Sony DCR-DVD92E Handycam

25 Aug 2005

Product: DVD camcorder
Price: €759
The advent of DVD camcorders has been the most significant development in home-movie making since the camcorder went digital a decade ago. And just as digital-still cameras are now wiping the floor with traditional film cameras, DVD camcorders are rapidly gaining in popularity at the expense of digital camcorders that rely on internal memory storage or tapes. According to some reports, the DVD format has already captured a 30pc share of the camcorder market.

As the name suggests, the DVD camcorder does away with leads and wires by storing the movies directly on to 8cm DVDs (standard DVDs are 12cm). You shoot your movie, take out your disk, pop it into your DVD player and Bob’s your uncle. Well not quite, standard 8cm disks need ‘finalising’ — usually a quick in-camera procedure — before you can play them back on a DVD player.

Sony has released an updated range of DVD Handycams, of which the DVD92E is the entry-level device. Its main features include a touch-panel 2.5-inch rotatable LCD, Carl Zeiss lens and 20x optical/800x digital zoom. It also comes with a shoulder strap and AV leads (for TV/VCR playback) but, disappointingly, a protective carrying case will cost you extra.

The most pleasing feature of the DVD92E is its diminutive size. Where camcorders were once so heavy they required shoulder support, Sony’s latest-generation machine slips into the palm of your hand like a glove.

This initial good impression is reinforced during use, with all the key functions lying in easy reach of the thumb and forefinger. Push down on the chrome power lever with your thumb and the camera comes to life, giving you a choice of three operational modes — movie recording, still-image taking or playback/edit. A green indicator light on the back of the camera shows which setting you are on. A small niggle here is that in bright light conditions the green light is hard to see. Conveniently located just above this are the dinky zoom lever and partially recessed shutter button for still photos. You can record using a black and white viewfinder or colour LCD. The screen is large (2.5 inches) and does the job well except in the brightest conditions. To remove button clutter on the body of the machine a number of functions — including finalising — are accessed via the touch-screen LCD.

Being the entry-level model, the DVD92E has comes with no movie-editing software and has no USB port for connecting it to a PC. This should be borne in mind if you plan to do a lot of movie editing and PC work, although Sony tells us that movies can be played on laptops with DVD drives and edited with third-party software.

The Handycam is powered by a rechargeable Lithium battery. Battery life is a healthy 90 minutes or so. The cost question is one that prospective buyers of this machine should ponder a little. At €759 inc Vat, it is good value in our book but the convenience of using DVDs comes at a price. A 30-minute Sony DVD-RW disk retails at €14 and a 60-minute version a knee-trembling €25. Compare this with the tumbling price of the long-established video format. That said disk prices are inevitably going to drop over time. If you are meanwhile prepared to swallow the relatively high running cost in order to make the leap to DVD, this impressive Handycam produces excellent results and is unlikely to disappoint.

By Brian Skelly