Sony Camcorder Review: DCR-TRV730 Digital8

Among Sony’s latest Digital8 camcorders is the TRV730. Like every Digital8 camcorder, the TRV730 records a high-quality digital signal onto Hi8 tape. It can also serve as a digitizer for transferring archival analog Hi8 and 8mm tapes to your computer.

In addition to its video capabilities, the TRV730 captures great still images with its 1-megapixel CCD and stores the images on a 4MB Memory Stick. As with other megapixel cameras, while the full array of pixels on the CCD are used for still images, video is generated from a smaller subset of the total: 690,000 in this product. The TRV730 can also record up to two minutes of MPEG video onto the Memory Stick. The included software lets you upload these clips to a computer and send video e-mails.

Although it doesn’t offer manual white balance, the camcorder has many other advanced features that intermediate shooters look for, such as a headphone jack, an external mike plug, manual focus and manual exposure. The TRV730 also sports an array of input/output options including FireWire, USB, Super LaserLink Wireless, composite and S-video.

The unit is easy to use and is a solid choice for beginner to intermediate video hobbyists who want both high-quality still images and video.

So Easy

About the size of a pair of trade paperbacks, the TRV730 is neither large nor terribly small when compared to other cameras in its class. It is well balanced and fits snugly in one hand. It sports a small, 2.5-inch flip-out color LCD viewscreen, in addition to a black and white viewfinder.

The TRV730 features an 18:1 optical zoom and 500:1 digital zoom that relies on a 1/4-inch, 690,000 pixel CCD to deliver a great video image. The zoom slider switch sits on top of the camcorder, behind the VTR (video tape recorder) navigation buttons, and is easily controlled with an index finger. The variable zoom responded suitably to the pressure of our fingers; a light press initiated a slow zoom and pressing it harder resulted in a fast zoom.

The Manual Focus, Fader, Backlight and NightShot buttons are conveniently located on the camcorder’s body. The auto/manual focus button is located toward the front of the camcorder and it is easy to switch between manual and automatic settings. Switching to manual focus, we adjusted the focus by turning the easy-to-grasp focus ring around the lens. The automatic focus worked well and adjusted quickly when we zoomed and panned simultaneously.

The Fader feature made in-camera editing easy and there were seven effects to choose from. We pressed the button once and then pressed Record to fade in. After pressing it again the Pause button allowed us to fade out. Pressing the Fade button while shooting caused unwanted shake of the camera however.

In order to access any of the other important features like Program Mode, Exposure, Digital Zoom and the electronic image stabilizer, we had to go through the extensive menu system. Pressing the Menu button brought us to an area where we could wade through six option screens.

Selecting the Program AE option on the Manual Set menu, we could choose between Auto, Spotlight, Portrait, Sports, Beach & Ski, Sunset & Moon, Landscape and Low Lux settings. We liked the immediate preview of what the setting would look like in the LCD before we had to commit to it.

The TRV730 also has seven program effects and six digital effects to choose from. These are of questionable value and their novelty will quickly wear off.

MPEG, Stills and More

Besides being able to record a still image to tape at DV resolution (720×480), the TRV730 boasts a 1 megapixel CCD that captures still images at up to 1152×864 pixels and stores them on a removable 4MB proprietary Memory Stick. We were able to tailor our still images with the help of image-size, quality and picture-mode options. The simple editing software presented a great way for novice editors to get started right away.

The TRV730 can also record MPEG video on the Memory Stick. There are two MPEG modes or sizes to choose from, 320×240 and 160×122. Once we captured some video to the Memory Stick, we transferred the footage to our computer via the USB port and sent it off to our friends with the included software. The tiny MPEG files were of decent quality and yet were highly compressed. Even so, you should always warn your friends before you send them video by e-mail as the files are huge.


A Word to the Wise

If you’re looking for a digital camcorder that can record onto standard Hi8 tapes, digitize your older analog tapes to your computer and includes a high-quality digital still feature, the TRV730 delivers the goods.

TECH SPECS

Format: Digital8

Lens: 18:1 optical, 500:1 digital zoom, f/4.1-73.8mm, 37mm filter diameter

Image Sensor: 1/4-inch CCD, 690,000 pixels for video, 1.07 megapixels for still images

Viewfinder: 2.5-inch color LCD viewscreen, black and white viewfinder

Focus: auto, manual

Maximum Shutter Speed 1/4,000 sec.

Exposure: auto, manual

White Balance: auto

Digital Effects: six modes

Audio: 12-bit stereo recording, 16-bit stereo recording

Inputs: FireWire (IEEE 1394), mini A/V, external microphone jack

Outputs: FireWire (IEEE 1394), USB, mini A/V, S-video, headphone

Edit Controller: LANC

Other Features: MPEG recording/playback, electronic image stabilization, built-in speaker, still image capture, 4MB Memory Stick, USB adapter, hot shoe adapter, super NightShot, MGI PhotoSuite/VideoWave software

Dimensions: 3 5/8 (w) x 4 1/8 (h) x 9 (d) inches

Weight (sans tape and battery) 2 lbs. 2 oz.

Performance Times

Pause to Record: < 1 sec.

Power-up to Record: 5.5 sec.

Fast forward (30 min. tape): 1 min. 15 sec.

Rewind (30 min. tape): 1 min. 10 sec.

Strengths

  • Digital still image capture with Memory Stick
  • MPEG capture and playback
  • Hot shoe
  • Headphone and mike jacks

Weaknesses

  • No manual white balance
  • Small viewscreen

SUMMARY

The TRV730 is ideal for beginner to intermediate hobbyists wishing to record digital video onto standard 8mm tapes and capture high quality still images.

Sony Electronics

1 Sony Drive

Park Ridge, NJ 07656

(800) 222-SONY

www.sel.sony.com

$1,099

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