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Sony DSR-PD150 DVCAM Camcorder Review

Sony DSR-PD150 DVCAM Camcorder Review

A great video camera for the professional who needs pro features without paying a pro price.

As camcorder prices continue to drop, professional format cameras have come into the grasp of consumers. The Sony DSR-PD150 is one of them. Styled after the legendary Sony VX-1000, its thoughtful additions make it a reasonable choice for the video professional who requires a small, versatile acquisition device with pro-audio mike inputs and a crisp image.

The DSR-PD150 is a well-built camera with metal casing and buttons. The audio inputs, mounted solidly on the top of the unit, provided easy access to the functions. The focus and zoom rings manipulated easily from a hand-held position and provided smooth mechanics. All exposure and shutter controls are located in ergonomic positions that became second nature to find without a glance. Depending on your particular requirements, you can record in DV or DVCam modes.

Audio Excellence

The addition of XLR mike inputs to the DSR-PD150 is what really sets it apart from its consumer cousin, the VX-2000. The input module is mounted in front of the top handle and has two XLR inputs on one side and function switches for channel selection, (mike/line and mike attenuation) and built-in +48-volt DC Phantom Power on the other. While the location of the inputs allowed for easy access to input selection, there was a slight awkwardness to having the wired mike cables emanate from this point and not at the rear, like on other cameras. Even the short pigtail of the camera-mounted mike was an annoyance, but having true, balanced XLR in (without some afterthought piece mounted to the camera that enters it via unbalanced RCA jacks) was welcome.

The audio controls and meters for monitoring are very well thought-out. Automatic gain control (AGC) is present if you want to shoot and let the camera take care of its audio levels, or, you can selectively choose to defeat the AGC of either channel and adjust levels with on-screen meters. Unlike some of the rumors we heard that the DSR-PD150 offered questionable audio quality, we found the current incarnation of this unit to be free of any electronic noise and the resulting audio tracks were clean and crisp. We tried several mikes with the DSR-PD150, including the provided on-camera mike, a Sennheiser shotgun on a boom pole and a Beyerdynamic wireless lavalier. We used mikes in pairs, with and without AGC and became even more enamored with this little pro for its flexibility and quality.

True View

It was easy to get used to shooting with the DSR-PD150, and the camera was very forgiving. With a shutter range of 1/4-second to 1/10,000 of a second, two switchable Neutral Density filters and +18db of gain, the DSR-PD150 was ready for any light situation. The DSR-PD150 is comfortable in manual mode, but has easy-to-reach automatic hot buttons. They enabled the camcorder to snap into focus or pick an f-stop for a chosen shutter setting. Zebra stripes also aided in exposure evaluation, but this control is positioned awkwardly under the LCD and is difficult to reach.

The viewfinder has 500 lines of black-and-white resolution, making for easy focusing and attention to composition. Most professional cameras use black and white because of the ease of focus factor. The iris setting wheel sits comfortably on the side of the camera and a quick auto button resides in a nook next to the LCD hinge. This button was difficult to access when the LCD was open and in use and seemed like an afterthought in design.

The DSR-PD150 lacks a removable lens, so we needed to attach lenses to the front of the unit in order to accomplish any focal-length changes. For most people who would purchase a camera of this caliber, additional lens are not a priority, but it is a drawback of the DSR-PD150's flexibility as a professional tool.

Features Yes, and a Pretty Picture

The DSR-PD150's digital features are similar to other comparable video cameras, offering a modest array of digital effects like Old Movie, Sepia, etc. Of course, shooters who would be attracted to this model would likely opt to add such effects in post. It also features a progressive scan mode as well as Memory Stick removable storage for digital stills, albeit at a barely adequate 640x480 pixel count. Along with visual digital effects, the camera possesses significant edit capabilities. We could input a list of edit points, which made the DSR-PD150 a viable edit deck as well as acquisition device.

We shot footage with this camcorder in a variety of situations. We shot a studio model with controlled lighting, in bright midday light on a golf course, at 10,000 feet in a national park, in deep woods with fall colors and snowmobiles in action. Without exception, this little camera provided beautiful color saturation and resolution, held focus in all conditions and performed well in high- and low-light situations. Manual white balance read accurately in all situations and the resulting footage garnered unsolicited positive comment from many. The DSR-PD150's picture just looks better than other cameras in this price range and with its audio features and extensive manual controls, deserves considerable attention when the considering purchase of a DV camcorder.

TECH SPECS

Format: DVCam or Mini DV
Lens: fl=6.0 to 72.0mm; f/1.6-2.4; 12:1 optical zoom, 48:1 digital zoom; 58mm filter
Image sensor: 3-CCD 1/3-inch; 380,000 pixels each (340,000 effective)
Viewfinder: 500 lines H. resolution B&W (180,000 pixels)
LCD viewscreen: 2.5-inch color (200,000 pixels)
Focus: auto, manual
Maximum shutter speed: 1/10,000 sec.
White balance: auto, manual
Digital effects: 8
Audio: 12-bit or 16-bit stereo
Inputs: IEEE 1394, S-video, composite, RCA audio, 2x XLR mike/line with +48v phantom power
Outputs: IEEE 1394, S-video, composite, RCA audio, headphone
Edit interface: LANC, IEEE 1394
Other features: 70% and 100% zebra indicator, spotlight and backlight buttons, 8MB Memory Stick, audio meters
Dimensions: 125(w) x 180(h) x 405(d) millimeters
Weight (sans tape and battery): 1.5 kg

Performance Times

Pause to Record: 0.4 seconds
Power-up to Record: 7.5 seconds
Fast forward/Rewind (60 min. tape): 2 minutes 40 seconds
Tested Horizontal Resolution: 530 lines

STRENGTHS

  • XLR audio inputs
  • Great picture
  • Rugged construction

WEAKNESSES

  • XLR module awkward placement
  • Auto iris button placement
  • Fixed lens

SUMMARY

A great video camera for the professional who needs pro features without paying a pro price.

Sony Electronics Inc.
1 Sony Drive
Park Ridge, NJ 07656
(201) 930-6972
www.sel.sony.com
$3,900

Tags:  May 2002
Bruce
Coykendall
Wed, 05/01/2002 - 12:00am