Product Type: Sony digital camcorders
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Small but beautiful (updated 9/6/01)
Sony Handycam DCR-PC5
Member Name: martinlross
Sony Handycam DCR-PC5
Date: 11/04/01, updated on 09/06/01 (1078 review reads)
Advantages: Size, Weight, Features
Disadvantages: Motor noise, Sound quality
I can now say that I made the right choice. The camera is a delight to use. Digital stills taken on the memory stick are brill. Video quality is excellent even in max zoom and as good as anything else on the market. The humming noise I refer to below cannot really be heard on playback at all. The only drawback is battery life with the standard battery. Use it with the screen open and you'll be lucky to get 30mins usage. However, the small size pays off time and time again. I've even dropped it onto a (thinly carpetted) floor from two feet up and it works no problem. Great!
I bought our Sony PC-5 only last Saturday. By my reckoning that means I've had it 4 days. However, I've mastered the controls and played around with it enough to be able to give any prospective buyer what I hope is a fairly good opinion of this machine.
First things first. I have never owned a camcorder before although I have used several larger models quite a lot. My opinion of them has always been "nice but terribly big". Now that we're having a baby in July I thought it would be an ideal excuse, sorry, opportunity to splash out on something that would capture our family life for posterity (the merits of doing so is another topic for conversation altogether!).
On to the camcorder itself.
Price: Ouch! Ouch! I paid £1050 from Jessops. You can get better featured cameras for less money, make no mistake, but they will be bigger. The bottom line is you must really want one of these things.
Size: About as small as you can get. The remote control isn't that much bigger than the camera! Canon have released their MV3MC (called an Elura 2 in the USA) which is slightly taller but also slightly slimmer when looking down on top of it. It was a toss up between the two, especially when the Canon had £250 knocked off it - down to £1000. However, I still
went for the marginally bigger PC-5 for reasons explained below. The PC-5 can be tucked away in my fleece or jacket no problem which was a reason why I went for such a small machine - what's the point of buying a camcorder which you leave at home? To me the point of camcorders is to catch life's rich tapestry and that's kind of difficult with some of the bigger offerings around.
Build Quality: In my opinion Sony take the medal. I have seen several battered Sony camcorders in my time – they still work fine and that is good enough for me. I have already read reports of slightly dicky LCD screens on equally small camcorders by other makers although these seem to be isolated cases. Nevertheless, I have never read anything about Sony build quality problems on the PC-5. In fact, the only complaint I have heard about the Sony is the fact that it doesn't have true progressive scan - a techy term which I understand means that stills captured off moving film aren't so good.
Picture Quality: The zoom is 10x optical and 40x digital. At full zoom the picture quality is not THAT good but quite acceptable. However, that is a fairly close up shot and I am happy with it. A problem I have found is that most Sony's apparently need quite a lot of light to get really good shots. This means that I have had to tinker a bit with the settings to optimise indoor footage. It's still early days to decide whether it will cut the mustard but for my amateur purposes I seem to be getting it to work fairly well.
Sound Quality: Probably the biggest drawback. If someone is not speaking directly to the camera (say 3m away) the sound is very faint and you have to crank the volume right up to hear what is being said when playing back. Going back to the fact that I have never owned a camcorder before this could, of course, be par for the course - bare it in mind.
PC Interface: The PC-5 has a memory stick which makes it
very easy to capture stills and download them. Beware though - stills caught on tape and transferred to the stick are poorer in quality than if you had caught them on to the stick directly. Stills caught on the stick are great. I am still working out what I can and can’t do on this one.
Pros: This is a very small and feature packed camera (the special effects are great). It will wow anyone. The on-LCD-screen touch sensitive menu system is totally ace and a technological triumph. The night-shot is great too.
Cons: The motor makes a surprisingly loud high frequency noise when filming. This really gutted me when I got home and started using it. However, in playback it is not really discernible although really fussy people would notice it. I don't know how the Canon fairs in this respect.
Conclusion: This may sound more negative than I intended it to be but these are my first thoughts in the context of spending a grand on something I have never owned before so don't really know what the benchmark is! I will revisit them in a month's time once I have got some real filming minutes under my belt. My gut feeling is that I have made the right choice and I think I will grow to love the beast.
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