Digital Multi-Talent: Sony DCR-PC100E

Handling And Actual Use

When you actually get to use the Sony DCR-PC100E it is very impressive - with a weight of only 560 grams and an ergonomic leather strap it handles very nicely. Because it is quite small it can be stowed away easily and worn almost unobtrusively. The design of the casing is more functional than visually appealing. Compared to older models the viewer was improved quite a bit - despite the compact design it does not need to be extended anymore.

The position of the stereo microphone is not quite as convincing - it's situated on top of the camera, making it very sensitive to noises generated by wind. Even sequences recorded in a light wind gave the impression of a hurricane-like storm during playback. Another area for criticism is the lens system. The angle of the lens is not wide enough to record large objects from a short distance. An extreme example would be filming skyscrapers from street level in a large city. In this case the objects are simply cut off.

Battery Life

The included battery (7.2 Volts, 8500 mAh) facilitates recording video sequences for at least one hour. However, it makes a difference whether the LCD monitor is used or not. During the test we succeeded in continuously recording a 60-minute tape despite using the LCD monitor. The situation looks completely different if very small sequences are recorded repeatedly in short intervals. In this case, the camera must switch from standby to operating mode all the time and, it also has to adjust the tape. This operating mode, which actually resembles the general practice more closely, is not taken into account in the manufacturer's guide, and considerably shortens the battery life.

The video and audio signals are recorded on a mini-DV tape. Mini-DV is already an established standard.

The drive for the mini-DV tapes is very compact and requires a very precise manufacturing process. Because of diagonal track recording the tape speed is relatively slow (18.8 mm/s).

Conclusion: Top DV Camera With Small Weaknesses

This camera combines the functionality of a digital video camera with a digicam. During the recording of video sequences the Carl Zeiss lens with its high luminous intensity delivers excellent pictures. Even in critical light conditions the exposure control of the CCD sensor attempts to create an optimal picture. The highlight is the integrated night vision function: The built-in infrared light allows recording in total darkness. The camera can also be used as a digital video recorder - a second camera or a DV recorder may be connected via the integrated Firewire interface (I-Link).

The list of weaknesses of the Sony DCR-PC100E is actually quite short. The microphone on the top is very sensitive to wind and exaggerates noises. Hi-fi freaks appreciate an external microphone. Also the memory capacity of the Memory Stick module is much too small - 4 MB only stores 6 pictures at high resolution. On top of that the serial data transfer to the PC will certainly test the patience of many users. The lens system could also be improved as the wide angle is too small to record large objects from a short distance in full size.

However, considering the price of US$1,700.00, this DV camera offers a lot of features. The competition, especially Canon and Panasonic, may be more affordable but they cannot offer the same picture quality and functionality in this price class.

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Video recording system2 rotary heads, helical scanning system
Audio recording system2 rotary heads, 12 or 16 Bit quantisation32 or 48 KHz sampling frequency
Video signalNTSC
Usable cassetteMini-DV
Tape speedSingle Play 18,81 mm/sLong Play 12,56 mm/s
Recording time60 minutes or 90 minutes
ViewfinderElectric viewfinder
Image device1/4" CCDMotion picture: 690.000 pixelsStill image: 1000.000 pixels
LensCarl Zeiss Germany
Zoom function10x optical, 40x digital
Focal length4.2 to 42 mm
Minimum illumination7 lux (Standard)0 lux (Nightshot mode)
DV (Fire Wire IEEE1394)Input/Output
HeadphonesStereo minijack 3,5 mm
MicrophonMinijack 2,5 mm
LANC controlStereo minijack 2,5 mm
Other Features
LCD Display2,5 inch measured diagonaly 50 x 37 mm
Power requirements7.2 V
Power consumption3.7 to 4.2 W
Dimensions61 x 127 x 123 mm
Weight (incl. Akku)650 g
BatteryLi-Ion, 7,2 V, 8500 mWh
Memory Stick4 MB

The package contains a special cable for connecting the camera to an analog video recorder of television set.