* Prices may differ from that shown
I bought this camera as I had read some pretty good reviews about it, and it came at a very reasonable price. The camera itself was a nice, compact camcorder, that fitted nicely in the palm of my hand. All the buttons on the camera were well laid out, and were very accessible with the shooting hand. The quality of the picture outdoors was very goo, I have no complaints, however the picture indoors in low light was very grainy, even in 'high' quality mode.
The only other problem I encountered with this camcorder, was to do with the processing and editing of the final dvd. This is not so easy, and I found myself trawling through pages and pages of online forums and guides to eventually be able edit the video.
In summary, I think that this is a very good camcorder for the price, it has plenty of features and a very good picture, although it does struggle in low light. If you do like to edit your videos, you may also run into some problems, however for a simple point and shoot camcorder I think it is excellent value.
---->Sony Handycam DCR DVD 205<----
The series DVD 205E, is the video camera you will have undoubtedly seen in the palm of many tourists near those hotspots you go to on a Saturday to get away from the trouble and strife of everyday life.
I have had mines now for over 2 years and can't say there is anything absolutely untoward about the 205E. Because it writes straight to a DVD there is no need for special video cassettes unlike Digital VT, you shoot whatever you're filming, finalize the end result, and pop it in any DVD player, I use a Playstation and found most Sony products compliment each other quite well.
---->What's It Got? <----
The Handycam in general has a lot of electronic wizardry and gizmo's, there is a 2.7" TFT Touch screen for all your commands and setting features, dates and times as well as the most obvious task, to see what you're filming, a 12X optical zoom with stabilization function, a digital zoom with an 800X Zoom (although it has this function, you really shouldn't need to zoom this close!), a "Carl Zeiss" Vario TessarTM lens (1,8/3-36), which I'll look into further on, an eye piece capable of retracting 1", saving valuable battery time by "not" having to use the TFT/LCD screen to look at what you're filming, 2 Start and Stop record functions on "both" the screen and by the hand buckle.
It is a nifty little piece of work.
---->Carl Zeiss, What's The Fuss? ----
For a start, its German precision engineering, any Audi or Beemer driver, Weihrauch or RWS sports rifle-man, will be all very keen to let you know about their various, German made products. Maybe it's best not to ask them unless you want a lesson in "why you should go Bavarian". Germany's craftsmanship in their exports speaks for itself; you need no or very little introduction.
Also known as the Zeiss TessarTM, this is the way in which the camera's 3 main lenses are put together and a fourth or "doublet" is then glued to the eyepiece lens for sharper picture quality.
The Zeiss company deals in all things optical, from binoculars and rifle scopes to Euro Space telescopes, Zeiss- The BMW-M5 of image enhancing, (or there about).
Sony and Zeiss cracked their skulls together when making the Handycam range. To my knowledge, most of today's picture cameras and video cameras have this technology, and then some, giving a more natural end product.
There isn't a great deal to go into in this area, but since were here, I will give it a quick once over. When I opened mines, I looked through the "crinkle cut" cardboard stuffing thinking, "They sold me a "near" empty box".
Two cables, one for charging the battery, and one for viewing holiday films/weddings and various other home movies, are supplied.
The camera charge socket is tucked away next to the eye piece; I remember first getting it and not being able to find it. The viewing cable is for both scart and audio/video (a red, yellow and white deal), you don't get a scart connection with this camera, so borrow one from either the Playstation or X-box, easily enough fitted, the socket for this cable is directly underneath the Power "sign", and not "switch". Sony really have tucked the sockets out of the way, it is a single socket, hidden by an inconspicuous cover.
---->Straight From The Box<----
Once I charged the battery on the camera and set up some standard stuff, it is pretty much ready to go to work, as the camera needs an "optional extras" pack for discs and storage, you might want to buy a small spindle before you start shooting, I went to Argos and bought TDK 30 minute Re-Writable ones.
Upon entering them into the DVD compartment, an annoying sign appears "We recommend you use Sony Discs", it goes away after a few seconds. Take the Zeiss lens cap off, and depending on how you prefer to use it i.e. through the eyepiece or by the screen, start recording, I would say to anyone using "any" camera to always make sure the lens cap is the last thing off and first thing on both before and after filming, this way your Handycam/Camcorder will stand you in good steed.
To switch it on, there is a green safety catch you push to turn the control to the ON mode, the safety prevents accidental recording, and the worry of making any "unwanted" discs...the camera has a 5 minute standby function, excellent at a boozy wedding reception if you forget to switch it off.
I found the Cam very user friendly, easy to set up, and quite fun to play around with. The touch screen is like a gift from the gods, I had a shoulder mounted Panasonic about 15 yrs ago, I was claiming to be filming Spielberg's latest release, such was its girth.
With a whole multitude of menus and sub menus, you will find something new every time you go into it, but upon opening on use you are given the following options:-
Setup, Finalize, Exposure, Spot focus, Fader, Spot Meter (scroll down page 2), Focus, Program, Format, Unfinalize, Mic Ref Level, LCD Bright, (scroll down page 3), Super NS Plus, Colour Slow S, Beep, Language and P-Menu Set-Up.
This gives you a plethora of hyper-menus for setting the camera up to your desired finish. Taking things like the "Beep" off will save more battery time.
The display tells you how much DVD time you have remaining, if you have the disc set to SP/LP, how much more time you have left, before needing a battery change and other helpful displays, but, without taking up the whole display.
If you want a decent disc for this camcorder, none come more highly recommended than the AccuCORE by Sony*, these are 1X and 2X compatible, 100X more scratch resistant than other discs, and give you 1.4GB or 30 minutes on short play, and 1 hour on long play.
Costing anywhere from GBP2.50 each, these discs are not cheap and trying to copy using Nero can be a bit of a hassle although any half decent DVD Re-Writable disc will do.
*Using these discs and then trying to copy them with Nero is tricky, back the disc onto your HD then make a standard sized copy, this is my own way of getting round this, DVD Shrink or DVD Decrypter are good programs for anyone working with DVD's.
---->Out Of Date<----
This camcorder was obsolete the minute and second I bought it, this is particularly true of any electronic goods of today, the Handycam range has been a huge success for Sony, so have expanded and bettered all their older ranges. A few examples of today's upgrades from the 205E:- DCR-DVD610 the 610 is more of the same; some noticeable changes are in the zoom dept. with the optical zoom now hitting 40X and the digital zoom coming in at an astonishing 2000X, this still looks similar to the 205E but is, in practice, poles apart.
Check out www.sonystyle.com/ for other DVD cams.
For around GBP60.00 you can have an extra battery, a luxury Sony carry case and 5 Sony discs, including 1 DVD+RW disc, oh yeah, a lens cloth. I got this package as the Handycam didn't have this as standard with the purchase. (Something I hope Sony will consider rethinking if they haven't already done so)
On a full charge you should have a reading of 90 minutes on the LCD though you may not get this depending how old your batteries are, and how often you use them, if you use the LCD for filming, I won't try and kid you that it doesn't chew a battery up or that getting another one is not only a good idea, but a bit costly at GBP15.00.
The battery itself is an InfoLITHIUMTM; they hold a charge for a while so a back up is ideal in my own experience of this Camcorder
The Handycam records in Dolby Digital, and the mic is pretty good considering the size of it. Dolby is used to maintain as natural a sound as technologically possible, avoid any background static noise, (white noise) and give an overall good sounding film.
---->Buttons and Switches<----
The DVD 205E also serves well as an optional/additional camera, the button in front of the ON/OFF switch is used for taking photos, I've never tried making a film, then in between, tried to take a snap, whether this works or not I'll certainly keep you updated, or if you happen to know post a quick comment and I'll update it, my suspicion is that it would.
Night Shot Plus-
Behind the Open/Close switch lies the night Shot selector switch, night shot works well on this camera, certainly at close quarters anyway, I had it out on a trial run one night, and found that the maximum distance, without the aid of any zoom, was around 10-15 ft, not bad for this little box of tricks.
Takes a few seconds to open the DVD compartment, the slider is level with the mould of the camera so you won't set it open by accident, a faster opening tray would have been nice on this model as those once in a lifetime shots are gone for good.
Behind the LCD screen lies three buttons, one of which is Easy, this is Sony's attempt to make using this camera that little bit easier, believe me I have seen some luddites in my days, but switching the Easy option on, is taking this to the Forest Gump level of use.
Again found in the same spot, setting it off is hard unless pushed on purpose, I never use this function so won't cover it just now, the camera records in wide screen, so I would be right in guessing this would give it a 4:3 normal appearance on the finished article. I am waiting on a full charge to go through the sub menus and will, again, post back anything that may need tweaking.
The last of the 3 amigos behind the LCD, this function will quickly have you with no nonsense on your screen, nothing et al, like REALLY useful information; how much battery time you have left.
(Not a control I find too useful, more appropriate if used when wired to the mains via the adapter).
The LCD Screen-
The screen flips round to 180 deg, while the picture remains at the same position, this can then be closed over and used to film from above and afar, especially over peoples heads, this is where the 3 functions of Wide, Trim (zoom in and out) and Start/Stop record, come into there own, I use this at football matches and at festivals, given you are not too far out, it is a handy device to have.
An important function that lets you switch to see your latest effort, and with the touch screen you can watch, then and there, a piece of work you might think needs doing again or may have been spoiled by a football being volleyed off the Handycam.
The camera fits snugly into the palm of my hand, and for added comfort, there is a wrap over Velcro strap, making it easy to swing along on your hand without noticing that its even there.
Height - 8.8 cm
Width - 5.6 cm
Length - 12.9 cm
As promised, I charged up the battery and had a look through the Handycam, the zoom, I found has 3 different settings, 12 optical, 24 digital and the humongous 800X zoom.
I used the camera with a Maxell dvd-r Disc to see how much jumping around and shaking it would take to make the disc skip, wobble or stop recording, without shaking it so violently as to break it and softly to make it a walk in the park, the Disc surprisingly never budged, excellent, especially if you put it on zoom, magnify to 24, 800 and then wobble it as you film, the stabilizer when switched on and off between doing this, shows VERY CLEARLY the function isn't just a Sony gimmick.
For the money, there really isn't a lot wrong with the Handycam 205, it is cheap and cheerful, for GBP299.99, it certainly has me hooked