In the frenzy to develop camcorders that are even smaller, more compact and cheaper than ever before, manufacturers sometimes lose sight of the kind of features that consumers love.

Fortunately Canon is helping to redress the balance with the introduction of the MVX460 - a camcorder that succeeds with a selection of old-fashioned but essential functions.

The MVX460 boasts a wide range of manual features, a solid set of digital photography tools and comes with the usual suite of edit software, but for us the real treats come with its analogue inputs, its two-way FireWire ports, a 20x optical zoom and an external mic socket.

These might not be the features a salesman would choose to sell you sub-£400 model but in our opinion that's a great step on the way to producing an award-winning camcorder.

Design and layout

The MVX460 is blessed with small dimensions and is featherlite (it's amazingly only 370g), so easily falls into the compact cam territory. It's designed to be as unobtrusive as possible and would easily fit into a jacket pocket.

The tiny dimensions mean that it's slightly more difficult to hold steady than larger models and we found it essential to have the electronic image stabiliser engaged for most shooting

Comfortable to hold over extended periods and with most of the major controls falling to hand easily, the MVX460 our first impressions are very positive. Further investigation throws up a few design issues, though. The camcorder appears not to have very many external controls, with the whole left flank and lens barrel seemingly unburdened with buttons.

This myth is dispelled by a far too hectic back plane, which has a large number of controls. Among them is the record button with options to select camera or playback and a small lever, which can be moved between tape and memory card recording.

Also, at the back is a joystick - that we found difficult to use on account of it being too small! - which is for selecting menu items, and a switch for Easy and Progressive shooting modes.

Features

The MVX460 has the usual share of fades, digital effects and image tools, but what we really love are its analogue inputs. AV inputs allow you to hook up a VCR or analogue cam and dub your old footage onto digital tape.

You can also use them to record TV programmes to digital tape - and then once you send the images to a computer and you can play around, creatively, with anything from TV!

The MVX460 even features an analogue-to digital converter, meaning it acts as a bridge between analogue devices and a PC. You can send in an analogue signal and it will pass out a digital one - direct to a computer if you like.

The cam stores digital stills at 1,152 x 864 and 640 x 480 resolutions onto SD or MMC card, and can also record video clips to the same media at 320 x 240 and 160 x 120. Using SD you can record for as long as you've capacity, though if you choose to shoot on MMC it's only 30 second or 10 second clips.

Performance

The overall clarity and definition provided by the MVX460 far exceeds what we'd expect for a sub-£400 mini DV camcorder. Test footage was solid, accurately colour balanced and full of detail.

The outdoor performance was the most impressive, rich and vivid at all times. Indoors there is autofocus hunting when in less than ideal light, but overall the performance is consistently good.

The camcorder's audio performance is also consistent with a model in this budget/midrange category. We recorded several pieces of narration, which were clear and well-balanced on playback. Test audio was also recorded with music being played back via a Denon test system. Music lacks depth in the bass range but the overall tone is clean and pleasant.

Conclusion

An excellent addition to the ranks of mini DV camcorders. The MVX460 blends great visuals with solid manual features and a fantastic and creative set of connections. An absolute must test for any video enthusiast.