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Sony Handycam PC100 9/10

Digital home video cameras have been around for some years, using the sucessful miniDV format, which packs good quality video onto a small specially designed videotape. At 525 lines, it is nearly as good as 600 lines (VHS is 200 lines and S-VHS is 400 lines). Even some films have been made in this now popular format. You can output the video digitally through the PC100's IEEE1394. What is special about the PC100, is that you can also input the digital video back into the camera once you've finished editting it on your computer. Most digital video cameras have the digital in disabled because the EU levy an additional duty on it, since they consider it as a video recorder. It also has a headphone out, analog video out and a microphone in. The inbuilt microphone is surprisingly good, and it only picks up a minimal amount of motor noise. Capturing digital video and putting it back onto the PC100 is easy and the camera can be controlled by your camera. You can control the PC100 (or indeed most other digital video cameras) from within Premiere 6. The inexpensive tapes can provide a cheap way to back up to your digital video products (rather than using up valuable hard disk space). An IEEE1394 interface is standard on Macs, and for PCs you buy addin cards for less than £100.

However, the rest of the PC100 is just as notable as the in/out IEEE1394 interface. It has a still digital video camera, which outputs stills to a Memory Stick, with the resolution being 1100x800, good enough for causal use. Dedicated still digital cameras however, offer higher resolution and more features. The mega pixel CCD is one of the best quality I've seen on a digital camera, a good addition to the Carl Zeiss lens. Like other Sony products, it has an infoLithium battery, so you can tell how long (in minutes) the battery will last. If you want to conserve power, you can opt to use the colour viewfinder instead of the LCD screen. However, given the battery seems to last ages, I am sure most amateur users will prefer using the LCD. There are a large number of settings you can use, to give your picture a different effect, such as a brown effect, or widescreen effect to give it a movie feel. There is even an infrared setting, "Nightshot", so you can film using the PC100 in the dark, which actually works! The inbuilt infra red bulb lights up and the PC100 picks up the infra red. It works over a range of several metres. If you want to film from further away, you'll need to buy more infra red bulbs. I don't know how useful it is, but it's great to show friends! It also has a remote control, which gives you access to most of the settings, including the zoom and play/record etc.

Although there is a new PC5 camera, the PC100 is probably still one of the best digital video cameras you can buy. Even semi-pro users will like cameras, which packs alot features. At over a thousand pounds though, you may want to get a cheaper Sony Handycam if you do not plan to use the PC100 alongside a computer digital video editting system.