So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Sony NSC-GC1 Net-Sharing Cam
- Under $300, in-built software, easy to use, 5-megapixel stills
- Video quality less than average, controls are slightly too small, boxy design
While the NSC-GC1 cannot hope to compete with a dedicated camcorder, it provides an affordable introduction to video sharing over the Internet. If you plan to screen your video creations exclusively online, you won't be disappointed.
Price$ 299.00 (AUD)
The proliferation of video-sharing Web sites has caused a steady stream of dedicated peripherals to enter the marketplace; each jostling for a prime position on the YouTube gravy train. First and foremost amongst these is the Web-share cam, which combines the ease-of-use of a webcam with the functionality of a video camera. While traditionally the domain of small-time vendors, Sony has decided to join the fray with the NSC-GC1; a pocket-sized handycam tailor-made for online video sharing.
With an RRP of just $299, the NSC-GC1 is very much a bare-bones device, aimed squarely at casual users who aren't overly fussed by fancy features or high resolution. It records video in the MPEG4 standard using Sony's Memory Stick flash media format. Unfortunately, no card is included in the sales package, which means you'll need to fork out extra cash before you can record any footage (a 1GB card will set you back around $40). While we would've liked to have seen some internal memory on the device, we understand Sony's cost-cutting decision, which has also kept the camera's weight down to 150g.
However; small doesn't necessarily equal sexy, and the overall design of the NSC-GC1 is bound to divide opinion. While its lightweight dimensions make for a highly portable device, we can't help but feel that its plastic, oblong design will turn off some users. It kind of reminded us of the 'Box Brownie' camera from the 1950s; albeit in a slimmed-down, glossier guise. In addition to being quirky and antiquated, the brick-like design also fits poorly into the hand, with none of the ergonomic curviness we have come to expect from Sony. It also lacks the touch-screen interface found on other Sony handycams; instead opting for a directional stick surrounded by a ring of menu buttons. While fairly straightforward and easy to operate, the tiny controls are bound to hamper large-fingered individuals. Thankfully, the sparsity of menu options means you won't need to access them all that often.
Being a sub-$300 handycam designed for undemanding YouTube fans, the NSC-GC1 is singularly unimpressive when it comes to video quality. During our testing, the fixed f/3.5 lens produced sub par visuals in all but the brightest environments, which appeared grainy and poorly saturated even on our modestly sized television. Of course, this is to be expected from a Web-share camera -- the real test lies in how your footage fares online. Thankfully, the miniature windows found on most video-sharing Web sites do an admirable job of hiding the NSC-GC1's shortcomings.
The same cannot be said for the zoom function however, which eschews optical magnification altogether. Instead, users are left with a horribly jerky digital zoom that causes footage to look even grainier than usual. Close-ups will therefore need to be performed spatially; aided by a macro switch on the camera. The inbuilt microphone is also less-than-perfect, and seems best suited to quiet, indoor environments.
On the plus side, the NSC-GC1 includes webcam functionality and also doubles as a 5-megapixel stills camera; complete with a flash light and selection of shutter speeds and ISO settings. This is impressive for a camcorder in any price range, which typically offer rudimentary stills with a resolution of 2Mp or under. Keeping in line with its Internet leanings, the images produced by the NSC-GC1 are ideal for displaying on social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook; as well as small-to-medium sized prints. This makes the NSC-GC1 a suitable hybrid device for anyone after a cheap point-and-click camera (although the lack of an optical zoom naturally hampers its functionality). In any event, the camera remains very solid; particularly for a handycam in this price range.
Another neat feature of the NSC-GC1 is the included software which has been built into the device. This allows you to upload your videos directly to YouTube via USB with a minimum of fuss. All up, there is more than enough going for the NSC-GC1 to make it a recommended purchase -- provided you only want to screen your movies virtually. More ambitious videographers will need to look elsewhere.
Currently, the NSC-GC1 Net-Sharing Cam can only be purchased through Sony Central stores, or online ( www.sony.com.au ).
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