GE DV1 Camcorder Review

GE DV1 Camcorder Review

GE DV1 at a Glance

The Good: Low cost, durable, easy to use.

The Bad: So-so video quality.

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.

Feature Set

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).

Bottom Line

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.

Guide to Helmet Cams

Guide to Helmet Cams

If you’re the adventurous type – skateboarder, mountain biker, snow-boarder, etc. – a new breed of digital camcorder can help capture your epic moments (or epic fails). The helmet cam, or sports camcorder, is a durable video camera capable of being clipped to a helmet or handlebar to capture a first person view of your adventures.

What’s a Helmet Cam?

A helmet cam is essentially a small, rugged camcorder that’s sold with a variety of hooks and clamps that allow the user to attach the camcorder to several surfaces, typically bicycle helmets and handlebars but even skateboards and snowboards.

Thanks to flash memory, camcorders have been able to shrink in size and become much more durable – able to withstand bumps and vibrations without interrupting video recording. Helmet cams use the advantages of flash memory to deliver very small, lightweight yet very shock-resistant camcorders to sports enthusiasts.

Helmet Cam Features:

As you’d expect, helmet cams are not meant to be handled much by the user. After you strap it onto your head, you can’t be expected to fiddle with things like a zoom lens or other camcorder settings. So helmet cams have a very bare bones set of controls – usually an on/off switch and a large “record” button which can be pressed down even if you’re wearing gloves. That’s about it.

Helmet cams typically don’t offer built-in flash memory but record to removable memory card, either SDHC or the smaller microSD format. They come in both standard and high definition resolutions as well, and some allow you to adjust your resolution to preserve memory card space. The video quality itselfcan vary, but don’t expect the same performance as you would from a traditional camcorder.

The lenses and processors on a helmet camcorder can’t match the quality of those found on higher-end camcorders.

Aside from being durable (able to withstand some falls and bumps), they’re also weatherproof, so they can get splashed with water or snow. Note: this isn’t to say they’re all fully waterproof. Most helmet cams are not meant to be submerged underwater for extended periods of time.

While they’re pretty bare-bones as far as features go, helmet cams do have a few bells and whistles. Some models have incorporated GPS chips inside them so you can geo-tag your videos, plotting them out on a map when you’ve loaded them onto your computer. Others offer Bluetooth, so you can stream previews of your video to a smartphone (helmet cams usually don’t offer LCD displays to preview your scene before you film it).

Helmet Cams Not For Everyone

Obviously, if you’re not big into outdoor adventures or aren’t auditioning for the X-Games, a helmet cam isn’t a good choice. If you’re a sporting enthusiast but don’t need a first-person view of the action (or don’t need your hands for steering), consider a rugged, waterproof model instead as it will offer you more features for the money. Speaking of money, helmet cameras range from about $99 to $350, depending on the features and resolution.

Vivitar DVR 690HD Waterproof Camcorder Review

Vivitar DVR 690HD Waterproof Camcorder Review

The Vivitar DVR 690HD is a high definition pocket camcorder capable of recording 1280 x 720p video in the AVI format to SD cards. It is waterproof to a depth of 10 feet and has a rugged housing to secure it against minor bumps and scrapes.

Vivitar DVR 690HD at a Glance

The Good: Low cost, large controls, easy to use.

The Bad: Mediocre video quality.

Vivitar DVR 690HD Video Quality

The Vivitar DVR 690HD records HD video in the AVI format at 1280 x 720p/30 frames per second. It’s not quite the 1080p video recording available on competitive models – but then again, those models don’t cost $60. Video recorded at 720p will serve in a pinch, but you shouldn’t consider the DVR 690HD a real memory keeper – the quality just isn’t there. As a second camcorder to toss in a backpack before you go white-water rafting, however, it should be serviceable. Just don’t bother with the DVR 690HD indoors as they’ll be ample noise in your video if you do.

Recording quality can be dropped to VGA or 320 x 240 – but really shouldn’t be. You can also snap 5-megapixel still photos. The quality here is lousy – but that’s no real knock on the Vivitar as very few pocket camcorders take decent stills.


The DVR 690HD has no optical zoom lens, but instead uses a 4x digital zoom. Best to avoid the digital zoom, however, as all it will do is ramp up some unsightly digital noise.

Vivitar DVR 690HD Design

The DVR 690HD is pretty bulky, even by the standards of rugged pocket camcorders. It’s a bit longer than a compact camera but as thin, if not thinner, than most point-and-shoots in the market. Keep in mind that it’s designed to go underwater (up to 1o feet) so the added bulk is for defensive purposes. That said, it’s aesthetically sharp with a 10 color choices and silver/metallic trim.

The controls on the back of the DVR690 are large and responsive. You’ll see buttons for power, mode, menu and trash surrounding a four-way controller with a shutter button sandwiched in the middle. The four-way controller feels a bit flimsy when you use it, but the rest of the controls are sturdier and easy to operate.The SD card and USB plug (no built-in USB arm here) are accessed via a latched compartment at the bottom of the camcorder. This compartment is very stubborn to open up, but it does keep the water out.


When you spend $60 for a camcorder, you can’t expect to get a feature-packed model. That said, the DVR 690HD does offer face detection and digital image stabilization. You’ll also find several scene modes for optimizing exposure based on your shooting condition. There’s also an LED video light for low light shooting. Not a bad assortment, considering.

Menu and Display

You’ll frame your video via 2-inch LCD display. It’s not the crispest display on the market but served well enough underwater. The DVR 690HD’s menu is pretty basic but is straightforward enough that it’s easy to find what you need.

Vivitar DVR 690HD Memory

The 690HD has a scant 8MB of internal memory, so an SDHC card is a must. The camcorder supports cards up to 32GB in size so you’ll get a max of 3.2-hours of recording on a 32GB card.

Bottom Line

We’ll stipulate again that the Vivitar DVR 690HD should not be your camcorder of choice for preserving important family memories. Instead, think of it as a second camcorder that you don’t mind exposing to the elements to record your rugged thrills or day at the beach. It has competition on this front too – products like Kodak’s Playsport Zx5 offer superior video quality and feature set, but cost nearly two to three times what the DVR 690HD does. If budget and durability are top of mind, give the DVR 690HD a look.