Normally it would be grossly unfair to compare a 3CCD DV camera against a 1CCD DV camera, because the playing field is anything but level. With Panasonic's recent foray into consumer-friendly pricing on 3CCD DV cameras, I decided to put my Canon ZR70 to the test against the Panasonic PV-GS70.
In a nutshell, CCD stands for Charged Coupled Device, which are the chips used by a DV cam to capture image information. 1CCD camcorders capture images by capturing one of the three RGB color values and interpreting the other two. 3CCD cameras capture image data by assigning one color to each chip, resulting in more accurate color information. This is one instance where more is almost always better.
At the time I purchased the ZR70 last year, it was still priced around $700. With a new model year on the horizon, the ZR70 is currently priced under $450, with its generational equivalent, the ZR90 priced at just under $600.
Panasonic's entry level 3CCD DV cam, the PV-GS120 sports the same lens/CCD configuration as the PV-GS70 I tested and may be found for as low as $665. Because I didn't want to wait for the PV-GS120 to become available, I picked up the PV-GS70 for $699. The extra $35 got me MPEG-4 recording (in addition to uncompressed DV), Webcam functionality, and a wired external microphone/remote control. I point out these differences only to illustrate the pricing proximity of the 1CCD and 3CCD DV cams being discussed here.
For my testing, I set each of the two DV cams on tripods positioned as close together as possible, in order to approximate the same angle from each camera. I'll let the images speak for themselves.
1CCD images are displayed on the left - 3CCD images on the right
Outdoors Mostly Sunny
Outdoors Cloudy with a Slight Haze
Indoors Basement Incandescent Lighting
This comparison is obviously unscientific in nature, but it's fairly clear which DV cam produces better images, especially in low-light situations. 1CCD cameras with larger lenses would probably fare slightly better, by allowing more light to hit the CCD, but the color information will still be lacking.
There are many 1CCD cameras priced well below the Panasonic PV-GS120. Quite a few cost several hundred dollars more. Unless you are looking for a professional level camera, like the Canon GL2 or XL1, until Canon and Sony offer competing 3CCD models, I won't be recommending anything but the Panasonic 3CCD line for home and small business users for the foreseeable future.
Buy the Panasonic PV-120 from JandR