There's an interesting balance to consider in the world of DVD camcorders at the moment. Basically, they can all be lumped into two camps. On the one hand you have the small, sleek camcorders that cost about $1000. They're nice to hold, though the quality is generally lacking. Then you have the cameras that cost about fifty percent more. They offer extra features and much better quality, but are also considerably bulkier. Almost every DVD camcorder fits this rudimentary classification; so, when looking for a camera there's a tough decision to make between portability, quality and cost.
- Sleek, compact, relatively easy to use
- Picture quality lacking
A basic DVD camcorder that offers few advantages over its Mini DV brethren
Price$ 1,099.00 (AUD)
Sony's DCR-DVD705 definitely fits into the former category. It's lightweight, slim and extremely portable. This is the kind of camera you can carry around all day. We found the DCR-DVD705 a pleasure to use. All the buttons are in easy to reach places and the hand strap is of good quality and comfortable. Like most of Sony's newer video cameras, the DCR-DVD705 sports a fairly large touch sensitive widescreen LCD. Almost every function of the camera can be accessed from the LCD, including recording and zoom. This is, in theory, a great idea. We found the touch screen navigation on Sony's Mini DV cameras, such as the DCR-HC26E to be a breeze. However, Sony's latest wave of DVD cameras has a different on-screen interface. We really feel that this interface is one of those occasions where the designers felt they needed to show off. So it's out with the simplistic yet functional interface of old and in with rotating 3D barrels, spinning icons and vast numbers of buttons. Why Sony has done this we really don't know. It just isn't necessary at all; this is a video camera, not a games console.
Once you've moved past the annoying 3D effects and worked out how to use the DCR-DVD705 however, it actually provides a decent enough range of functions to satisfy the average user. Sony's old favourite, the nightshot mode, makes a welcome return as do some basic video effects. These include faders and sepia mode plus a couple of more interesting options but can't touch the all-out madness of laser beams and rotating screens that Canon includes with their video cameras these days. Still shot recording is also included but with only a one megapixel sensor you aren't going to be throwing away your old camera just yet. There's no chance of printing out these photos but they're certainly OK when viewed on a television screen. Seeing as this is a DVD camera, the videos are obviously going to end up in a DVD player at some point. Sony provides an easy to use editing tool that automatically creates a chapter selection screen as is seen on most regular DVDs. This feature is seen on pretty much any DVD camcorder but the Sony version is one of the nicer ones we've seen. Finally, it's good to know that the DCR-DVD705 has a fairly good battery life of about 75-80 minutes. This should be enough to film two DVDs at high quality.
Functionality is all well and good, but the picture quality of a camcorder is what really makes the difference. Unfortunately, the DCR-DVD705 is below par. Compared to the model above this, the DCR-DVD805, we weren't very impressed. The main cause of this is the sensor used; the 805 has three times as many pixels as the 705. The effects of this are are evident, with image degradation, particularly graininess showing its ugly head. Whilst with the 805 we only noticed graininess at low light levels the 705 displays this at all times. Indoors, outdoors, light, dark, it all has a distracting haze. This isn't to say it stops the picture from being viewable, but its prevalence is certainly noticeable. This is the sacrifice you make for portability and price.
However there are alternatives. Just to make things even more complicated we are going to mention Mini DV. Mini DV is a slightly archaic format now, certainly in technology terms, as it uses tape. The advantages of this format are that you can get a better quality picture for a cheaper price than the DCR-DVD705. What you lose is the convenience of DVD playback. Would you ever go back to using VCR, with the hassle of fast-forward and rewind, after using DVD? Yet if you can't afford the more expensive DVD models and are willing to put up with the idiosyncrasies of Mini DV then a camera such as the aforementioned Sony DCR-HC26E may be a better option.
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