Washington Apple Pi

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DXG 506V Product Review

By Hal Cauthen

Washington Apple Pi Journal, reprint information

Let’s face it, I love gadgets! So when I saw Karen Ackoff’s posting about the DXG 506V on Washington Apple Pi’s TCS, I was intrigued. (The posting is at http://tcs.wap.org/topic?b=video&top=1715#1725.)

First, the DXG 506V is tiny -- about the size of a bar of soap.  Yet within that package is a combination 5 megapixel still camera, digital camcorder (full resolution at 640x480), MP3 player, voice recorder, and webcam all in one. And, the DXG 506V comes with 32 MB of built-in storage and an expandable SD card slot, so it works as a portable storage device as well.

DXG 506V Video camera

DXG 506V with two junior videographers.

I can’t comment on all of the features of the DXG 506V. I haven’t tried to use it as an MP3 player – I have an iPod! Nor have I tried the webcam on a Mac.  I have tried the other functions, though.  In my view, this camera is easy to use, can take great pictures and very good video clips, and is a nifty voice recorder. But - and this is a big but – it does have some limitations, both when taking still pictures and when shooting video.

Still Pictures

As a digital camera, the DXG 506V can take great pictures. I took lots of still pictures (as well as video and some sound recordings) at the Rolling Thunder gathering at Harley-Davidson in Fairfax on Memorial Day, and this is an example:

 Rolling Thunder on Memorial Day

Rolling Thunder on Memorial Day (not actively rolling).

It doesn’t get much better than this -- a sharp clear image, great depth of field, excellent color. But it is important to note that I took this picture on a sunny day and in great light. The performance of the camera falls off sharply if the light is not good. The DXG 506V does have a built-in flash, which helps somewhat, but leaving the flash on sucks power from the batteries. So there’s a trade-off.


As a camcorder, there is also good news and bad news. The good news is that the DXG 506V captures excellent quality video with near DVD-quality MPEG-4 video (up to 640x480 at 30 frames per second). There are a couple of things worth noting on the bad side, though. There is a 4X digital zoom, which is useless. Video shot using this feature produces very pixilated images.  (This is true for still photos as well.) There is a built-in flash, and when you are shooting in low light the images are better if you use the flash, but they are still not good. And the other bad news is that the DXG 506V is designed to work with PCs, not Macs, and the particular .avi and .mov codec the PCs use are not native to Macs. Neither will import audio into iMovie or Final Cut (Express or Pro), without conversion. Fortunately, the conversion process is simple. Either add the Perian (http://perian.org/) plug-in to QuickTime Pro (http://www.apple.com/quicktime/download/); or drop the files into Squared Five’s MPEG Streamclip. The result is a converted .mov file that plays well in both iMovie and Final Cut.

Overall, and despite these limitations, the DXG 506V has been a fun little gadget to play with, and nice to have on hand for all kinds of things. It is also a good option as a back-up camera when traveling, since it doesn't take up much room.

The camera lists for $104 on Amazon, marked down from $149, and you can do even better than that. I got mine at the InkStop in Fairfax, Virginia, on sale for $89.

I’ve had so much fun ‘playing’ with it that I used my $15-off-on-next-purchase coupon to buy one for my granddaughters!
More details on converting the video for use on a Mac, plus a sample movie shot with the DXG 506V, can be found here:

Original Rolling Thunder video clip with sound, 23.1 MB, QuickTime.

Rolling Thunder video clip with sound, saved as an H.264 MP4, 4.7 MB.