With the DCRDVD7E, Sony has approached DVD camcorder design from a completely new angle, taking an inspiration cue from digital still cameras, rather than digital video cameras.
Aside from the need to incorporate an 8cm DVD disc, the DCRDVD7E would easily be mistaken for a digital still camera. Firstly, the way the user holds the DCRDVD7E is decidedly photographic in nature. The start record button is where the shutter release button would normally be on a digital still camera, as is the zoom control. Even the strap is a hand strap, rather than a neck strap normally provided with a video camcorder.
The DCRDVD7E is reasonably light at 360 grams, and at only 5cm deep, this is a DVD camcorder that could easily be carried around in a coat pocket or purse.
Two separate open buttons provide access to the DVD bay and the battery compartment. Although not as ubiquitous as MiniDV, DVD media is becoming increasingly common. Both DVD -RW and +RW is supported; although only DVD-R is supported for write-once media.
Aside from the record button and zoom switch, located at the top of the DCRDVD7E, all of the controls are accessed via an excellent 2.5" hybrid touch panel screen on the back portion of the camcorder. The menu system is simple to use, even when drilling down through several levels for some of the exposure effects and custom settings. The LCD screen touch panel can even be used to operate the zoom control and record/pause function, keeping your right hand free to hold the camera and compose the shot.
The main selection switch allows you to quickly select whether you want to take a still picture, video or watch what you have recorded. Other buttons include a backlight and display button, as well as an 'easy' button where you let the camera take over all the decisions.
Both digital stills and video are recorded to the removable DVD media and should be compatible with most home DVD players after finalising the disc. (Slot loading players will need an adapter due to the smaller size of the media compared to a normal DVD disc.)
The 2.5" LCD screen is fast and clear, allowing you to view your subject from various angles, even in direct sunlight. The bright screen is a necessity, due to the lack of an optical viewfinder.
The ability to download your video straight to your PC via a USB 2.0 connection makes the DCRDVD7E a good option for PC users without a FireWire card.
The DVD7E uses a quality Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens with 10X optical zoom to produce vivid colour, with good saturation.
As the DCRDVD7E is targeted at the casual user, the only major fault is the disappointing digital still resolution. It's clearly marketed as a digital video/still solution, but this is hard to justify when you can get no more than 640 x 480 (VGA) for a still image.
If you want a video camera that offers something different in the way of format and design, the Sony DCRDVD7E may fit the bill. However, if you want a digital video camera that performs reasonably well as a still camera, look elsewhere.