As the top of the range DVD camcorder in Sony's lineup, the DCR-DVD905 is a predictably good performer. With excellent video quality for a DVD model, a larger than average LCD screen and convenient operating use, the package is a good bet for the amateur user who doesn't want to sacrifice quality. The lack of manual options though will deter more advanced directors.
- Good quality video, Huge LCD
- Bulky, Colour reproduction, Still images only average, Lack of manual controls
The good quality video and huge LCD are countered by the lack of manual options on this DVD camcorder.
Price$ 1,799.00 (AUD)
As an advanced camcorder it comes as no surprise to find the DVD905 is big and bulky. Weighing in at over half a kilo and with a fairly large frame, this isn't the kind of camera that can be conveniently tucked into a coat pocket. The upside of having a large camcorder is the extra room afforded for the screen. Sony has included a large 3.5in LCD display, which provides roughly 75 percent more space than a regular 2.7in screen. This makes a huge difference when focusing on fine details or when using some of the more complex manual options, such as spot focusing. Like all Sony camcorders the LCD is touch sensitive, which we find useful. This also means there aren't so many buttons cluttering up the camera's body.
We were a little perplexed when we had a detailed look at exactly which manual options were on offer with the DVD905; although there are some nice inclusions there are also some glaring omissions. For a start there was the unusual but welcome inclusion of spot metering and focusing, allowing more accurate lighting and improved sharpness in video footage. There's also a great option which allows for slow motion video capture. This basically takes three seconds of footage at an incredibly high frame rate, and then plays it back more slowly over a 12 second period. Sony suggests this is useful for golfers who want to improve their swing, but it has useful applications for any high-speed motion capture.
As with any respectable camcorder the ability to change white balance, use manual focus and alter exposure are included. What is missing is the aperture, gain or shutter controls. We can't say this surprises us, as Sony very rarely include these options on their consumer level cameras, but nonetheless for an expensive model to ship without them is disappointing. Another omission is the lack of a microphone jack. Nothing unusual here, but this kind of detail is sorely missed by anyone wanting to better control the sound input. Sony does provide microphone connectivity through the Active Interface jack atop the camera, but the choice of microphone is limited to proprietary Sony products. That said, the inbuilt microphone is generally acceptable, and even provides 5.1 sound output, though this isn't terribly effective. The 10x optical zoom is about standard for this kind of camera, and was certainly zippy when zooming in and out. Sony's image stabilisation is usually top notch, and we had no problems with the DVD905 in this regard.
Where the DVD905 really shone was in the quality of its video. We're used to seeing DVD camcorders that produce grainy footage marred with compression artefacts. With the DVD905 we were hard pressed to see any signs of image degradation, especially in good lighting conditions. The tell-tale signs of MPEG2 compression were still evident on rapidly moving objects, however, with some noticeable ghosting. For the most part though, things were pretty good with a sharp picture and smooth video. Exposure and saturation seemed almost spot on, though bright colours were a little off. The DVD905 also gave an excellent performance under low light conditions, a rarity for DVD camcorders, with little sign of the speckling we frequently see. There's no video light, but should you wish to take stills there is a flash. Sony's ever-present Nightshot returns, and while it's certainly effective in complete darkness, everything turns out green.
Still pictures weren't quite of the same quality of the video. The four megapixel interpolated images generally looked decent, although we weren't particularly impressed by the sharpness or colour balance. We really missed the lack of manual options here. The pictures looked good enough on a computer screen and would probably do for a 6x4in print, though the DVD905 is no replacement for a dedicated digital camera.
Overall, the DVD905 is good for a DVD camcorder. Video quality is certainly far better than average and we really liked the huge screen. It's a shame the still images weren't up to scratch, but ultimately it's the lack of manual options that we found to the greatest limitation.
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