03-17-2002, 01:24 PM
Sony recently introduced their IP line of camcoders. ###These use a new format tape -- MicroMV. ###This tape is 70% smaller than MiniDV tapes and can hold up to 60 minutes of video that is nearly the same quality as MiniDV tapes (500 vs 520 h-lines) or similar to standard DVD Video. ###
Sony has two models currently available: the DCR-IP5 and the DCR-IP7BT. ###
The IP5 retails for $1,299 and includes: MICROMV™ Sony's first tape based consumer MPEG2 recording format, MPEG2 compression technology that is PC friendly and provides video quality comparable to DV, 1/6" Advanced HAD™ CCD, 680K Pixels, Up to 500 lines of horizontal resolution, Professional Quality Carl Zeiss® Vario-Sonnar Lens, 10X Optical/120X Precision Digital Zoom, 2.5" Precision SwivelScreen™ Hybrid LCD Display (211K), Precision Color Viewfinder (180K), Super SteadyShot® Picture Stabilization, i.LINK®* MICROMV Interface (IEEE 1394), Cassette Memory, InfoLithium® Battery with AccuPower™ Meter System, Preset Exposure, White Balance, 16:9 Wide Mode, 8 Picture Effects, 6 Digital Effects
The IP7BT retails for $1,699 and adds digital still camera function via Sony Memory Sticks, Progressive Shutter, USB Interface, and Bluetooth wireless interface.
Both cameras are 1 7/8" x 4" x 3 1/8" and weigh 12 oz. with a battery.
The reviews I've seen so far have been very positive. ###Price aside, this could be the best hunting camera out there.
03-22-2002, 07:45 PM
March 21, 2002
Downsizing Videotape, Yet Again
By DAVID POGUE, New york Times
SMALLER With the DCR-IP5 camcorder, Sony introduces the MicroMV videotape format. The cassettes are one- third the size of MiniDV cassettes.
INTRODUCING a new format for anything is always a tricky business. Some innovations become standards, like Microsoft Windows, Phillips screws and queen- size beds. Others wind up in the Museum of Forgotten or Niche Technologies, like Betamax VCR's, quadraphonic sound and those old bicycles with the huge front wheels.
Few companies have more experience in this realm than Sony (news/quote), whose résumé lists many successful format introductions (the 3.5-inch floppy disk, compact disc, 8-millimeter camcorder) and a few that never attained the same ubiquity (DAT tape, MiniDisc, Betamax). This week Sony unveiled yet another new format — MicroMV, the world's smallest videocassette — and a tiny camcorder to match.
Now, the world hasn't exactly been clamoring for yet another videotape design. The shoe boxes of home-movie fans are already filled with tapes in 20 years' worth of mutually incompatible formats: VHS, VHS-C, 8- millimeter and so on.
Furthermore, there's nothing particularly wrong with Sony's previous tape design, the popular MiniDV cassette. Its compact business-card shape makes very small camcorders possible, and its all-digital signal never degrades no matter how many times it is copied. Best of all, Mac and PC fans can connect MiniDV camcorders to their computers. After transferring the video to the hard drive, they can add music, superimpose credits or chop out the parts where they accidentally filmed the ground bouncing along beneath their feet.
But despite all this, it bothers Sony that most people still think of camcorders as special-occasion machines. Few people toss a camcorder into their pockets or purses as they would, say, a still camera. If a camcorder were as handy as a still camera, Sony reasons, surely more people would grab it and go (and would surely, therefore, buy more blank Sony tapes and accessories). That's the thinking behind Sony's new MicroMV tapes and the DCR-IP5 camcorder that accepts them.
There's no disputing that Sony has succeeded in its goals of miniaturization. The MicroMV cassette, at 1.8 by 1.2 by 0.3 inches, occupies one-third the volume of MiniDV tapes. You've taken bites of cheese bigger than this tape.
The camcorder is no behemoth, either. It measures 1.9 by 4 by 3.1 inches, weighs 12 ounces and slips easily into a purse or coat pocket. It offers most of the same features as other Sony camcorders — a flip-out 2.5- inch screen, an anti-jiggle stabilizer, a 10X optical zoom and a cable for playing back the videos on your television. But because it's so tiny, it offers a freedom and spontaneity that you don't get with most camcorders. Best of all, the picture and sound are spectacular — DVD quality.
Still, the IP5 is only Sony's first stab at a MicroMV camcorder. As it begins work on next-generation models, the company won't have trouble finding room for improvement. For example, during playback, the IP5 hiccups at the end of each shot, freezing the final picture for about a second. Similarly, the IP5 misses the first second of action after you press Record. That may not be a big deal when you're filming sunsets, but this is not the camcorder you want when filming the dolphin show at Sea World. When you get home and play back the tape, you'll see nothing but a series of spectacular DVD-quality splashes.
Nor is that the only sacrifice you'll have to make. By Sony's own estimate, the included battery lasts only 35 minutes in typical use.
Sony has adopted a new format for the camcorder's controls, too, which might be called MigraineMV. Most of the controls are images on the flip- out screen, rather than physical buttons on the camcorder body. You're supposed to operate them using a fussy five-way rocker switch that's actually behind the screen, where you can't see it. It's a two-handed operation that makes neurosurgery look easy. (For periods of long playback, you can twist and fold the screen flat against the camera, bringing the rocker switch into view — but now the screen is in the wrong position for filming.)
The on-screen-buttons approach is especially klutzy when you want to play back some of the video without the remote control. A typical operation might go like this: using the rocker switch, you cursor your way onto the on-screen Rewind button, push the rocker inward to "push" the Rewind button, cursor over to the Stop button, push in again, and so on. Filling out the 1040 tax form is exhilarating by comparison.
One standout feature of the MicroMV cassette spares you some of that tedium: with a mere eight presses of the rocker switch, you can call up a tidy table-of-contents screen that shows you the first frame of every shot on the tape. Using the rocker, you can select one of these thumbnail images, whereupon the camcorder automatically rewinds or fast-forwards to precisely that spot.
There is a FireWire connector on this camcorder, which allows you to transmit the data by cable for editing on your Mac or PC. But don't be fooled. Incredibly, popular editing programs like iMovie, Final Cut, Premiere and StudioDV don't even recognize that the IP5 is connected.
That's because MicroMV tapes store the video data in a modified version of something called MPEG2 files, which those editing programs don't understand. (You can't even beat the system by copying the MicroMV data onto a MiniDV camcorder as an intermediary. MiniDV camcorders can't "see" MicroMV camcorders, either.)
Sony is encouraging software companies to update their wares for MicroMV compatibility. But for the moment, only one program recognizes the MicroMV signal: Sony's own, rudimentary MovieShaker program for Windows.
As if these disappointments weren't enough, a quick search at Dealtime.com reveals that you'll pay an early-adopter premium for buying the IP5 MicroMV camcorder: roughly about $1,100 (the list price is $1,299). The tapes are pricey, too: $13 per 60-minute cassette, compared with about $8 each for MiniDV tapes. A sister camcorder model, the DCR-1P7BT, costs about $400 more. It offers a Memory Stick slot for storing low-resolution digital photos and low-resolution digital video clips, as well as a Bluetooth transmitter and a modem module that you plug into a phone jack. At that point, Sony says, you can upload pictures from the camera to the Web using a standard Internet account, and even visit Web sites on the camcorder's tiny screen, up to 30 feet away from the wall module — without wires.
But look at the bright side: The IP5 camcorder is only version 1.0 of Sony's MicroMV initiative. Future models will surely lick the recording- delay problem, cost less and offer better control-panel solutions. (Getting rid of that rocker-switch affair should be easy. Already, Sony's smallest MiniDV camcorder, the PC9, has a touch screen — an ideal solution to the where-to-put-the-buttons problem.)
At the moment, most people in search of tininess would be better off buying a MiniDV camcorder. These models cost much less than the IP5, don't exhibit as many design compromises and send their video clips smoothly to Macs and PC's — and some of them (like JVC's GR-DVP3 and Canon's Elura 10) aren't noticeably bigger.
But the best thing about MicroMV is that it's a technology with room to shrink. As you pick up a MicroMV cassette with tweezers, it's not difficult to imagine its slipping into a 2003 camcorder the size of Ivory soap.
In short, the IP5 may not wind up in the Camcorder Hall of Fame, but the MicroDV format itself is a winner. True, its arrival means that video fans will eventually have to start yet another collection of backward- incompatible tapes. But look at the bright side: You'll be able to fit a lot more of them into a shoe box.
This looks like a really tiny cam. Expect to pay extra for the proprietary Sony batteries and memory sticks.
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