A Snappy Camcorder
Up to meeting the demands of any consumer shooter, Sony's DCR-PC55 camcorder makes small work of the Mini DV format.
It's hard to believe a Mini DV camcorder can be this tiny. Not much bigger than the tape itself, it features a 10x Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens, Active Interface accessory shoe and a very nice 3 inch LCD. With four colors to choose from, this attractive design will make you feel sporty.
Getting A Grip
The zoom controls are straightforward with a toggle at the back of the camcorder. At first, the size of the camcorder makes handling it a little tricky. Having big hands doesn't help this problem. Furthermore, you need to exercise caution with your index finger drifting into the bottom of your frame from time to time. Feeling comfortable may take a few minutes. But once you have it mastered, you'll be ready to shoot away.
A still photo mode allows you to take snapshots and movies recorded to a Memory Stick Duo. This mode features a progressive shutter system to provide more crisp details in still photos. Included with the Handycam is Picture Package Software. The software allows you to burn VCDs, create music videos/slideshows, save to CDR and view content on your computer.
Other features include standard 4:3 or wide 16:9 format (squeezed) shooting, digital effects and self-timer.
Sony's got a new intelligent accessory shoe featured on this camcorder. We understand there has been some complaints about the new design. It will not accept standard accessories. If you have old accessory shoe items, they won't connect. You'll have to make some more purchases if you want an external mic or light on your shoe.
With that understood, the good news is that the intelligent design will allow your camcorder to communicate with the accessory. This means better performances from accessory lights and mics.
A 3-inch LCD makes viewing a whole bunch easier with brightness levels that compete well with bright sunlight. The LCD is the only option for monitoring video and it doubles as a touch-screen that drives the camcorders menu system. It will also rotate 270 degrees so you can mirror yourself in front of the camera.
There are several conveniently placed buttons along the frame of the LCD panel. The "Slideshow Plus" button plays stills and movies from the Memory Stick Duo. It will even apply zooms and pans to the slideshow. An "Easy" button will throw your camera into an automatic shooting mode. There are display, backlight, and record buttons too. The "Record Start/Stop" button is a favorite, allowing you to start and stop record with one thumb on the LCD while the other thumb can control the zoom.
Smaller sized cameras come with their share of audio problems. One of those problems is where to put the onboard microphone. In this case, the mic is on top of the camcorder, fairly close to the controls on the back. It picks up a lot more operator noise than desired. Having such a small camcorder makes this practically unavoidable. You might want to look into accessory mics.
Beside those drawbacks, the audio performed well. It picked up sound Omni-directionally and could still reach a good distance for most uses. Additionally, you can choose to record your audio at two different rates: 12 bit (4 channel) or 16 bit (2 channel).
As expected from a Sony Handycam with a 1/6 inch CCD, the image quality is quite good. Decent color reproduction and great details make this a strong camcorder for consumer needs. There is not much to complain about here. Bright colors look vivid with a healthy amount of light. You might run across problems indoors if you can't find enough light.
The low light performance on this camcorder is fair. You may want to consider an external light for the accessory shoe. A light will be extra convenient because there is not a Night Shot feature. There are also seven different AE Modes that will maximize your image quality in special shooting conditions.
Reviewing your footage isn't as simple as desired on this particular camcorder simply because it lacks options for connectivity. When you want to connect your camcorder to a TV, you only have the special A/V connector. It really could use an S-video connector. The big question is where would it fit? This is where the Handycam Station comes in handy.
The Handycam Station (popularly known as a dock) allows for additional connectivity and battery charging. You can connect DV 1394, USB, DC in and the special A/V connectors to the dock. The camera connects to the dock horizontally, rather than sitting upright. This allows you to flip the LCD screen 180 degrees and monitor from the dock with ease.
At this price point, this camcorder offers very little over less expensive models except for its compact design and memory card option. If size is a serious matter for you it may be worth the expense. If you are looking for a slick camcorder with a real small frame in Mini DV format, this one is a real contender.
Format: Mini DV
Number of CCDs: 1
Size of CCDs: 1/6 inch
Pixels on CCD: (k) 680
Video Effective Pixels: (k) 340
Shutter Speed: auto
Maximum Shutter Speed: (AE Mode)
Minimum Shutter Speed: AE Mode)
Lens F-Stop: 1.7 — 2.2
Program Exposure Modes: 7
Optical Zoom: 10x
Focal Length: 2.3-23mm
Image Stabilization: Electronic
Manual White: Yes
LCD Monitor: 3" Color 123K
Progressive Scan: Yes
HD Modes: no
Video In: Yes (Special)
Video Out: Yes (Special)
Mono/Stereo Recording:12 bit or 16bit
VU Meters: no
Manual Audio Level Controls: no
Headphone Jack: no
Still Shot Media:Memory Stick Duo
Memory Card Included: no
Wireless Remote: Yes
External Battery Charger Provided: no
Battery Type: InfoLithium
Tape Loading Configuration: Bottom
Onboard Video Light: no
Accessory Shoe: yes (special)
Horizontal resolution: (up to) 500
- Large 3" LCD
- Analog To Digital Conversion with Pass-Through
- Small, hard to handle
- No headphone input
- Mic in bad place
A tiny Mini DV camcorder lacking a few essentials.
Mark Montgomery is Videomaker's Editorial Assistant and has worked on nationally televised productions
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