Sony DCRDVD905
3.2Overall Score

Price (RRP): $1,799
Manufacturer: Sony

Sony’s DCR905 is the top of the new range of consumer DVD cameras released by Sony. Aimed at what Sony claims to be a rapidly expanding part of the market, it is targeted directly at those wanting a little bit more from their camera while sticking with the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) approach to DVD cameras.

Features

The 905 is a CMOS-based camera, with its 5.9 mm sensor being rated at 3 megapixel Primary Colour capability, supplying in effective terms, 1.91 mepapixel (4:3 aspect ratio) and 1.43 megapixel (16:9). This is the only CMOS camera in this range, with all others using CCDs for their sensors. Being CMOS-based assists the usable battery life of the 905.

The CMOS views the world through a Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar T* lens system, which when the camera is powered down, is covered by an automatic leaf-type lens cover. The 905 records sound in Dolby 5.1, which plays back in stereo on the camera, but can take advantage of a full 5.1 system off-camera. The widescreen LCD is a major attraction, while some potential purchasers will be enthused by the 905’s ability to take still and video images at the same time.

A Sony specific hot-shoe enhances the basic unit and can accept a range of accessories including Sony’s new Bluetooth 5.1 surround mic.

Design and layout

While not a bulky unit, the 905 has a nice, substantial feel in the hand, with the primary controls coming comfortably under the thumb and index finger of the right hand. The main power switch requires a safety mini-button to be depressed in order to rotate it to the ‘power on’ position, but once there it toggles easily between still and video functions. The 905 weighs approximately 639 grams and measures around 145 x 90 x 60 mm.

Probably the most noticeable feature is the large 16:9 ratio 3.5 inch LCD which swings out from the side of the camera in the usual way, but due to its aspect ratio, really does look wide. By simply pressing a button on the LCD side of the camera body, the view is switchable between 16:9 and 4:3 recording modes reflected in both the LCD and viewfinder.

On the lower edge of the LCD frame is an additional Record/Pause control and two buttons controlling the zoom function. Other features include a Display/Battery Info button, the Easy Handycam select button (see below), the camera reset pinhole and the USB port. Below the lower edge of the closed LCD are the Back Light select button and, a convenient touch, the Play/Edit button. This last brings up thumbnails of the clips or still images already recorded which when touch-selected, open up the playback controls.

Still images can be saved either to the Memory Stick Duo Pro as 4 megapixels images when in still camera mode or 3 megapixels while video recording.

Adjacent to the Play/Edit button is an attached cover protecting the optional LANC remote control 2.5 mm jack, a Sony-specific AV plug for connecting to external devices for playback and the socket for power adaptor plug.

Like other Sony cameras, the menu system is touchscreen driven, with the categories and subcategories easily readable and intuitive. The LCD is bright and adjustable in colour, intensity and position and is better than many for viewing in bright outdoor light. While it is obvious the LCD is intended to be the primary means of sighting the camera, it is backed up by a non-extendable viewfinder with a focusing lever under the eyepiece. However, as a person who wears specs, has a big nose and is left eye dominant, I found this viewfinder as useful as lactiferous mammary protuberances on a male bovine.

Under the viewfinder at the rear is the covered slot for the Memory Stick Duo (+/- Pro), which is immediately above the battery. The primary record/pause button and the flash control button are alongside the card slot with the power button at the top of this rear control panel.

While the DVD side of the camera is largely featureless, on the top surface there is a bit more action. Coming forward from the rear, in front of the power button, is the still camera shutter release button and the zoom control is in front of that again. Closer to the front of the camera is the slide button for accessing the DVD compartment and this is near to the top mounted microphone. Immediately behind the microphone is an attached cover that opens to reveal a hot-shoe for specific Sony accessories, such as a microphone, video light or additional flash. Immediately behind this is another slide switch for Night Shot selection.

There were no inputs for headphones or external microphones, which we consider a significant drawback for the serious videographers. The accompanying manual is extensive but is let down to a point by a limited alphabetical index at the back and lack of a cohesive series of labelled views of the camera in one central area of the booklet.

Performance

If you are familiar with videocameras at all, then using this camera in automatic mode would pose no challenge – but Sony wants to make it appear even easier yet again. By pressing a button, imaginatively labelled ‘Easy’ on the side of the camera covered by the folded LCD, you can select Easy Handycam setting which basically restricts the range of possible manual selections in the Menu.