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When I purchased a Sony IP7 in 2002 this was the smallest video camera in the world. 3 years later and its still one of the tiniest consumer video cameras available. Back then the MicroMV format that this camera uses was just starting out and it looked like it could be the future for home video cameras. However this has not been the case as MicroMV is a format still only used in Sony video cameras and it is doubtful it will ever go any further than that.
This brings us to the major downside of the IP7 - compatability. The microMV format used in the IP7 throws up numerous problems when trying to edit footage captured by the camera not usually encountered when using mini DV as in most consumer camcorders. If however, you are looking for a small, pocketsized camera to carry round on holiday and shoot those family moments this is still one of the best cameras you can buy.
With a price tag of around £800-£1000 it is quite expensive for a camcorder but the quality of the image is top notch. It uses a Carl Zeiss lens with 10x optical/120x digital zoom and has a 800,000 pixel CCD which gives a superbly clear and crisp image. Ok ,so if you compare it with the top range prosumer cameras then the image can sometimes look grainy but within this price range this is the best image you are likely to get.
There is a 2.5" coulour LCD screen which gives is great for playback of tapes although it does tend to drain the battery. The battery life is not spectacular, when using the LCD screen expect it to last less than an hour. Spare batteries for this model are also very expensive.
The controls for the camera are pretty standard, although obviously the buttons are small and sometimes a bit fiddly. The zoom control is likely to cause the most problems as this takes some getting used to. You have to just gently push a little notch up or down to zoom in and out but after some practice it'll be like second nature.
The IP7 is quite robust and withstands almost anything you can throw at it. I've skiied with it from the tops of mountains, dropped it on concrete floors and got it soaked in the rain but had no problems with it malfunctioning at any time. Of course I wouldn't recommend you do these things but its nice to know you can!
Other functions of the camera include a network and bluetooth function enabling you to surf the internet and send email. This is tricky to set up and not really that helpful in this day and age with computers being so readily available. The camera also takes digital photos under a seperate mode but these are not anywhere near the same quality as a regular digital camera produces and so it is still advisable to have a digital camera at hand if you require these.
Although I mentionned compatability was a problem it is still possible to edit a nice little home movie using the supplied movieshaker software and i.LINK cable providing you have a computer which can deal with this. Connectivity has never been a problem as the IP7 also has USB and analogue connections so you can share and view your videos and photos in a number of ways.
Overall I would recommend this camera or any microMV camera solely as a travel video camera. If you are looking to shoot short movies then go for a mini DV camera but if you want something small, light and flexible then the Sony IP7 is the way to go.