes) on the display. To choose one, you use the Mode button to cursor to the Mode you want and hit the Select button.

It took a bit of time for me to become used to the interface. For one thing, when you're selecting among the Modes, only the highlighted mode is bright enough to see in almost any normal lighting condition. As a result, I had some problem figuring out where to toggle at first; but once I got used to the unit, I was able to navigate pretty quickly.

In addition, one of the Modes, called Play, is there presumably to let you see everything that's on your memory card. However, it doesn't recognize any MP3 files -- as a result, you could have a card filled with MP3s, and in Play mode, it will tell you that there are no files, which can be confusing.

A Multitude Of Menu Choices

One of the impressive things about the unit is the number of ways each feature can be tweaked to suit the user. Each function has its own separate menu, which gives access to a variety of feature selections. For example, photographers can change features such as exposure, shutter speed, and light meter. Those of us who are photographically disabled and would rather not deal with these things are provided with several prepared formats for different conditions -- in video mode, for instance, you can choose between Normal, Sport (for quick-moving shots), and Night Shot (which also works well in underlit rooms).

I found that the photos and video clips I took with the DVx were reasonably sharp and suitable for personal use and Web sites, and I appreciated the wide variety of adjustments I could make. However, considering the limitations of the 9.13mm lens -- it offers 4x digital zoom and has a focusing range that starts at 0.8m -- nobody would mistake this for a professional camera (although serious photographers may want to drop the DVx into their jacket pocket for unexpected photo ops).

One photographic aspect of the DVx that I found problematic was the flash. Because it uses a powerful LED, the flash was often too bright for the comfort of my subjects (I nearly blinded several friends whom I was trying to videotape in a dark room). The timing seemed to last a bit longer than most camera flashes as well.

The DVx's MP3 function works well -- the sound quality was good, even through the rather cheap earbuds that were included with the unit. However, loading MP3 files isn't quite as simple as for dedicated players. When you connect the DVx via the USP port, it becomes recognized as a remote drive. The positive side of this is that you don't have to install a separate driver; you can move image and sound files back and forth using Microsoft Explorer. However, it also means that podcast fans are out of luck -- there is no automatic updating of MP3s.

There are two more features of the DVx that are almost add-ons: the voice recorder and the flashlight. The voice recorder worked fine -- it picked up my voice clearly, and also picked up others' voices recognizably from several feet away.

Finally, the flashlight is -- well -- a flashlight. The flashlight mode simply illuminates the LEDs. This could, presumably, be handy in an emergency, although because you have to toggle to the correct mode first, you'd be better off carrying a real flashlight around with you. And let's face it, do you really want to use up your camera battery on a reading light?

All in all, the Concord DVx is one of the niftiest cameras I've seen. It is small enough to be a constant companion, takes good pictures and videos, and lets you carry your favorite MP3s around with you at the same time. This is one product that is truly both multi-functional and multi-fun.