This fantastic little electronic gadget has everything anyone could ask for, including amateurs or home enthusiasts like me.
Recommend this product?
If you are asking for a professional advice on this camcorder, then this review is not for you, as this is the first digital handycam I've ever owned or used, despite all of the analog ones that have passed trough my hands. We (me and my father) bought this one in order to start filming one of the things he knows best in life... Fly Fishing.
Of course this camera can be also used almost for anything you like. You can catch on tape your son's first steps, your daughters prom or even a high speed car race. What you must keep in mind, is that you MUST read all the included owner's manual and, if possible, try out every single function the camera has while reading.
In the following lines you'll find a detailed explanation of every characteristic or feature this camera has.
Package and package content
While Sony is downgrading the quality of their packages (boxes, etc.), this camera is also being affected. If you own a Sony product or know someone who does, you can easily see the difference between the quality of the materials from past years packages from todays.
Never less, the camera and all it's contents are well protected, as they become squeezed inside the box by all the carton board they have perfectly shaped together.
Inside the box: Once you open the square box, you'll find a hole bunch of manuals, but don't worry, as they are separated into two main categories: the owners manual and the network functions manual. There's also information on accessories and others. There you'll also find the USB drivers CD, so be careful. Below the manuals (and lots of carton board), you'll see the camera itself, surrounded with carton board walls. Behind those walls are the cables, remote control, AA batteries, lens hood, A/V cable, USB cable, shoulder strap, charger (100-240V / 50-60 Hz), charger cord and included Sony NP-FM50 Li-ion battery. The lens cap is already strapped in the lens.
The included NP-FM50 battery is the same one that came included with my Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-S70 camera (still) and has given me hole days of entertainment while taking pictures of 3,3 Mega pixels. Experts and tests have discovered that using this battery on this camcorder gives you 105 minutes or shooting with the LCD screen open, so I haven't used it so far. Instead, I'm using an optional battery I bought with the camera called Sony NP-QM71, which is supposed to give me around 300 minutes in the same recording conditions. I haven't even run out of battery yet.
The media (tapes)
MiniDV stands for (if you haven't already guessed it) for Mini Digital Video. It's a 6mm tape that records 1s and 0s instead of the video itself. If the creators of this new standard are right, I will enjoy watching my first shots 50 years from now with the exact same quality than the day I recorded them.
There are two basic kinds of MiniDVs tapes to choose from: the standard MiniDV and the Cassette Memory MiniDV. The last one records exactly the same time and with the same quality as the first one. The difference resides in the availability of the last one to store titles you might add to your recordings. This might sound like something childish to do, but I can assure you that the searching for certain film inside the tape will be much easier. It also keeps the camera timer set to the point of your last shot. If using the normal MiniDV tape, every time you take the tape out the camera and insert it again, the camera counter will be reset to 0 (or --/--/--). Hand searching might be boring :) The brand of MiniDVs you choose is up to you.
It's show time!
When it comes to the camera... what can I say... It's perfect in every way. When using for a long time (even hours plugged to wall outlet), the camera doesn't even gets hot. The only part I noticed that gets a little hot is the back of the LCD screen while using it, but you won't get burn... guaranteed.
Surprisingly enough, Sony managed to place every button in the right position. The zoom is always at hand, the record and recording mode buttons are easily reached and the LCD screen is... well... it's just perfect. The only button that doesn't feel very comfortable, is the PHOTO button, that is used for that... taking pictures. It's so hard to press that it makes the pictures shake. I recommend you use a tripod for this.
If you are not convinced yet, keep on reading as I start describing the features of the camera itself:
LCD Touch screen
Didn't I mentioned it earlier? It's a touch screen. That means that the screen will detect every finger you put on it. It is extremely sensible, so don't go pressing it too hard. All the "extra" features this camera has are operated through it. If you want to start shooting when you get it, you can just place the battery as indicated (and only way), switch the camera mode to CAMERA and press the red button with your right thumb. But if you want to achieve more professional videos, you can adjust dozens of digital and optic features through the LCD screen.
The camera is also shipped with a Stylus pen, which is nothing more than a rubber pen to keep you from touching the LCD screen. You can also forget about it and carry a cleaning cloth inside the camera bag to clean those fingerprints from time to time.
Zoom and focus
The W/T (also known as "zoom") knob is well placed on top of the camera, making it very close to your pointing finger when holding the camera. It is the most sensitive part of the camera (I think) and it should be treated with care. It is so sensible, that you can zoom in to an object so slow, that in a TV screen, people will hardly notice that your dog is getting closer, or you can zoom in and out as if the devil where chasing you.
The most interesting part of the zooming speed, is that you can actually use it. Under normal light and weather conditions, the zoom will work together with the auto focus, that is also extremely fast, so you will probably finish your day with no video lost.
The focus can also be changed to MANUAL by pressing a round button the camera has at the left side, and just before the lens. By pressing the same button again, the camera is set back to automatic focusing. While in manual focus mode, you adjust the focus using a wheel placed above the lens itself... real focus... nice.
If you still are not able to focus on something in particular, ask your wife's lemon tree to get away from the other ones that are rotten... or use the SPOT FOCUS to focus only on the object or person you want. Turn on your LCD, hit the functions button hit press the SPOT FOCUS button and then touch the object you want to focus on the LCD... nice? It is, believe me.
Digital or old analog ones... it's your call. This camera has so many effects, you can hardly learn how to use all of them, or forget about a few after a couple of hours.
Yes, yes... I know... how can I prefer taking these pictures having a 3,3 Mega pixels camera. Well I don't, but I come to the conclusion that filming is better and if I want to take one picture in "that moment" I will be able thanks to the 1,9 Mega pixels this camcorder has for stills. It provides a very high quality 1600 x 1200 pictures that can be even printed it a video store without loosing your money.
And if it's too dark, a pop-up flash will emerge from below, making it a very bright scene. You can always carry a extra flash to mount on the Intelligent Accessory Shoe.
These still pictures along with MPEG movies (low quality ones) are stored in a Memory Stick card. It comes with an 8 Mb one, but you can buy others up to 1 Gb now.
Nightshot and Steadyshot
I'm sorry, it's Super Nightshot and Super Steadyshot... my mistake. With Nightshot turned on, you'll have an amazing view of what's going on inside your house or tent at night, but if the Super Nightshot is turned on, you can see up to 100 feet in absolute darkness... cool huh?
The Super Steadyshot is what aid you in filming professional-look videos. Forget about holding your breath when REC is displayed on the screen. Just talk, walk and turn like you would when getting out if bed. It digitally detects the camera vibrations and avoid them to be recorded. Really nice feature.
Sing along! With the built-in microphone you can record voice from around 100 feet. Also your voice is recorded (and very well), so try not to speak when recording.
You can use 12Bit or 16Bit recording. 12Bit is has a little less perfect sound quality, but enables you to plug in an external mike and record from 2 sources. 16Bit doesn't allow you this, but the sound is much better.
This camera comes with a USB interface to download images to your computer and also for video streaming. A IEEE 1394 (or Firewire or iLINK) to connect the camera to your computer, VCR or video editing equipment and download/edit/upload your movies. You can also see your recorded videos in any television set that comes with an S-VIDEO or RCA connectors. It also has a Mick input and Headphone output that lets you hear what's being recorded.
What I don't like
It's size. It so small I can hardly find it in my hands. I am 6'3" so you can imagine me with this tiny camera hanging from my shoulder. I wouldn't really hurt if Sony came up with a camera that includes this functions but also a little bit bigger. If you buy it or see one, you'll know what I'm talking about.
Amount Paid (US$): 1460
Recommended for: Trendsetters - Hip and Stylish Gadgets