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Sony's digital camcorder's a delight

Sony's DCR-PC7 Digital Camcorder

Video - and then some!

by Les Enser

After JVC fired the first shot with their tiny GRDV1 camcorder it was inevitable that Sony would follow suit. Sony decided to add a 2.5 inch LCD monitor to the P7 which also incorporates a 113,000 pixel, colour viewfinder. Zoom capability is set at 10 X Optical and 120 X Digital, a great feature for the pretend to be spies out there. Unfortunately the zoom at that magnitude tends to be somewhat fuzzy, especially if the subject is rather close in. Keeping the image steady at full digital zoom is also a bit of challenge, even with the "steady shot" engaged.

Also housed along side the LCD screen is a built in speaker, a great feature for video playback of that must see shot. Once the viewfinder is folded open “soft touch” function keys are revealed. The keys operate LCD brightness, speaker volume, menu select (for various operation settings), display function, and an End Search control, which automatically rewinds or fast forwards to the end of a recording point so that one can resume recording without the glitches.

Sony encased the DCR-PC7 in a gorgeous “magnesium alloy die-cast” cabinet which is said to be very durable and lightweight. A single 1/3” precision CCD is used in conjunction with Sony’s Super Steady Shot that's supposed to correct for regular or high frequency vibration without much change in picture quality. Usually, regular steady shots exhibit visible picture shift or anomaly when vibration takes place. The DCR-PC7 also features a “Photo mode” which produces some great stills of your favorite subject. Basically, you get motion and still video in one small package.

Sony also wisely added an LP recording mode, which lets you extend recording time to 90 minutes from a 60-minute tape. The beauty of digital technology is that if you choose a slower speed, there is no noticeable picture degradation! Boy we can hardly wait to get our hands on a digital VCR! Additional features include manual focus, variable auto white balance, time base corrector for jitter free playback, and a digital video input and output. This digital interface corresponds to the IEEE1394 protocol, which can be tied into a personal computer, opening up for even more creativity. Last but not least the camcorder also comes with a handy wireless rremote control.

We used the DCR-PC7 in day to day situations and found the camera to have a balanced feel while operating in the record mode. This came to us as somewhat of a surprise since the camera is relatively small and light. Of course it does help to have the “Super Steady Shot” which tends to make shooting a breeze and jitter free. Using the zoom was a little awkward since the button is almost mounted flush against the body of the camera and the trigger finger tended to slide off every so often when using the main viewfinder.

The zoom is easier to use if you swing out the LCD screen and hold the camera away from your body. The screen is first rate when used as a monitor on a tripod or is handy for general shooting. Up until now Sony was the only small camcorder which featured the LCD screen but JVC has now followed suite with their new GRDMV1.

Picture quality is excellent for such a little wonder, rounding out at about 475 lines of resolution. Colours are vibrant and clean with no hint of noise, even the reds looked decent. The photo mode was a pleasure to use and the results even more pleasing. We amassed an archive of high quality photo videos - everything from cars to our wives for us to use in the near future, once the Sony computer capture board becomes available (DVBK-1000).

All said, this is a fun camera to use and can be taken to many places without the bulk along with the best quality currently available on consumer video. Now all we need to do is to book a trip to some exotic land and take our little conversation piece with us and capture those precious memories on Sony’s DCR-PC7.

Tech Specs:

Sony DCR-PC7
Lens:
10X Optical
120X Digital
Focal Length: F1.8-2.6/=4.0-40mm
Filter Diameter: 37mm

Camera:
Focus: Full Range Auto/Manual/Infinity
1/3” CCD chip
Pixels: 680K gross, Effective: 340K
Minimum Lux: 3

Viewfinder:
Colour 113K pixels
Full status indicator
Audio:
PCM Digital Stereo with Audio Dub
Built in Microphone, Stereo
Auto wind Position
VTR:
Digital Video
Quick Start/ Record
Time base corrector
Clean still, Slow, Frame advance
LCD Monitor:
2.5” with Brightness control
84,480 pixels

Price Canadian:
$3799.99

 

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Updated May 13, 2006