Hi8 Camcorder Review:Sony CCD-TRV98 Hi8 Camcorder


Sony Electronics

1 Sony Drive

Park Ridge, NJ 07656

(800) 222-SONY

www.sel.sony.com

Sony’s compact CCD-TRV98 Hi8 camcorder is basic enough for even the newest video enthusiast, yet packs enough features to please intermediate level users who wants more bang for the buck. The camera’s cordless laser-link capabilities, infrared NightShot feature, remote control and numerous menu options should please technologically savvy hobbyists. With a street price that should fall well below the $500 suggested price, this camera has enough features to make it an appealing camcorder choice.

Description

Weighing only 2 pounds, the Sony TRV98 is about half the size of a shoebox. Well-balanced, it easily fit in one hand and the camera strap allowed comfort in almost any position. The left side of the unit features a 3.5-inch flip-out color LCD viewscreen, and the menu, date and time, display, exposure and counter buttons reside underneath it on the camera’s body. There is a small black and white viewfinder at the top of the camera.

Even though many functions were activated through an on-screen menu, the menu/focus wheel, which controls most of the camera’s functions, is easily accessible on the lower-left side at the back of the camera. With it, we could easily navigate the menu, although using it for manual focus was frustrating.

The Record button, well placed on the right side of the camera’s back end, sits exactly where the thumb most comfortably falls. The smooth, variable-zoom slider switch lies on top of the camera near the Record button and we could comfortably reach it with either hand. The transport control buttons reside on top of the camera’s right-hand side, over the tape transport. A built-in light is at the front of the camera, and a tiny button placed near the tape transport buttons controls it.

Features

The CCD-TRV98 is equipped with an optical 20:1 zoom and has two digital zoom functions on the menu: 40:1 and 560:1. The optical zoom performed extremely well during field-testing and responded sensitively to even the most delicate touch. The zoom’s motor was quiet, free of the annoying noise that plagues many camcorders. The 40:1 digital zoom provided fairly good images throughout, although they began breaking up at the extreme end of the range. Although it may sound impressive, 560:1 digital zoom images broke down into unrecognizable pixels at around 100:1.

One TRV98 drawback was its manual focus control. Although manual focusing was possible, we found that the menu/focus wheel was nearly as awkward to use for focusing the camera as is was graceful for navigating menu options. The wheel responded too slowly, needing a number of spins for large changes in focus. This made smooth manual focus adjustments impossible. The wheel’s placement at the back of the camera also tended to distract us while shooting, requiring us to look away from the viewfinder to find it.

The auto focus feature worked smoothly. Even when rapidly panning the unit, it rarely lost track of the key objects in the shot. It also responded quickly to most movement and changes, even during zooms. Unfortunately, this was only true when shooting with plenty of light. In low-light situations, the auto focus responded sluggishly and was downright slow when we engaged the camera’s infrared NightShot feature in the dark outdoors.

Sony’s SteadyShot electronic image stabilization performed admirably on the TRV98. The system worked uniformly well, regardless of whether we stood, walked, panned or performed complicated camera moves.

Although we would have preferred a manual option, the automatic white balance also performed well, both indoors and out. The TRV98 produced clear, crisp images overall with very satisfying colors in properly lit situations.

The cam’s audio capabilities proved to be another drawback. A mono microphone sits underneath the lens at the front of the camera. The unit sports a headphone jack, but the TRV98 has no external mike jack. The microphone provided worked fairly well, recording good, though slightly tinny sound up to about 15 feet away, and the automatic gain control worked both quickly and unobtrusively. However, the beeps that occurred while pressing menu function buttons were also picked up, so it might be best to set up any effects before shooting or turn the annoying beeps off altogether.

The TRV98 has many entertaining bells and whistles, including NightShot, the LaserLink wireless transmission system, five mode fader effects, six auto-exposure modes, 16:9 wide-screen mode, eight picture effects and a five-language titler. Turning and pressing the menu/focus wheel, which is easy to use in Menu mode, accesses most of the camera’s digital effects.

Analysis

The Sony CCD-TRV98 Hi8 Camcorder is a reliable, affordable video camera for beginning to intermediate level users. With easy-to-reach controls, excellent balance and features such as NightShot, it is a good value for its price range. Its lack of manual white balance, lack of an external microphone jack and awkward manual focus are some limitations. But its ease of use, neat features and low price make the TRV98 a fine choice for beginner and intermediate videographers.

TECH SPECS

Format: Hi8

Lens: 20:1 optical, 560:1 digital zoom, f/1.4, f3.6-27mm, 37mm filter diameter

Image Sensor: 1/4-inch CCD (320,000 pixels)

Viewfinder: .55-inch B&W

LCD Viewscreen: 3.5-inch, color

Focus: auto, manual

Image Stabilization: electronic

Maximum Shutter Speed: 1/4000 sec.

Exposure: auto, manual dial, backlight,

6 program modes

White Balance: auto

Digital Effects: 8 picture effects, 5-language titler, 5 fader effects

Audio: monaural

Inputs: none

Outputs: S-VHS, Sony A/V, RFU out, headphone jack

Edit Interface: none

Other Features: onboard light, NightShot, Super LaserLink

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

Weight (sans tape and battery): 2 lbs.

STRENGTHS

  • Compact, easy to use
  • Wide array of effects and features
  • Front-mounted light
    WEAKNESSES
  • No manual white balance
  • No mike jack
    SUMMARY
  • The Sony CCD-TRV98 is a good Hi8 camcorder for the casual to intermediate-level shooter who desires a wider than average variety of features.

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