For years I have used many gadgets and the like, but there was always one piece of equipment which I never got... A video camera! I never found one to my liking, primarily because the act of getting video to a usable form on the PC was pretty pain staking, transfering it usually took as long as the video itself.
Then came the DVD-R recorders, which sort of solved the problem of transfering videos, but the videos were in a DVD VOB format, which makes manipulating them a little problematic. Also... writing to a DVD takes a LOT of battery power, something which I'm all too familiar from being a user of a first generation CDR Digital Camera.
Then came the HDD video cameras, which usually saved files in a proper file that you can just copy off the camera, also running a hard disk uses less power than a DVD drive. But the problem with the initial HDD cameras were that they recorded at a fixed bit rate which gave them bad video quality at times, or just plain wasted the high bitrate.
My wife has been making me promise to get a video camera to be used for my child, and I have been holding out on getting one, until I saw this little guy just now.
The Sony DCR-SR60 It's a HDD cam, but with a few differences from the current HDD cameras (then again I haven't been keeping up to date on these things so I wouldn't know how new this is!) First thing about this camera that caught my eye was that on the brochure it very explicitly went through the troubleto mention that it DOES indeed uses Variable Bit Rate encoding for it's recording to ensure that disc space is used efficiently and also video quality doesn't suffer too.
Unlike most of the other HDD video cameras I've checked out in the past, it doesn't just use a Compact Flash type II slot and then use a micro drive in it. This camera's hard disk is mounted in the camera.
The obvious advantage of having a permanently built in hard disk is that all sorts of anti shock, anti vibration, etc. etc. systems can be applied to it so that the fragile nature of using a hard disk in a piece of mobile equipment can be overcome. Of course... all over the packaging, and in the instruction manual they'll keep mentioning that you shouldn't drop, shake, or subject the camera to vibration during operation...
The obvious disadvantage of a permanently built in hard disk is that.. well, it's permanent.. so if you're going to use it on a trip you either need to have a backup device like a notebook or something, or use the recording settings to get the most out of your space. This particular camera I've got has a 30GB hard disk, and according to the specs, in it's lowest quality mode it is able to record about 21 hours of video.
Since it's a Sony camera it has the usual Handycam features such as.. having a touchscreen for most of it's controls.
Which my wife comments that "Great, don't have to remember which button does what!" to which I answer Great... there's only ONE button on the camera to fail! But the touch screen does have a lot of cool features, you can customize the menus for quick access to your commonly used functions, use it to focus on a specific spot of the image you're capturing. All in all.. good shit.
Another Sony feature that I like is the inclusion of an EASY mode, just like what my camera has. Bascially once you're in this EASY mode.. you just go ahead and record your video, all the advance stuff like exposure, white balance, etc. etc. everything will be taken care of for you.
Initial tests of the files that the camera produces are good, according to the documents it's using MPEG2 for it's compression and I can just play them in WMP once I copy them over to my PC since for some reason playing them off the camera... it doesn't seem to work too well.
Windows Movie Maker is able to edit the files after stalling for a while so editing the files shouldn't be a problem. I'm gonna need to fiddle with this some more before I'm able to say wheter this camera was a good buy or not. So far I'm leaning towards good.
One caveat which I didn't notice until I paid for the camera which would have affected my purchase decision is that.. there's no viewfinder! the only way to see what you're doing is through the big side screen, which from experience is the single most power hungry thing on a camera. But.. again.. from experience I know that technology advancements have made screens much more power efficient but I would have still loved being able to make the choice of NOT using the big power hungry screen.
Stay tuned for some video goodness soon!