Just Add Popcorn
Go ahead and put a bag of popcorn in the microwave. No really, do it. We just finished
our review and we have the DVD to prove it.
DVD camcorders like the Handycam DCR-DVD403 make perfect sense for the point and
shoot user with a DVD player. Whether you want to make a camcorder upgrade or you’re tired
of connecting AV cords to the TV, DVD camcorders look better every day.
Keeping in step with the Handycam line, this camcorder is small, but not too small. It
fits comfortably in your hands and is very lightweight. There is a variable speed, zoom
rocker located on the top of the camcorder as well as an additional zoom control on the
frame of the LCD. The fixed LCD zoom speed is adjustable through the menu system. The
operator must access all of the manual adjustment controls via the touch screen-driven menu
All the buttons and controls are easy to access except the DVD transport, which
lies beneath the hand strap. Swapping discs will be a little bit of a hassle while doing
The widescreen LCD shows pillar bars in 4:3 mode, but the 16:9 format uses the
entire screen. This is not a true 16:9 CCD. Instead, the camcorder uses more area of the
oversized CCD to give a greater angle of view, which Sony is calling "Enhanced 16:9". This
way of achieving a 16:9 frame allows for a higher quality than squeezing and stretching the
frame to fit.
The Super SteadyShot performs exceptionally well. It does not interfere with pans
and tilts, and turns shaky shots into smooth video. Also, the camcorder absorbs a decent
amount of shock before the disc recording is affected.
Escape the Tape
The camcorder records onto 8cm DVD-R/W and DVD+RW discs. The discs are limited to a
1.4 GB recording capacity. It will take 20, 30 and 60 minutes at HQ, SP and LP recording
qualities, respectively, to fill a single disc. To capture at a quality near Mini DV, plan
on spending 2-3 times the amount on media. Don’t expect to save money on media (barring a
large price drop) unless you plan to use the lowest recording quality or rewriteable
You can also record onto a compatible DVD-RW or DVD+RW disc. These discs can be
erased and used again (up to a couple hundred times). This could offer some savings in media
cost, but make sure to consider a method of backing-up the original footage before erasing
it. Using rewriteable discs also enables some editing features.
The real advantage of the DVD format is its convenience. When you want to view the
footage on a DVD player, just finalize the disc. Once that’s done, drop the disc in your
player, sit back and enjoy. Not all DVD players will be able to play the footage,
however–there are known issues with some older players.
The onboard microphone is capable of recording stereo 2-channel, 4-channel and Dolby
Digital 5.1. It’s located on top of the camcorder towards the front. Overall it was fairly
sensitive and picked up sound in all directions and didn’t pick up much operator noise.
There is also an option for an accessory shotgun mic for more precision. Unfortunately,
there is no headphone jack.
One of the most interesting features is the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. This
technology will record the audio into a Dolby multi-channel compatible bitstream onto the
DVD. Once you have the DVD finalized, you can play it back on a Dolby Digital 5.1-channel
Capturing in surround sound does provide some new problems and challenges. If you
are prone to narrate as you shoot, remember that the narration will be playing back mostly
from the rear channels from a compatible system, which might seem a little awkward. Where
this technology will offer its best rewards is in venues where sound sources from all
directions are important to record. Playing back a few minutes of vacation footage in the
canopy of a rain forest, for example, will give you an experience as if you were really
The video quality is fairly good considering it’s using MPEG-2 compression. The image
is relatively sharp, but it can easily get muddy from compression while shooting high motion
scenes. If capturing the highest quality video possible is most important, this camcorder is
not the best solution. Additionally, editing the footage on a computer is not easy.
Importing the footage to an editing software program is not digitally seamless and few
programs can edit MPEG-2 video.
Overall, though, the image is still pleasing to the eye. Of all the image
qualities, the color reproduction is the strongest. The colors are very vibrant. The
camcorder’s performance in low light is fair. Consider finding a light to put onto the
Active Interface accessory shoe for dark scenes. The camcorder also includes Super
Sony has made many improvements in the performance of DVD camcorders and the
DCR-DVD403 is no exception. This camcorder is simple and fun to use. Point and shoot users
will appreciate the ability to playback their footage almost immediately on their
entertainment systems. With features like Enhanced 16:9 and 5.1 Surround Sound, it should
make your family videos an exciting experience.
Format: DVD-R/RW, DVD+RW
Number of CCDs: 1
Size of CCDs: 1/3"
Pixels on CCD: (k) 3310K
Video Effective Pixels (k): 2048K
Shutter Speed: auto/manual
Maximum Shutter Speed: 1/4000 (AE Mode)
Minimum Shutter Speed: 1/4 (AE Mode)
Lens f Stop: 1.8-2.9
Program Exposure Modes: 7
Optical Zoom: 10x
Focal Length: 5.1-51 mm
Image Stabilization: Electronic
Manual White Balance: Yes
Viewfinder: Color 123K
LCD Monitor: 2.7" Widescreen 123K Pixels
Progressive Scan: no
HD Modes: no
Video In: AV
Video Out: AV, USB
Mono/Stereo Recording: Yes, 5.1 Surround Sound
Microphone In: no
VU Meters: no
Manual Audio Level Controls: no
Headphone Jack: no
Still Shot Media: no
Memory Card Included: n/a
Wireless Remote: yes
External Battery Charger Provided: no
Battery Type: InfoLithium
Tape Loading Configuration: DVD transport on hand held side
Onboard Video Light: no
Accessory Shoe: Yes, Active Interface
- Ready for your DVD player
- 5.1 Surround Sound
- Widescreen LCD
- Slightly visible compression
- Short media capacity
- No S-Video connector
- This is a great performing DVD camcorder that’s easy to use, but beware of its editing limitations and cost inefficiency.
Mark Montgomery is Videomaker’s editorial assistant and has worked on nationally televised productions.
Sony Electronics, Inc
16765 W. Bernardo Dr.
San Diego, CA 92127