Sony 8mm Camcorder Review


8mm Done Right

by Larry Lemm





CCD-TRV16 8mm Camcorder

($599)

Sony Electronics

1 Sony Way

Park Ridge, NJ 07656

(800) 222-SONY

www.sel.sony.com



The Sony CCD-TRV16 was the winner ofVideomakers Best Product of the Year Award for 8mm camcorders in 1999, and with good reason. The CCD-TRV16 is the top of the line in Sonys 8mm category.

Designed for beginning shooters, this camcorder has a few features that more advanced videographers look for.


Shooting for Fun

One of the first things you may notice when you pick up the CCD-TRV16 is that it has an auto lens cap so you dont have to remember to remove it before you shoot. This ease-of-use sets the tone for the whole camcorder.

When you hold the camcorder in your right hand, you operate the zoom controls with your right index finger. The right thumb operates the pause/record button, leaving the left hand free to stabilize the camcorder. Youre going to need that extra stabilization too, because the TRV16 doesnt have image stabilization. So, if you plan to also purchase this camcorder, you should also consider buying a tripod, or at least learning some good handheld camera techniques.

To operate the manual focus, you have to use your left hand to turn the small dial located on the front left side of the camcorder. This is also where the fader button is located, as well as the switch to select between auto, manual and infinite focus.

The other controls on the camcorder, such as the titler, picture effects and menu buttons are located under the flip-out LCD monitor. If you are shooting using the viewfinder, you wont be able to use these buttons.

The CCD-TRV16 has an 18:1 optical zoom and a 180:1 digital zoom. Like most 8mm camcorders, this unit displays about 270 lines of horizontal resolution through the camcorder, and about 235 lines when played back from tape. The optical zoom worked great. The variable-speed zoom control zoomed slowly when we applied light pressure to the control lever, and it sped up smoothly when we applied more force. When we accessed the menu system, we turned on the digital zoom for 180:1 zoom madness. The digital zoom on the TRV16 looked good up to about 36:1. After that, the image degraded rapidly.

The TRV16 has six programmed exposure modes that set the camcorder up for shooting in different situations. There is a mode for shooting people on stage in a spotlight, a soft portrait mode, a sports mode, a beach and snow mode for areas with bright backgrounds, a sunset mode and a mode for shooting landscapes. A simple twist of the dial makes this camcorder easy to set up for most shooting situations.


Other Bells and Whistles

The CCD-TRV16, like almost every other Sony camcorder, has a NightShot feature. This allows you to get a picture even in total darkness. When you use NightShot, your video will have a greenish tint. While it might be a nice feature for shooting wildlife or for use as a special effect, youll be disappointed if you think youre going to get a nice, color image in the dark. The green coloring is not a fault of the TRV16, but a characteristic of NightShot: a small tradeoff for the ability to record video in total darkness.

This camcorder also has an automatic titler with preset titles. If you find titles such as "Wedding," "Our Sweet Baby" and "Vacation" a bit useless, you can create your own using the cameras built-in titler.

The CCD-TRV16 includes several picture effects that you can use to spice up your video. It has negative, sepia, black-and-white, solarize, mosaic, slim and stretch effects. There are two different kinds of widescreen options. You can use a "cinema" effect to put black bars on the top and bottom of the picture to simulate a widescreen look or you can choose "true widescreen" to record video to play on 16:9 TVs.


The Little Things

Sony included some little features in the TRV16 that make a big difference. We were very pleased to see that there are mike and headphone jacks, something that every videographer should look for in a camcorder. Sony also included a LANC (Control-L) port for linear edit control. There is a DC-out port to provide power for an RFU adapter that converts video from composite to RF for older TVs. However, this adapter is not included with the camcorder.

With a combination of features such as the 18:1 optical zoom, headphone and mike jacks, NightShot, built-in titler, digital effects and several programmed exposure modes, the CCD-TRV16 is a well equipped camcorder that will grow with beginners as they get more serious. Like all 8mm camcorders, it has a couple of inherent weaknesses. Theres no stereo sound and its images suffer greatly from generation loss. Even so, the TRV16 will please beginners and casual shooters who want an easy-to-use camcorder with a fair amount of manual control. -LL

 

TECH SPECS

Sony Electronics

CCD-TRV16 8mm Camcorder

Format 8mm

Lens 18:1 optical zoom, 180:1 digital zoom, f/1.4, f=4.1-73.8mm, 37mm filter diameter

Image Sensor 1/4-inch CCD, approx. 270,00 pixels (250,000 effective)

Viewfinder 2.5-inch color LCD viewscreen, B&W viewfinder

Focus manual, auto

Maximum Shutter Speed 1/4000

Exposure manual, 6AE modes.

White Balance auto

Digital Effects 8 modes

Audio AFM mono

Inputs mini mike

Outputs composite video, RCA audio, mini headphone, RFU DC

Edit Interface LANC

Other Features NightShot

Dimensions 4 1/4 (width) x 4 1/4 (height) x 7 5/8 (depth) inches

Weight (sans tape and battery) 1 pound, 14 ounces

Video Performance (approx.)

  • Horizontal resolution (camera) 270 lines
  • Horizontal resolution (playback) 235 lines

    Performance Times

  • Pause to Record 0.3 seconds
  • Power-up to Record 5.9 seconds
  • Fast-forward/Rewind (120 min. tape) 7 minutes, 40 seconds

    TEST RESULTS

    strengths

  • good picture and price
  • NightShot
  • LANC, headphone and mike jacks

    weaknesses

  • no image stabilization

    summary

  • The best 8mm camcorder released last year.
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