Sony’s new top gun, 3-chip Mini DV camcorder, the DCR-VX2000 has a wide array of automatic features which make using it fun and easy, even for those without a great deal of video experience. At the same time, the VX2000 also has fully accessible manual controls, for when you want to retain creative control. This mix of features, along with a strong performance, makes the new Sony digital camcorder impressive.
Taking its place as the flagship camcorder of the Sony Mini DV line, the VX2000 replaces the VX1000, and for $1000 less, while adding a LCD screen, optical image stabilization and much more. The lower price and improved features make the VX2000 a relative bargain, although it could not really be called inexpensive. Advanced users will be pleased with its image quality, its advanced features and manual controls. While newbies might find it fairly easy to use, this is a lot of camera.
The new Sony Digital Camcorder has professional style and substance
Although you can set the VX2000 to fully automatic, you can also manage everything yourself with controls that are, for the most part, well planned, such as big knurled zoom and focus rings on the lens barrel. Although they aren’t mechanical controls per se, the zoom and focus rings almost feel like direct, mechanical controls. Everything from the audio levels to the shutter speed can be controlled manually, much of it on-the-fly, so you can make adjustments while shooting.
The overall weight of the VX2000 is not much when you compare it to pro cameras, but may seem quite hefty compared to the current crop of pocket-sized Mini DV camcorders. The extra weight, however, adds to its pro feel. Many of the smallest cameras are actually so tiny and light they are difficult to keep steady. Although it’s front-heavy, the new Sony digital camcorder is still fairly comfortable to use. It would have been nice, though, to have a shoulder rest.
Other professional features include dual neutral density filters, which reduces light intensity without affecting its color qualities. It’s also got manual audio control that’s essential when trying to accurately record audio. Zebra stripes, which highlight the overexposed portions of a shot, are another professional feature we were pleased to see on the camera. It’s also got progressive scan mode, which helps deliver crystal-clear still images.
The Sony Digital Camcorder has a wide array of digital extras
In addition to the usual set of picture effects, like sepia for instance, the VX2000 also has five high-quality digital effects. There’s a luminance key, for example, which allows you to key the live action over a still image in the camcorder’s memory. The menu jog wheel allows you to specify how much of the live image comes through, by adjusting the level of luminance where the key cut-off occurs.
Sony has also equipped the VX2000 with a Memory Stick port, allowing you to use one of Sony’s storage devices to hold up to 988 images on something just a bit bigger than a stick of gum. These Memory Sticks can be connected to a computer (the VX2000 comes with a USB adapter and a floppy drive adapter is also available) or played back in another device enabled with a Memory Stick port. You can also use the images stored in the Memory Stick to create special effects in the VX2000, such as superimposing an image over a live scene, or vice-versa. It even does chromakeying.
The VX2000 also has an IEEE 1394 FireWire port, of the Sony i.LINK variety and index marking to help locate specific scenes on the tape later. In addition, the new Sony digital camcorder will convert analog to digital with pass-through, which means you can capture your analog video either to a Mini DV tape in the VX2000 or pass the digital video through to the i.LINK port and then into your computer editor or another digital video device. This last feature eliminates the need for a separate analog capture device.
Shooting with the VX2000
Holding the VX2000 with your right hand in the grip strap, it feels pretty solid and secure. It is small and light enough to grip with one hand, but the camcorder’s tendency to tip forward means you’ll almost always have your left hand on it, too.
Holding it by its handle is very comfortable. Unfortunately, the Start/Stop button on top makes it awkward to access with either hand. It would have been more comfortable if it was on the handle, immediately behind the accessory shoe (which, by the way, is only hot for specific Sony accessories).
The 2.5-inch, flip-out color LCD monitor works well indoors and in low light conditions, but outdoors, like other LCDs, it can be useless in the glare of bright sunlight.
We had heard rumors about a hiss problem in the VX2000. We tested the camera specifically for this hiss and could not find anything remarkable.
Final analysis of the new Sony Digital Camcorder
The new digital camcorder is an impressive camcorder with a great mix of features and good video performance. Although it has a few minor design drawbacks, it is still a solid performer. It is a suitable replacement for the powerful VX1000.
However, when comparing the VX2000 to others in its category, it is not as impressive. There doesn’t seem to be that much more in the new Sony Digital camcorder for the price. Granted, its 3-CCD system provides a fantastic image and the vast array of features is impressive. Hopefully, its street price will be significantly lower than its listed price.
Format: Mini DV
Lens: 12:1 optical, 48:1 digital zoom, f/1.6, 58mm filter diameter
Image Sensors: three 1/3-inch Progressive Scan CCD (380,000 pixels each)
Viewfinder: 2.5-inch color flip-out LCD monitor, 0.5-inch color LCD viewfinder
Focus: auto, manual
Maximum Shutter Speed: 1/10,000 sec
Exposure: selective programmed auto (5 modes), manual, backlight and spotlight
White Balance: auto, manual
Digital Effects: Still superimposition, Flash motion, Luminance key, Trail, Old movie
Picture Effects: Negative Art, Sepia, Black & White, Solarize, Slim, Stretch
Audio: 12 or 16-bit stereo
Inputs: IEEE 1394, S-video, mike, mini stereo line audio, Memory Stick
Outputs: IEEE 1394, S-video, RCA composite, RCA stereo audio, mini stereo headphone, memory stick
Edit Interface: LANC, IEEE 1394
Other Features: DPOF (Digital Print Order
Format), Memory Stick storage of still
images, slow-motion playback
Dimensions: 4 5/8w x 5 3/4h x 13 1/2 l inches
Weight (without tape, battery and lens hood): 2 pounds 15.9 ounces
Weight (with tape, NP-F730H battery and lens hood): 3 pounds 9.8 ounces
Video Performance (approx.)
Horizontal resolution (camera): 460 lines
Horizontal resolution (playback): 450 lines
Pause to Record: 1 second
Power-up to Record: 6.5 seconds
Fast-forward/Rewind (60 min. tape) 2 minutes 43 seconds
- Analog capture with pass-through
- Excellent picture quality
- Excellent digital still features, including Memory Stick storage
- Slugish response from zoom ring
- Front-heavy when held with the hand grip
- Top Start/Stop button inconvenient
This is a superb digital camcorder, with features and performance suitable for advanced videographers seeking a professional look and feel.
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