Sony DCR-PC330

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Sony DCR-PC330
This top-of-the-line, full-featured camcorder produces excellent video and takes decent digital stills.

It's not cheap, but the Sony Handycam DCR-PC330, with its 3-megapixel CCD, can produce both excellent video and decent digital stills. As a camcorder, its video quality and feature set rival the best of Sony's single-chip offerings. As a camera, it takes photos that are occasionally good enough to enlarge up to 8x10 inches. While it has a few minor flaws, the PC330 can sometimes replace your camcorder and digital still camera when you're not up to carrying both.

The vertically oriented Sony Handycam DCR-PC330 fits comfortably in the hand and has a solid, rugged feel. At 540g sans tape and battery, this solidly constructed camcorder, though relatively compact, is no lightweight.

We're not crazy about the PC330's bottom-loading cassette design, which is common among this class of camcorders. You use the PC330's power switch to cycle through the capture and playback modes.

We like the flip-down finger rest, which lets you use your pinky and ring finger to stabilise the camcorder. The Start/Stop button falls comfortably under your thumb, as does the zoom control under your index finger. Controls are intelligently laid out and clearly marked.

You can focus manually via the ring on the PC330's lens.

Compared to earlier incarnations, the PC330's touch-screen menu system has additional animation and sleeker graphics. You can customise the menus, and the system is largely straightforward to understand and use. But the debate continues over the merits of the camcorder touch screen. Some love its intuitive interface; some hate having to open the LCD to get to the menus.

The Sony Handycam DCR-PC330's standout feature is its 3-megapixel CCD, which can capture photos at its full resolution. Its 2.1-megapixel video resolution isn't shabby either. Combine those numbers with an excellent Leica lens, a built-in flash, and features such as laser-holographic focusing and NightFraming, which provides an infrared preview for framing in low light, and you have the potential for a very acceptable digital still camera living inside your camcorder.

Spot metering and spot focusing, features unique to Sony's camcorders, are both novel and useful applications for the touch screen. Manual exposure control, however, doesn't lend itself to touch-screen operation; we'd prefer to have a physical control on the camera body. Some Sony models won't let you use the progressive (noninterlaced) mode and image stabilisation at the same time, but that's not the case with the PC330. To record time-lapse video, such as flowers opening, use the Interval mode. The NightShot mode records infrared night vision, even in total darkness, though your images will look monochrome green--think Paris Hilton. Unfortunately, this model doesn't have zebra stripes, which indicate overexposed, out-of-gamut areas. Another feature serious amateurs will miss: You can't control the audio level manually, as you can with the Canon Optura 300 and the Canon Optura Xi.

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With the DCR-PC330, Sony seems to have mellowed out the hypersensitive zoom controls of the earlier models. It is now possible to perform slow, controlled zooms without inadvertently stalling or speeding up. We'd love to see variable zoom speed, especially slow speeds, on the remote's zoom-control switch as well. The autofocus is quite speedy and decisive, as we've found to be the case on all of Sony's camcorders. The tape transport and the zoom are quiet and well isolated from the mike. The microphone does a good job at capturing vocal tones in typical situations and isn't bad for a built-in unit.

The Hologram Autofocus system works very well for focusing stills in low- or no-light situations, and the NightFraming function is extremely useful for finding your shot in the same types of limited-light scenarios.

As is typical of so many camcorder batteries, the one that comes with the Sony Handycam DCR-PC330 has an average use per charge that's shorter than the length of a standard tape. We'd like to see it creep up to a full hour.

The Sony Handycam DCR-PC330's video-image performance is very similar to that of the company's older prosumer models such as the DCR-TRV39 and the DCR-TRV80. The PC330's images are sharp and crisp, with very clean edges. As is typical of Sony camcorders, the automatic colour temperature on the PC330 skews a bit toward cool, producing more-vivid hues than a neutral white balance would in typical interior-lighting scenarios but not so severely that the effect is displeasing. The camcorder's standard-operation lower-light video performance is quite decent; the PC330 uses a very clean gain--which you can't control manually--to pump up the available light. When light levels drop beyond the camera's standard-mode capability, using the NightShot or Colour Slow Shutter functions will allow you to keep filming, albeit with special-effect visuals of one sort or another. (NightShot produces monochrome night-vision images; Colour Slow Shutter creates motion streaks and somewhat artistic blurs.)

This scaled-down frame grab from the PC330 shows pleasingly saturated colours and good exposure.

Still photos that we printed on photographic paper at a local lab came out excellent (using a photo process that created a negative from the file) and held their own even when we blew them up to 8x10 inches. However, in low-light situations, our still images didn't fare as well as the PC330's video. Our photos, which we printed on an Epson Stylus Photo 2200, came out fuzzy and noisy; we don't recommend enlarging and printing those. Overall, the PC330's stills look much better than those taken with your average camcorder, but despite their lower resolutions, the Canon Optura 300 and the Canon Optura Xi still produce a better final photo.

Under indoor lighting, the PC330's stills looked far noisier than we expected and showed some noticeable compression artefacts.

Sony DCR-PC330
Company: Sony Australia
Price: AU$2,999
Distributor: Selected resellers
Phone: 1300 720 071

Specifications

General
Depth 2.8 in
Camcorder Media Type Mini DV
Optical Sensor Type Advanced HAD CCD
Total Pixels 6.8 megapixels
Effective Sensor Resolution 3.4 megapixels
Optical Sensor Size 1/6"
Digital Zoom 120 x
System TTL contrast detection
Digital Video Format MJPEG
Image Recording Format JPEG
Interfaces Provided composite video
Progressive scan Yes
Analog Video Format NTSC
Image Stabilizer optical (Steady Shot)
Video Head Qty No
Shooting Modes digital photo mode
Image Recording Format JPEG
Effective Video Resolution 340 KP
Digital Zoom 120x
Optical Sensor Size 1/6"
Enclosure Color Black
Optical Zoom 10x
Auto Focus TTL contrast detection
Camcorder Sensor Resolution 680 KP
Optical Sensor Type Advanced HAD CCD
Exposure & White Balance
Min Illumination 5 lux
Exposure Modes automatic, program
Shooting Programs beach & ski, landscape, portrait mode, sports mode, spotlight, sunset & moon
Special Effects Monotone, Mosaic, Negative Art, Pastel, Sepia, Solarization
White Balance automatic, custom, presets
White Balance Presets indoor, outdoor
White Balance Custom, automatic, presets
Special Effects Solarization, Sepia, Mosaic, Pastel, Monotone, Negative Art
Shooting Programs Spotlight, sunset & moon, landscape, portrait mode, beach & ski, sports mode
Exposure Modes Program, automatic
Min Illumination 5 lux
White Balance Presets Indoor, outdoor
Carrying Case
Type none
Display
Display Format 123,000 pixels
Display Form Factor rotating
Lens System
Optical Zoom 10 x
Lens Aperture f/1.7-2.2
Interchangeable lens No
Min Focal Length 2.3 mm
Max Focal Length 23 mm
Focal Length Equivalent to 35mm Camera 44 m
Focus Adjustment automatic, manual
Zoom Adjustment motorized drive
Lens Brand Carl Zeiss
Miscellaneous
Color black
Color Category black
Included Accessories IR remote control, USB cable, audio / video cable, camcorder shoulder strap, docking station, lens cap, power adapter
Memory / Storage
Memory Card Slot Memory Stick Duo card
Power
Batteries Included 1
Additional Features
DV input Yes
Additional Features Analog to digital conversion with pass through, accessories hot shoe
Low Lux / Night Mode Yes
Features accessories hot shoe, analog to digital conversion with pass through
Connections
Memory Card Slot Memory Stick Duo card
Software
Type Drivers & Utilities, Sony Picture Package
Software Drivers & Utilities, Sony Picture Package
Battery
Technology lithium ion
Battery Type Sony NP-FA50 lithium ion - manufacturer-specific
Details 1 x Li-ion rechargeable battery - 680 mAh (included)
Header
Brand Sony
Product Line Sony Handycam
Model DCR-PC55/B
Packaged Quantity 1
Video Input
Type Camcorder
Camcorder Type consumer
Min Illumination 5 lux
Digital Zoom 120 x
Digital Video Format MJPEG
Image Recording Format JPEG
Interfaces Provided composite video
Camcorder Media Type Mini DV
Special Effects Monotone, Mosaic, Negative Art, Pastel, Sepia, Solarization
Image Stabilizer optical (Steady Shot)
Built-in Optical Image Stabilizer Yes
Features accessories hot shoe, analog to digital conversion with pass through
Audio Input
Audio input type microphone
Microphone Form Factor built-in
Exposure Parameters
Exposure Modes automatic, program
Shooting Programs beach & ski, landscape, portrait mode, sports mode, spotlight, sunset & moon
White Balance
White Balance automatic, custom, presets
White Balance Presets indoor, outdoor
Auto Focus
System TTL contrast detection
Optical Sensor
Camcorder Sensor Resolution 680 pixels
Camcorder Effective Resolution (Video Mode) 340 pixels
Optical Sensor Type Advanced HAD CCD
Optical Sensor Size 1/6"
Optical Sensor Size (metric) 4.2 mm (1/6")
Sensor Qty 1
Total Pixels 6.8 megapixels
Effective Sensor Resolution 3.4 megapixels
Camera Display
Type LCD display
Display Form Factor rotating
Diagonal Size 3 in
Diagonal Size (metric) 7.6 cm
Display Format 123,000 pixels
Touch Screen Yes
Camera Memory
Memory Card Slot Memory Stick Duo card
Camcorder Features
Low Lux / Night Mode Yes
Dimensions & Weight
Width 1.8 in
Depth 2.8 in
Height 3.9 in
Weight 0.66 lbs
Service & Support
Type 1 year parts and labor warranty

Where To Buy

Price
$799.99

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Where To Buy

Sony DCR-PC55 (black)

Part Number: DCRPC55/B
Price
$799.99