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Sony TRV950 / PDX10 Companion
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Old August 30th, 2004, 12:46 PM   #1
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Sony Pal Dcr-pc350e 25p 16:9 5x Supersampling Mighty Atom

SONY PAL DCR-PC350E 25P 16:9 5X SUPERSAMPLING MIGHTY ATOM

August 2004
Approaching Ginza from the beautifully kept Imperial Palace grounds in the heart of Tokyo, there's a famous Japanese fellow pointing a Handycam in salute to you, he is stretched over the height of six floors on a building with a four letter word on top. As you get closer you realise that word is SONY....

As you enter the ground floor of the SONY building, on the right theres a crowd watching a multimedia product launch of the new 350 camera. You realise there's something special about this new camera - you race up to the 3rd floor where SONY has a duty free shop - you hold it in your hand - you find out it does true 16:9 and true 25p and you fall in love

Well not quite like that but you get the picture - I honestly couldnt believe my luck at being in the right place at the right time. Then there is the best part - yours to go for 118k Yen.

You can find the Tech Spec here >
http://www.sony.co.uk/PageView.do?si...=DCRPC350E.CEH

in this personal review I will focus on the juicy bits - no doubt in-depth reviews will follow elsewhere

25p
Does it do what it says on the tin?
Surprisingly SONY are playing this down but I can assure you that a little icon appears in the LCD proclaiming 25p when this mode is selected. The manual says ' In a normal TV broadcast, the screen is divided into two finer fields and these are displayed every 1/50 of a second. Thus, the actual picture displayed in an instant covers only half of the picture area. In progressive recording, the picture is fully displayed with all the pixels. A picture recorded in this mode appears clearer but a moving subject may appear awkward' - in other words a reference to film like strobing. Now here's the good part - it uses over two million pixels to produce the 25p image which means about 5 CCD pixels are used to represent each DV pixel and is the basis for the camera noise reduction - the 350 thus has the cheapest and cleanest 25p on the market .

16:9
The trick of cropping the 4:3 image to title safe first appeared in the 950/PDX10 and is continued here in such fashion that the 4:3 uses the central 1/4" area of the CCD whereas the 16:9 gives a wider angle of view and therefore is effectively a letterbox of the full width of the 1/3" CCD. The 16:9 mode (SONY call it 16:9 now instead of widescreen) uses 3/4 of the Photo image count of 3million pixels ~ 2.25 million pixels. Again supersampling is utilised giving a very clean image indeed.

Curiously switching between camera mode and photo memory mode produces no change in the angle of view and the reason behind this is that you can see the lens move slightly to telephoto position in photo memory mode. It is for this reason that the optical zoom properties are different between modes - 10x for camera and 8.5x for photo. The 350 has two electronic zoom modes 20x and 120x - the 20x is quite useable owing to the high pixel count.

25p and 16:9?
Not possible through normal operation, although there is a digital effect called Cinema Effect which gives true 16:9 with true 25p.
The manual states "You can add a cinematic atmosphere to pictures by adjusting to a 16:9 screen and progressive picture". Reports elsewhere that the NTSC version of this camera gives a faux 24p by dropping every 5th frame do not surface in the PAL version. What is interesting is that there is some sort of gamma change coupled with a softer image, furthermore it is not possible to use manual exposure in this mode (auto only) thus some keyframing of the gain may be necessary in post. The backlit button does work in this mode however.

One chip versus three chip
A Primary Color Filter is used in the camera so the color rendition is very good - maybe the three chip era is coming to an end?

Time lapse features
This is a great camera for stop frame animation or time lapse. In camera mode you can have FRAME REC or SMTH INT REC, the latter allows shooting of a frame at the selected interval ( 1- 120 second) and keeps them in memory until it has stored several frames, then those frames are recorded to tape one at a time giving very smooth playback.

In photo mode INT REC STL allows you to shoot 2k pixel images to the memory stick at intervals of 1, 5 or 10 minutes giving you 35mm film resolution time lapses of plants in motion etc. The 350 supports Memory Stick Pro Duo up to 512 Mb. The built in flash works in this mode too!

Pro features
Zebra 70/100
Custom sharpness 4 clicks each way
AE shift +/- 2 stop
White Balance I/O PUSH and Auto
Spot Metering - touchscreen
Spot Focus - touchscreen
Program AE
Super steadyshot - EIS
Digital and Picture effects
Edit and dub features
Hybrid LCD screen - you can see the screen in bright sunlight

Menu System
The menu system is very DEEP, however the designers have introduced the concept of custom menu system. In a similar way that you can have icons on the desktop on your PC , 28 custom menus allow you to bring and re-order heavily nested features to the root level. For example bringing SHARPNESS to the root level allows you to use the sharpness as a peaking control in critical focusing- clik sharpness --- /set it way to the right/focus/set it back again/exit

CONS
Wide Angle adapter essential
Bottom tape loading
Smear from bright point light sources
No direct control of shutter speed
1394 on the caddy only
no headphone socket

PROS
Everything else, especially the low color noise

RECOMMENDED ACCESSORIES
512 Mb MS Duo
NPFF71 battery (210 minutes with LCD out)
Pistol Grip
37mm Wide Angle at least 0.6x
30 - 37mm step ring

VERDICT
Am I glad I bought one?, no regrets whatsoever especially considering the performance for the price and the extra functionality which complement and add to my existing cameras. The competition better watch out.

DOWNLOAD SOME FOOTAGE

<edited by moderator: it appears that the account info posted by John has been compromised, so it has been excised. Please see Chris Hurd's response on page two of this thread.>

If there is specific information you need to know about this cam I will try to answer it for you.
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Old August 30th, 2004, 02:36 PM   #2
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thanks John - we want more ! Hopefully sony saw the error of their ways and the ntsc model will have true 30p ( or they tweaked their software for better 24p )- if not then the pal camera might be a much better choice. You're right about the single sensor- there's nothing inherently superior to 3 ccd - the original 2 megapixel coolpix's were very videoesque in their images but by the time they got to 5 mp, then it looked close enough to film for my taste. thanks again
ps - waiting on the next installment !
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Old August 30th, 2004, 07:50 PM   #3
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Interesting camera, maybe we'll start to see some of those features migrate to the larger prosumer cameras? Bit of a disappointment that you can't shoot progressive widescreen however. And that spec sheet indicates Electronic Image Stabilization, so some of those pixels must be used for that. Can you use EIS in 16:9 mode?
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Old August 31st, 2004, 02:54 AM   #4
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Progressive widescreen 16:9/25p is available in Cinema mode. Check the footage posted above

Super Electronic Image Stabilisation is available in all modes 4:3 and 16:9

The quality of the footage is stunning and makes some considerably more expensive cameras look decidedly shabby.


Of interest is that in the troubleshooting section of the manual it says HDV tapes cannot play back though this device, which means they are recognised as HDV in order to generate the error message, maybe just maybe the new Sony HDV will be using this chipset.
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Old September 1st, 2004, 12:29 PM   #5
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Djeez, so they removed manual exposure when in 16:9 25p mode!?

What the hell are they doing there at Sony's?

Plain stupid...
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Old September 1st, 2004, 01:46 PM   #6
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you can always fool the camera to get the exposure you want - you can't, however, trick it to film 16:9 25p ! If you want the whole 9 yards then you'll have to wait or buy an XL2- however the size of this camera and what it can do makes it worth while to give up some features.
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Old September 1st, 2004, 02:46 PM   #7
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In cinema mode the processing / memory overhead means that a number of functions are disabled

notably

no AE shift
no Manual exposure
no Spot metering
no custom sharpness

Backlit function works well, however the purist can always key-frame the gain in post to ensure constant exposure as the auto exposure appears to be steplessly smooth.

I personally dont regard this cam as a main axe (mainly because of its tiny size) but for those with say a VX2100 who want a slice of the low noise 25p 16:9 action without spending oodles just for this feature, its performance cannot be faultered.

It's never been cheaper to make a high image quality Indie film considering the tax free price for this cam is

about $1000 US, 600 GBP

and it certainly makes me happy until SONY comes along with a HDV solution to fill my boots.
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Old September 1st, 2004, 04:12 PM   #8
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that is if you're in Japan - in the US let's hope we see it drop in price fast- that's bad news about exposure adjustments being disabled but I still want to hear more. What kind of life do these small matchbook cameras have in comparison to sonys' other lines - consumer and dvcam ? Everything being equal - it's all gotta be smaller . Also have you heard anything about that .45x lens ? And what handgrip were you referring to ? thanks John
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Old September 2nd, 2004, 08:05 AM   #9
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Well back in 1996 my main axe was a Canon EX2Hi (L2 in US) and my first DV camera was a PC7 (for fun). The PC7 just ran and ran, I must have put 300 tapes through it and sold it in 2002 - it was still in perfect running order. Even if I get half that longevity off the 350 it would be worth it.

The 350 deserves the highest quality WA you can afford and I'm looking for a 0.5x 37mm which will be more accessible than the Sony only 30mm types - I will be using a 30-37 step up ring. Someone suggested a WA as used in the old Minox or Pentax 110 cameras are really good, I will take a look for these.

The pistol grip is not current Sony product, however mine is a few years old now and has zoom control and record with a lanc cable fitted. In this way I am back to a Nizo style shooting which I prefer rather than tucking my right hand through the side strap.

On another note, I am having a 26 pin CCA to 4 pin mini din Y/C cable made up so that I can record the output of my D30 2/3" studio camera. The 350 sits perfectly on the back hotshoe and means that I have the functionality of a D1 back and also I can squeeze off a few 25p 16:9 shots without raising too many eyebrows, just by flicking a switch :)

Next if you are looking to fly this cam on a handheld steadicam type stabiliser (and you will believe me) then have a look at the Manfrotto QR sliding plate which will add a bit more weight to allow use with these devices.
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Old September 2nd, 2004, 10:19 AM   #10
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I think the most important thing is that Sony are starting to add features like progressive, and I hope that a VX2100 replacement comes along with these kind of features (with better manual settings). I guess it *might* have HD as well.

The time-lapse feature is very interesting. Being able to do true frame by frame time-lapse and stop motion is a feature that I would find very welcome on a VX style cam.

I guess we will see some sweet new cams over the next year or so.
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Old September 2nd, 2004, 11:47 AM   #11
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<<<-- Originally posted by John Jay :
On another note, I am having a 26 pin CCA to 4 pin mini din Y/C cable made up so that I can record the output of my D30 2/3" studio camera. The 350 sits perfectly on the back hotshoe and means that I have the functionality of a D1 back and also I can squeeze off a few 25p 16:9 shots without raising too many eyebrows, just by flicking a switch :)
-->>>

I had a cable like that back when desktop video (stills and animation) was in it's infancy (still do, but no camera anymore) and it worked great. I think you now be better off with a dedicated component to DV converter rather than drop to Y/C. Or at least use a better Y/C to DV encoder rather than the camera's analog input, one that will filter noise created by going analog.
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Old September 21st, 2004, 07:54 PM   #12
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B&H has the 350e for only a couple of bucks more which put me back into considering this camera as my bridge to hdv- John , what have you learned in these couple of weeks - does it really do 25p ? Does anyone else have any new info ? If the pal model does real 25p , unlike the frame studdering faux 24p that we've heard about the ntsc model , I might be willing to change my workflow to get the added resolution. I noticed that dvspot plans on doing a review but he's not that thorough and not that punctual. Nobody's talking. come on guys
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Old September 22nd, 2004, 03:30 PM   #13
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Kurth,

theres over 50 meg of full size footage in the mailbox given at the top of this page - covering 4:3 (25p & 50i) and 16:9 (25p & 50i) - in a tough backlit scene. If you want halos and color smudging then you gonna have to shell out another $3K+ :)


check for youself, grab a frame in photoshop and analyse - its 25p alrighty
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Old September 23rd, 2004, 01:41 PM   #14
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thanks John - the reason I didn't do that when you posted was that it's a rar file and I think one time I tried opening one on my mac and couldn't and 50megs was alot to download- maybe I'll try tonight when my macs unused- anyway so it sounds as if you're still pleased ?I think we're all watching the fx-1 now but I'm hesitant to jump so soon and this might be my temp solution -thanks Kurth
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Old September 30th, 2004, 03:56 PM   #15
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Thank you for the footage. It is awesome!

If you have a chance would you post a 5-10 sec clip of:

Possibly from a window - A street with people walking by in 16x9 25p. Also could you take a simultaneous still, I think that is an option with the pc350e.

I'm wondering if maybe for exterior shots if a hi-res still could be used in post to help with the quality. At least it might help with color correction by using it as a reference point.

Thanks,

Jed
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