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Sony Three CCD Camcorder Review: DCR-TRV900 Mini DV Camcorder

Sony Three CCD Camcorder Review: DCR-TRV900 Mini DV Camcorder

Sony DCR-TRV900 Mini DV camcorder

Chips Ahoy

Creating a quality video product requires quality tools. For prosumer and professional videographers, that means a high quality format camcorder that has professional features such as three CCDs, full manual controls, adjustable audio levels, and reference color bars. To find such features usually means a hefty cash outlay and a trip to the professional division. Sony has changed that with the DCR-TRV900 Mini DV camcorder.

With all of the above-mentioned features and more, the TRV900 is a great camcorder for the prosumer or low-end professional videographer. It offers image quality and color reproduction rivaling a professional camcorder, at a price far below the models found in most manufacturers' professional divisions. Although it has the features of a pro camcorder, the TRV900 is still the size of a consumer model.

Like most consumer cameras, the TRV900 is easy to operate. Most of the controls are easy to reach. A few are located on the left side and require the LCD viewscreen to be open to access them. They include picture effects, digital effects, title, and menu. All important manual camcorder controls such as focus, shutter speed, exposure, white balance, fader and backlight can be reached without having to go through menus or open the viewscreen.

Manual Controls

The TRV900 has its manual focus control located in an easy-to-reach place: a ring around the lens. The manual focus was a pleasure to use; its movement was smooth and variable.

There are three settings for manual white balance: daylight, tungsten and manual adjust. While the daylight and tungsten presets worked well, we found the manual white balance setting to be more precise and very accurate.

The manual shutter speed on this camcorder has an interesting feature that can usually only be found on high-end camcorders. The shutter speed is adjustable from 1/4 of a second to 1/10,000 of a second. Although other camcorders have a shutter speed as high as 1/10,000 of a second, few will go below 1/30 of a second. Low shutter speeds have an interesting effect when shooting video. The footage looks somewhat like a strobe effect, except movements are blurred, as they would be in a slow shutter speed still photo. This setting is also useful for shooting still digital images that require a slow shutter speed setting.

Auto Exposure and Effects

There are five auto exposure (AE) modes, Sports Lesson Mode, Sunset and Moon Mode, Low Lux Mode, Aperture Priority Mode, and Shutter Speed Priority Mode. In the Aperture Priority Mode, the exposure control manipulates the iris to determine depth of field, while the gain and shutter speed are automatically set. In Shutter Speed Priority Mode, the shutter speed is set manually and the exposure value changes to match. We found both to be easy to operate and a good way to control the image.

The TRV900 has six picture effects (Negative Art, Sepia, Black & White, Solarize, Slim, Stretch) and five digital effects (Still, Flash, Luma Key, Trail and Old Movie). Separate from the picture and digital effects is the fader, which has three modes: fade in and out, monotone (fading to and from black & white) and overlap (fading from the last frame shot). The overlap fade effect has an interesting feature. To use it, you press the fade button while in the overlap mode. The viewscreen will turn solid blue for a moment then display a transparent image of the last frame of video you shot with your current shot showing through. This allows you to frame the current shot while viewing the shot you will fade from. The fades worked well, always creating a smooth transition with no jump cut, even after the camcorder had been powered down and turned back on.

Variable Mike Levels

The TRV900 has an external microphone input and an adjustable audio input level, a feature that's seldom found on consumer-level camcorders. The input level control adjusts both stereo channels together. The external mike input is a 3.5mm stereo mini-jack. This helps to keep the camcorder small; prosumers who want the ability to attach two high quality microphones with XLR connectors can do so with an adapter.

Extra Features

For prosumer and professional work, it is recommended always to record color bars on the beginning of your tapes. Sony made it easy to do with the TRV900. The built-in color bar feature is not hidden, requiring some secret button pushing combination to access (as it was on Sony's earlier 3-chip DV camcorder, the DCR-VX1000). Instead, we just went to the menu and activated the color bars. They stayed on until we turned them off.

The TRV900 will also work as a recorder, accepting input from other video sources and performing insert edits. The insert edits we made were easy to setup and came out glitch free. The unit also has a LANC edit control jack so that it can be used with edit controllers.

The TRV900 is one of the best Mini DV camcorders available on the market today. With full manual controls and outstanding image quality, it is an excellent choice for anyone interested in producing prosumer or professional video.

--JM

Tech Specs


Format: Mini DV
Lens: 12:1 optical zoom, 48:1 digital zoom, 4.3-51.6mm, variable speed power zoom, f/1.6, 52mm filter diameter
Image sensor: Three -inch CCDs, 380,000 pixels each
Viewfinder: 3.5-inch color LCD viewscreen, color LCD viewfinder
Focus: Auto, manual
Maximum shutter speed: 1/10,000 of a second
Exposure: Manual, Auto, five program AE modes, back light compensation
White balance: Auto, manual, indoor and outdoor presets
Picture effects: Slim, Stretch, Solarization, Monotone, Sepia, Negative Art
Audio: 12-bit (4 tracks) or 16-bit (2 tracks)
Inputs: DV (IEEE 1394), external microphone
Outputs: DV (IEEE 1394), headphones, S-video, 1/8-inch A/V (composite video, stereo audio)
Edit interface: Control-L (LANC)
Other features: Hot shoe accessory light mount (light not included), digital still photo mode, still save to floppy drive (included), monaural playback speaker, optical image stabilization, color bar generator, variable microphone levels, insert editing
Dimensions: 3.75 (width) x 4.13 (height) x 7.63 (length)
Weight (sans tape and battery): 1.93 pounds

Video performance (approx.)
Horizontal resolution (camera): 500 lines
Horizontal resolution (playback): 500 lines

Performance times
Pause to record:1/3 second

Power up to record:5 seconds

Fast-forward/Rewind (30 minute tape):1 minutes, 20 seconds

Strengths

  • Three CCDs
  • Full manual controls
  • Color bars
  • Adjustable microphone levels
  • Microphone and headphone jacks

Weaknesses

  • Some controls located behind LCD viewscreen
  • No independent level control of stereo channels
  • No XLR inputs for microphones

Summary

An excellent Mini DV camcorder choice for prosumers and low-end professional videographers.



Sony DCR-TRV900 Mini DV Camcorder
($2,699)
Sony Electronics
One Sony Drive
Park Ridge, NJ 07656
(800) 222-7669
www.sel.sony.com

Tags:  May 1999
Joe
McCleskey
Sat, 05/01/1999 - 12:00am