Benchmark:Sony DCR-TRV10 Mini DV Camcorder


Compact Contender



DCR-TRV10 Mini DV Camcorder

($1799)

Sony Electronics

1 Sony Drive

Park Ridge, NJ 07656

(800) 222-SONY

www.sel.sony.com



The Sony DCR-TRV10 is a moderately priced, 1-chip Mini DV camcorder that doubles as a digital still camera. Thanks to its sleek and compact design, the DCR-TRV10 fits nicely in a bag or large coat pocket, making it easy to tote along while traveling.

Though it lacks manual iris control and manual shutter speed, it does include manual focus, white balance and exposure-key controls that advanced video users look for. With its automatic mode and simple menu system, beginners wont feel intimidated and intermediate users wont feel hampered by a lack of features or controls. This could be an ideal camcorder for the beginner to intermediate videographer whos also looking to capture still images.


Feels Right

The design team did a nice job as the DCR-TRV10 is comfortable to hold and easy to use. Sony also avoided the labyrinth-like menu system that plagues many other camcorders weve seen that try to cram a ton of features into a palm sized video camera.

The DCR-TRV10 sports a large 3.5-inch flip-out LCD monitor, a small speaker and a color viewfinder. Though the LCD viewscreen is a great way to see what we recorded, it sucked up the battery quickly. The TRV10 provides jacks for an external microphone and headphones – both essential to capture and monitor crisp audio.

The DCR-TRV10 features a Carl Zeiss variable zoom lens with a 10:1 optical zoom and 120:1 digital zoom. We were happy to see a number of the essential control buttons located on the body of the camcorder, instead of inside a menu system.

Perhaps the most important of these controls is the focus wheel. A small button located on the front of the camcorder, lets you switch easily between manual and automatic settings without having to go through the menu system. With the manual focus switched on, we were able to accurately adjust the focus by turning the focus ring, located right where it should be, on the lens. The automatic focus did well when we panned and zoomed slowly, but it lagged momentarily when we performed faster moves.

The program mode and exposure buttons are conveniently located near the back of the camcorder and we were able to switch settings even while we shot. Sony provided a nice feature that saves your settings when you turn off the camcorder. We loved this feature because it didnt assume that we always wanted to shoot in the fully automatic mode, and it saved us from resetting each time we fired up the camcorder.

The fader button is easy to access as well. At the press of a button we chose between a number of transitional fade options like: fade to or from black, mosaic, bounce and overlap (dissolve). The overlap fade was our favorite. It retrieved a still image of the last shot we took and then dissolved from the still to our next shot.

When we ran the battery down and we were ready to charge, we simply left the battery attached to the TRV10 and plugged in the AC adapter. It recharged the battery right in the camera. This is a nice and simple solution but it does pose a problem: you can continue shooting only if you have a second battery, and you cant charge one battery while you shoot with another.


More Features

The menu system for the DCR-TRV10 is straightforward and fairly intuitive. Sony divided the menu into seven basic sections that simplify making adjustments. The most commonly used subsections include: manual, camera, playback and still options. In the manual menu, we scrolled to preview the various picture effects, which included negative art, sepia, black and white, solarize, slim, stretch, pastel and mosaic effects.

The DCR-TRV10 can also take digital still images. It comes with a 4MB Memory Stick that holds up to 40 images in high quality mode. Sony provides the necessary cables and software to download the still images to a computer.

The DCR-TRV10 also has a Night Shot feature that shoots in near-total darkness. When we turned it on in a dark room, it cast a greenish tint to the picture, and we were able to see. Its not the most practical feature but its there if you need it.


Round up

The DCR-TRV10s compact design makes it comfortable and easy to use. Both beginning and intermediate users will find most of the features that they will need. If youre looking for a Mini DV camcorder that can take digital stills, then the DCR-TRV10 could be the camcorder for you. — DC

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