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Sony and JVC Take Different Tacks in the High-End Camcorder Gamut

Ergonomics

Controls

The designs for both models are well thought-out. Both have two lens rings that adjust up to infinity, neither of which is graduated. One lens is for zooming and the other for focusing. The cassette is ejected from the top (rather than underneath), which means that the camcorder can be used with a tripod. Loading a MiniDV tape is quicker on the Sony (5 seconds) than on the JVC (8 seconds). The exposure, focus, and white balance buttons are directly accessible on the case. The power switch is simpler and moves more smoothly on the Sony. The switch on the JVC is slightly stiff and it's easy to move it into several wrong modes before hitting the right one. The buttons on the video recorder section are hidden beneath the LCD screen on the JVC but are accessible on the surface of the Sony case. The same applies to the connector sockets.

Sony DCR-VX2100JVC GR-PD1

Image settings

The Sony DCR-VX2100 offers a wide range of settings that are worthy of a professional camcorder. It has a neutral density (ND) optical filter that can be switched to two intensities to mitigate the effects of overexposure; a flashing signal in the viewfinder lets you know whether a filter is needed. Another valuable addition is the manual adjustment and sensitivity of the audio level of the micro stereo. The shutter offers a huge range of speeds from 1/10,000 through 1/4 that will let you give the film a strobe effect. The iris opens from F11 through F2, and the gain is adjustable from 0 through +18 dB via a wheel on the side of the camcorder. This means you can adjust the brightness of the image just as you want and create artificially subdued lighting.

There are plenty of settings on the Sony DCR-VX2100. On the left you can adjust the sensitivity of the microphone and on the right you can shoot the image at the slow shutter speed of 1/4.

Note: The DSR-PD170P is the professional DVCAM equivalent of the DCR-VX2100. The main differences are the XLR audio connectors for attaching a professional mike, the simultaneous operation of the viewfinder and the LCD screen, separate adjustment of left and right sound, the presence of an additional wide-angle lens and the option of filming on DVCAM cassettes that are supposed to be more reliable than MiniDV. The sensor and the optics are identical. Of course the DSR-PD170 is pricier at more than $5,500.