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


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Digital technology is slower than you might think

In use, the camera powers up reasonable quickly, but the delay before an image is captured after the shutter release is pressed takes some getting used to. Sports photography would be virtually impossible with this camera. I have managed to get used to it now by working hard on my prediction skills. This is possibly not a bad thing and should improve my abilities to capture the 'decisive' moment with my real cameras.

Sony takes a lesson in ergonomics from Argus.
 
As for ergonomics, the PC110 pretty much has none. The shape of the body doesn't fit anyone's hands. It is too fat in all the wrong places and the buttons and controls, whilst placed under or near your fingers and/or thumb, get in the way of holding the camera securely. You will repeatedly hit the record button by mistake with your thumb and you will also need to grow one or two fingernails to operate several of the other buttons as they are either unresponsive membranes or have been miniaturised and recessed to keep you from pressing them accidentally. 

The strap and the little swing-out grip are essential for handholding the Sony. You should ignore the recommendation in the manual, which tells you to tighten the strap so that your fingers are flat against the side of the body. Instead, loosen it off until you can curve your fingers comfortably and rest your index finger on either the zoom slider or the shutter release. Any tighter and you won't be able to operate both these, as well as the night-shot and oft-used focus-lock buttons. The swing-out grip becomes very important as it is in fact the only part of the camera that you actually end up holding albeit with only your pinky and possibly the next finger.

To hold the camera in your hand with both fingers and thumb, you will need to find a place to rest the latter. The only resting place is across the battery release slider and the rear of the battery pack. Be careful not to unclip the battery by mistake when you're wandering around trying to hold the camera down by your side.

You have to learn to hold this camera without actually touching it.

At least there is a good way to hold the PC110 when not in use and that is with the swing-grip returned to base and your palm flat against the side of the body with your fingers curled over the top where the flash is. Like this, you can walk around for quite a while and have the camera ready to shoot in a few seconds.
It seems odd that I have to comment on holding a camera like this, but holding the PC110 in a usable manner is a real issue that needs to be sorted before you can use it comfortably. Even now, I'm constantly afraid I'm about to drop it and would really like to see some proper strap lugs installed somewhere so that I could carry it over my shoulder.

To improve its usability as a hand-held camera, I'd like to see Sony manufacture an old-fashioned pistol-grip that can be mounted underneath the body much like most old movie cameras used to have. I have 8 and 16mm Bolexes that have this sort of thing and it works well. To make it fully functional, it should have record and zoom buttons and probably also a shutter release for stills. The Lanc socket would make most of that possible even for existing cameras. 
Yes, with a Lanc-activated grip underneath, it would be just about as easy to use as a 40 year old double-8 Bolex cine camera..... about the exact same size too.

The camera is fairly well-made.
 
It's as good as any highly miniaturised, electronic device with loads of delicate moving parts. Never drop it, never let it get wet and never let it get dirt or dust inside it or anywhere near it and it'll last just fine.  I'm counting on about 5-6 years of use before it starts to really fall apart. The strap, the socket covers and some of the switches will probably go first.

The worst bit is the cover for the front mounted I/O sockets. This has no hinge and is just held in place by a small piece of plastic that will not last to long if you don't treat it very carefully. That isn't easy when you have to open and close it several times a day. It really isn't up to it. The rubber covers used elsewhere on the body are a better option, but would have looked odd on the camera front. 

The fit and finish is typical for such a camera, however, at least one part on mine is badly made.  The tape door cover is either warped or for some other reason does not fit snugly to the body on all sides.  It is certainly a flaw, but one that I'll deal with myself sometime.

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