Test Bench:Sony DCR-TRV22 Mini DV Camcorder

$700

Sony Electronics, Inc.

1 Sony Dr.

Park Ridge, NJ 07656

(887) 865-SONY

www.sonystyle.com

If you’re on a budget, but in need of a Mini DV camcorder, Sony offers the DCR-TRV22, a solid unit that could be a good fit for beginning or intermediate users. A reasonably thorough slate of manual controls makes the unit a safe choice that can grow with you.

Ergonomics

The unit is compact and comfortable to hold. The design is ergonomically sound with a number of well-placed curves to help guide your fingers to where they should be. The unit hit our right hand where the thumb meets the palm. Only a small stretch of the palm is in continuous contact with the camcorder’s body. Our fingers curved comfortably to the main controls, where the thumb actuated the start/stop button and the main switch, and the index finger operated the zoom control and still shot button.

Touch the Screen

The left hand is the gateway to the camcorder’s menu system, via the unit’s Touch Screen. No stylus is necessary and we didn’t miss one: our fingers worked just fine. You should keep soft cloth in your gadget bag to clean the screen, because it will need it. The left-handed orientation of the menus will feel at home to a southpaw, but it will be a bit more challenging for a righty. We like the Touch Screen concept, since it made menu navigation so intuitive. As a bonus, the camera body has only seven buttons, which should eliminate the technophobia some beginners feel when the hold their first camcorder.

In Control

The lack of buttons can be both a blessing and a curse, however. For example, when focusing the camcorder manually, you must use the Touch Screen. A focus wheel or a focus ring would be more effective. We found the unit’s autofocus to work quite well, responding quietly, quickly and accurately to changes in scenery. We tended to over-adjust a bit when pressing on the Touch Screen to focus. Repeatedly tapping the screen got us where we wanted to be reasonably quickly.

We like the Spot Focus feature on other Sonys we’ve seen, so we were a bit surprised that this particular camera didn’t respond more surely than it did. We’re sure it is the same technology and can’t speculate why it was sluggish with this model. We found that the autofocus was effective, however, and we imagine that is how this camera will be used most often.

The unit includes a full compliment of input and output jacks. There are microphone and headphone jacks for shooting, as well as S-video and composite video (along with stereo analog audio) inputs and outputs to use in post-production.

Like many other Mini DV camcorders, the composite video and stereo analog audio are connected with a special 1/8" tip-ring-ring-sleeve connection (included).

The digital zoom worked quite well through the menu’s 20x setting, but beyond that degradation was evident. Unlike many other camcorders, the TRV22 doesn’t show the actual zoom ratio on the display.

The TRV22’s electronic image stabilization (EIS) was effective. Like other EIS features we’ve seen, using it with extreme zooms does cause the image to oscillate slightly.

Special Modes

The TRV22’s 16×9 mode simply adds black bars to the top and bottom of the image and doesn’t stretch the display to yield a true anamorphic 16×9 frame. There is an option in the display called Frame Rec, for recording short bursts of video to create stop-motion animation. The Frame Rec feature could be fun for an aspiring animator on a budget.

Another creative feature is interval recording. You can record in bursts (in 1/2-second intervals from 1/2 second to two seconds) for lengths from 30 seconds to 10 minutes.

Still Shot

The still image feature is simple and convenient, if only low resolution (640×480). What was really cool was the interval recording for still images. This lets you snap a picture automatically once every one, five or ten minutes. Put the camera on a tripod, plug it into the wall and you can get some fabulous time-lapse shots of flowers opening, bread becoming moldy or whatever suits your fancy.

On the Bench

While shooting in the field, the image quality of this camera was quite nice. On the test bench, we did not see particularly high numbers, and observed a small amount of color fringing on our resolution chart.

Comparing apples to apples, the images produced by this camera were decent, but not spectacular. Overall, we were satisfied with the unit’s abilities. The DCR-TRV22 is a fine point-and-shoot camcorder for hobby, home and vacation shooting.

TECH SPECS

Format: Mini DV

Lens: 3.3mm to 33mm, F/1.7, 10:1 optical zoom, 30mm filter diameter

Image sensor: 1/4-inch CCD

Gross pixels: 680,000

Effective pixels: 340,000

Viewfinder: color

LCD viewscreen: 2.5-inch color (123k pixels)

Focus: auto, manual, spot

Image Stabilization: electronic

Maximum Shutter Speed: auto only

Exposure: auto, manual

White Balance: auto, manual, presets

Audio: 12-bit (default), 16-bit

Microphone Input: 1/8-inch stereo mini

Headphone Output: 1/8-inch stereo mini

Inputs: FireWire, S-video, composite

Outputs: FireWire, S-video, composite

Edit Interface: FireWire, LANC

Other features: Night Shot, still shot (640 x 480), 8MB Memory Stick

Dimensions (w x h x d): 71 x 90 x 112 mm (2 7/8 x 3 5/8 x 4 1/2 inch)

Weight: 1 lb. 2 oz. (530g) (sans tape and battery)

Performance

Horizontal Resolution: 410 lines

Field of View: 40 degrees

STRENGTHS

  • Sleek, compact design
  • Simple to use
  • Interval recording

    WEAKNESSES

  • Tape loads from bottom
  • Low tested resolution

    SUMMARY

    A friendly and affordable point-and-shoot cam with the Sony name.

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