Sony Mini DV Camcorder Review: DCR-TRV80

$1,499

Sony Electronics

1 Sony Drive

Park Ridge, NJ 07656

(887) 865-SONY

www.sonystyle.com

Remember in grammar school when your lunches included a hybrid eating utensil called a spork? Come on, you remember: it was a cross between a spoon and a fork, round with little spikes at the end. The new DCR-TRV80 Network Handycam from Sony, is versatile, like a spork. Not only is it a video camera, but also a 2.1 megapixel digital still camera with Bluetooth and networking capabilities. This camcorder has a playground full of features that are easy enough for newcomers to handle, but packs enough advanced features to keep intermediate shooters happy.

Small but Comfortable

The TRV80 gets good grades for looks, sporting a modern silver finish with blue and black accents. The form factor is small and compact, but not too small. It’s comfortable to hold and easy to handle. Sony packed plenty of accessories in the box, including an 8MB Memory Stick and a silver lens hood that looks good and helps to reduce lens flare.

Still Motion

For a one-CCD camera, the TRV80 produced great video. The image was crisp and bright with proper lighting conditions. It accurately reproduced flesh tones and non-organic subjects had clear and accurate colors as well.

The only visible indicators that the TRV80 is also a digital camera are a silver and blue logo that says "Megapixel" and a tiny silver button on the top of the camera labeled photo. Pressing the silver photo button half way pops up a concealed flash from the front of the camera when light levels are low. Pressing the button further takes a snapshot and saves 1600×1200 images to a Sony Memory Stick. The quality of the stills is excellent, with sharp and beautiful colors. The resolution is twice what you’ll ever need for the Internet or e-mail and even 3×5 or 4×6 prints looked quite nice. Memory Stick-compatible devices include Sony PDAs, computers, cell phones and even car stereos. Even if your device does not have a Memory Stick reader, the supplied USB cable will do the trick on just about any computer. We connected the TRV80 to an Apple PowerBook, which automatically launched iPhoto for effortless transfer of still images.

Wireless Connectivity

The TRV80 is a Network Handycam with the ability to connect to a network to surf the Web or send and receive e-mail. When near a compatible Bluetooth device, the TRV80 can connect to an Ethernet network, a dialup modem or to a computer wirelessly. Once connected to a network, you can surf to any URL using the 3.5-inch screen as your monitor and the touch screen menus for navigation. Sent e-mails can also include attachments of photos or movie clips. Unfortunately, the accessories needed to take advantage of all of these features are not included in the box. Although we were not able to test this feature, the camera is also designed to connect to Bluetooth cell phones and print images wirelessly to compatible printers.

A standout feature of the TRV80 is the 3.5-inch LCD display. This huge beautiful display can swivel 270 degrees and has excellent color and clarity. Entering URLs and composing e-mails can be a chore on the virtual keyboard, but the large LCD is pleasant to view. You can adjust all of the settings from the camera’s menus, which you select using touch-sensitive buttons on the LCD. The interface for these menus were straightforward, easy to navigate and very user friendly. While the touch-screen menu system is superb, the camera body itself has very few buttons. This is a good/bad situation. It’s good because it makes the camera extremely accessible and unintimidating to beginners. The downside is that you always need to navigate menus, even to adjust something as basic as the exposure.


Electronic Extras

The TRV80 is capable of shooting in a true (electronic) 16:9 widescreen mode, which is great if you plan to edit and burn widescreen DVDs. Rather than just cropping off the top and bottom of the image, the TRV80 actually widens the shooting angle (from an average 34-degrees to a wide 42-degrees) for a cinematic look and feel.

Like other recent Sony cams, the TRV80 can create time-lapse and stop motion recordings. Time-lapse sets the camcorder to automatically record at predefined intervals, perfect for recording a flower blooming, but the 1-frame per minute minimum is too slow a frame rate for clouds passing overhead. The stop-motion mode does frame-by-frame recording, which is ideal for achieving Gumby-and-Pokey-style animations.

The camera has two night shot modes. The slow shutter (1/4 second) mode was useful during the recent lunar eclipse, but we can’t think of many other applications. Sony’s Super Night Shot mode uses a trio of IR lamps for shooting in pitch-black conditions. The button for this feature is conveniently located on the right side of the camera so you don’t have to look for it buried in menus when shooting in the dark.

Where’re the Buttons?

The TRV80 does an excellent job as a digital still camera and camcorder. The price is a little steep, and with the price and size of 2-megapixel digital cameras dropping relatively quickly, you might ask if it is worth the extra price to have both devices in one. Even thought the TRV80 comes with plenty of accessories, it would be preferred if the networking or Bluetooth adapters were included in the box, at least until Bluetooth becomes more of a standard among shipping computers. Advanced shooters will wonder where all the manual buttons and controls are, but beginners will marvel at how easy it is to use the large touch panel LCD. The TRV80 is a feature-rich camcorder for folks looking for an all in one imaging solution.

TECH SPECS

Format: Mini DV

Lens: fl=4.5mm to 45mm, f/1.8, 10:1 optical zoom, 37mm filter diameter

Image Sensor: 1/3.6-inch (5mm) CCD

Gross Pixels: 2.11 million pixels

Video Effective: 1.08 million pixels

Viewfinder: color

LCD Viewscreen: 3.5-inch (8.8cm) color (184k pixels)

Focus: auto, manual

Image Stabilization: electronic

Maximum Shutter Speed: auto only

Iris Control: no

Exposure: auto, presets

White Balance: auto

Audio: 16-bit 48kHz

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: stills (1,600 x 1,200), MPEG-4 movies, 8MB Memory Stick, Super NightShot (w/ IR lamps), USB streaming, Bluetooth networking

Dimensions (w x h x d): 73 x 93 x 169 mm (3 x 3 1/2 x 6 5/8 in.)

Weight: 1 lb. 9 oz. (720g) (sans tape and battery)

STRENGTHS

  • Roomy 3.5-inch LCD
  • Ease of Use
  • Sharp, vivid digital stills

WEAKNESSES

  • Lack of manual controls and buttons
  • Bottom-loading tape transport

SUMMARY
The TRV80 is a feature-rich camcorder for folks looking for an all in one imaging solution.

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