Sony DCR PC110e DV Camera in review by R.I.Axford  


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Initial impressions

I have used this camera for a few weeks now and have been very impressed with it from several aspects. I find that I am using the stills facility most often, followed by the MPEG function. The latter has proven itself to be an excellent way to save my pricey DV tapes for serious work and is also a fantastic way to make short clips for use either on the web or for sending to people by email. The 320x240 format plus sound records a 15 second clip in around 1.3Mb - not the smallest by some standards but good enough for me to end up recording around a dozen clips per day during my recent camping trip. The savings in DV tape and time are well worth it. I do wish it could do more than 15 seconds per clip though.

This is the first digital camera I have actually owned and I would not have bothered spending this sort of money if it could only do 640x480 images on the DV tape. The ability to snap 1152x864 pixels to flash-RAM at one of three compression settings is working out rather better than I expected. I am using it on the lowest of the quality settings and obtain jpg files of around 200Kb in size. There is little visible difference between these and the 600Kb images obtained via the highest quality setting and so I have left it on low for general snapshots. 

Memory Sticks are cool

Having splashed out on the 64Mb Sony Memory Stick, I can get any combination of up to 300 stills and/or a dozen minutes of MPEG video before I have to plug the PC110 into my laptop's USB port and transfer the lot over for storage. My trusty old 35mm Konica point & shoot did not see a lot of use on this trip.
Further to that, I do recommend the purchase of at least a 32Mb Memory Stick if you intend making use of the stills or MPEG facilities of the PC110.  I can't see any point in smaller sizes apart from the false economy they provide. I purchased a 64Mb stick to replace the 4Mb one supplied. Once inserted, I taped up the slot and also the removal slider and can't see myself ever having to take it out again. (More on this taping later)


The PC110 is essentially two cameras. 

It is a digital video camera first and a digital stills camera second. These two entities are also treated as separate cameras internally. The DV part can only capture to tape and the stills part can only access the Memory Stick. 
There are some means provided to let these two cameras interact and transfer information between themselves, but basically, they can be considered separate devices.

The DV camera also has sole access to the IEEE1394 AKA Firewire port whereas the stills camera rules over the USB port. Neither camera can directly access the other's I/O. This means that you cannot use the PC110 as a webcam via USB. It also means that you cannot send DV out via USB. 

You are able to use one of these 'cameras' to take snaps or record video/MPEG off the other one  internally, however, I can't see myself using those features too soon.... well.... maybe to make short (15s) MPEG clips off DV footage if I want to send someone a sample of something I'm working on.

That is also a good way to make use of the image stabilizer, which is normally only available in DV mode.... If you record DV and then transfer straight to MPEG, you will get a good quality and stable video clip. If you had recorded straight to MPEG, you would have got the wobbles. You can then of course re-record your next clip over that section of tape to keep waste to a minimum.
 

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