Like all consumer DVD camcorders, the Canon DC230 has been designed for first-timers who have neither the time nor the inclination to mess around with the more complex functions and features associated with home video camcorders.

They want to record what they see right now, and who can blame them? It's for this reason that the DC230 employs an 8cm DVD disc rather than tape, and its Quick Start mode is just about ideal for virtually everyone who picks it up and switches it on.

The DC230 is designed with handheld use in mind. It has a stylish and well-shaped body that fits well in the palm and gives easy access to controls when recording and playing back clips or images. The well-designed graphical menu system can be navigated by means of a mini-joystick at the rear of the cam and nestled among the main power, mode and recording buttons.

The 2.7-inch widescreen colour LCD flips out to reveal VCR-style frame controls for playback, and in its recess is where the Li-Ion battery also sits. A tiny viewfinder isn't so useful, however. It's fixed and very small - and impossible to focus while in use.

Delve a bit deeper into the menu system of the head of Canon's family of four DVD starter models and you'll uncover a few things to keep even the cynical die-hards interested.

For a start, there's a pretty impressive level of manual control over the images and sounds that enter this single 1/6 CCD model. All the main menu options available when shooting in both Movie and Photo modes are accessed via the Func button on the dial above the LCD.

It's here where the Display button, which presents technical data on the screen as you record and playback, and also the Quick Start button are found.

Press the mini-joystick while recording and you have instant access to a number of manual or preset controls over aperture, white balance and electronic shutter. Canon now offers an Aperture or Shutter priority, too - select the preferred exposure and the shutter speed will be optimised automatically and vice-versa.

Select the manual focus option for instant adjustment using the joystick with graphical indication to assist you, or press the Next button to take you to other manual options. Nice touch.

Recording either in widescreen or standard ratio produces images that are well resolved and sharp - especially when controlling things manually. In fully Auto mode the cam has a tendency to over-saturate bright white peaks in pictures, though the overall contrast ratio (the ability to cope with light and dark elements within an image) is pretty good all the same.

The 35x optical zoom range is a definite plus, though quite why Canon has seen fit to include a 105x, let alone a ridiculous 1000x, digital zoom is anybody's guess. Electronic Image Stabilisation is good, however, especially when used with the optical zoom, as is the inclusion of a lens shutter to protect the front element from damage when not in use.

One of the advantages of DVD as a recording medium is that it's a doddle to choose which clips you want to see - either individually or in groups - when playing back. Simply browse for the clip you want and click play. In that respect the DC230 is probably ideal for first-timers. In bright conditions it produces lovely images - especially in widescreen.

Indoors, when light levels are lower, the pictures become grainy as characteristic of smaller CCD models. However, this won't deter those who seek a modern, easy-to-use camcorder for everyday events at a price that certainly won't break the bank, and in that respect it will undoubtedly find a good home.