- Decent quality, good battery life
- Optical zoom could be larger
Feature packed and with decent quality, the DCR-DVD805 is a good buy
Price$ 1,499.00 (AUD)
Sitting roughly in the middle of Sony's new lineup of DVD camcorders is the DCR-DVD805. At the consumer level, the difference in quality between Mini DV and DVD cameras is now slim enough to make DVD models a consideration. If you can afford the extra cost and can sacrifice on image quality, we thoroughly recommend DVD cameras over Mini DV. Mini DV frankly cannot compete with the simplicity of DVD.
The DCR-DVD805, like every other Sony camcorder we have tested, is of very good build quality. Finished in an attractive silver/grey combination the DCR-DVD805 is a world away from such tacky eyesores as Samsung's VP-D3521. Like most of Sony's new breed of camcorders the DCR-DVD805 has a touch screen LCD, which apart from making the camera an awful lot easier to use, means that the usual plethora of buttons can be cleared away into the on-screen menu. An LCD viewfinder is also provided, which conveniently flips up when required. Despite the inclusion of a larger than average battery, Sony have managed to tuck it unobtrusively away into the chassis. The camera is generally comfortable to hold with all the buttons placed intuitively. One minor annoyance is the camera's slightly bulky frame. When this is combined with its weight of 510g the DCR-DVD805 isn't as portable as some other cameras we have seen.
Using the Camera
Sony has implemented a new on-screen menu for this latest wave of cameras, which we felt was actually more of a hindrance than a help. A bizarre multi level interface with scrolling wheels, numerous pages of buttons and quasi-3D graphics left us dizzy and confused. Why everything couldn't have been in the same format is beyond us. As nice as the touch screen LCD is, we found the poor layout of the settings negates the advantages such a system provides. Thankfully, for users who don't care about accessing advanced functionality, Sony has included an "easy" setting. This removes all the complex options, enlarges the size of the on screen icons (as obviously if you're a simpleton you also have poor eyesight) and fixes all the settings to default. The LCD itself is of a good quality and while not as big as on some of Sony's other cameras, performs well even in direct sunlight.
As well as offering video the DCR-DVD805 also boasts still image capture. Photos can be taken at up to 3 megapixel size, and either stored on the DVD itself or copied to the Memory Stick Duo slot. The camera has a built in flash and offers several customization options. The quality of the pictures is a little disappointing however, with over-saturation and poor colour reproduction. That said, it would be good enough for a few holiday snapshots. When actually shooting video we recommend using the highest quality settings, which will provide about 40 minutes of capture on a double-sided DVD. We found the camera's battery life will last long enough to shoot two of these discs. The quality of the video is fairly good, if a little grainy in low light. This is especially noticeable when using the night shot mode, though considering the power of the infrared transmitters on camcorders, this is only to be expected. We were disappointed with the camera's zoom power. At only 10x optical zoom the DCR-DVD805 falls well behind the abilities of many other camcorders.
Sony has included a couple of nice extras on the camera. One of these is a four-way microphone, allowing for the encoding of Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. The second is an Active Interface Shoe, to which wireless microphones and high powered lights can be attached. When you've finally finished shooting video the camera can prepare the disc for use in a DVD player. Like most DVD cameras, the DCR-DVD805 offers the ability to prepare an on-screen chapter menu to make selecting video clips all the more easy. Photos are collated into a slide show.
Overall, the DCR-DVD805 is represents a good purchase for budding home video enthusiasts. It's not really a budget purchase, but the simplicity of DVD and the camera's decent picture quality make up for the initial outlay.
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