I recently picked up the Sony DCR-PC100 camera through a friend from Japan. I own the Sony TVR9 also but just like my digital still cameras, I found that because the TVR9 is not small enough to fit in my pocket I almost never used it. By that I mean that I've owned many digital still cameras and it turns out of if it's not small enough to fit in my pocket I won't use it.
At the time I purchased the TVR9 the 2 things that made me choose it over the DCR−PC1 which was the latest small video camera from Sony at the time. (1) the TVR9 had nightvision mode which allows you to see in the dark using infrared light. It sounds like a cool idea but for the most part it's really just a gadget and is not a good reason to buy a camera unless you really have a use for it. (2) was that the TVR9 had video inputs so I could record video games directly which could be important for my work. But, like I said as it turned out I didn't use the camera at all because of it's size.
So, recently I was making plans for a vacation and I decided I'd look into getting a small video camera and I found out Sony had this new model, the DCR−PC100. At the time of this writing it is not available in the United States yet.
What does it do that's so cool? Well unlike most digital consumer video cameras it's got a over 1megapixels on it's CCD. I'm guessing that's about 3 times more than most video cameras. I'm not sure how that translates into the image on the video tape. It would seem to me that as it's using DIGITAL VIDEO it would have to store the image in a standard resolution. But, the camera was one other feature that definitely does use 1megapixels and that is the ability to take still image shots onto Sony Memory Sticks.
I never understood why Sony had not come out with a digital still camera that is a merger of their small video cameras and their digital still technology. They had nifty digital video cameras like the DCR-PC1 with 10x optical zoom and upto 6.5 hours battery life. All they needed to do was take OUT the video parts and put in digital still camera parts and they'd have something that beats the pants off everything in the market. It would be small, have a tilt screen, 10x optical zoom, 6+ hour battery life. In short it would kick butt.
Well the DCR−PC10 almost does that. I say almost because it's not really a digital still camera. It doesn't have all the features for setup up a still shot that a digital still camera would have. It's also about a year behind in terms of resolution. Current digital still cameras all have 2 megapixel CCDs. This camera only has half as many pixels.
Still, I needed a video camera and the still capability seemed pretty cool so I got one.
Here are some random pictures I took as soon as I received the camera. Click on any picture to see the original as taken off the memory card from the camera.
These are a couple of stuffed toys on top of my monitor at work. Default settings
This is one of my co−workers, Bruce. He is standing about 12 feet away and I'm zoomed in to see is face. We were indoors in a room with some reflected sunlight
This is a singer out on the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica. I manually adjusted the brightness pretty high in order to see the details on his face. Without adjusting the brightness his face became too dark to see. If you look at the large image you will see a magenta ghost around much of the image. I guess I would have to assume this has to do with adjusting the brightness much to high for the bright background
Here is picture from the same place but zoomed all the way out so you can get an idea of where I was standing and this is with the brightness set to back to the default auto−adjust mode.
Here are some palm trees. This was an attempt to get a little detail from zooming.
This is also a zoomed picture of one of the flags hanging over the promenade.
These are my friends Evan and Danny. I included this picture just as your average "snapshot" type of picture. This was taken in the entrance to the local Toys R Us and shows the "standie" for the game we had just shipped. CTR: Crash Team Racing.
This again is a zoomed in picture of a crosswalk sign. Again I had to manually adjust the brightness fairly high because of the bright background and again I got an unacceptable blurry purple glow.
I think the verdict is still out on whether or not this is a great camera. I'll be taking it on vacation in the next few months so I'll post more pictures from this camera in the following months. For now though it's clear it's not going to replace my DSC−F55K for still shots.
Some questions I've been asked about this camera.
Q: Do I like it.
A: Yes. As a video camera I like it. As a still camera I'm going to stick with real still cameras. I recently got a Sony DSC−F505K which takes much much better still pictures
Q: Which battery to get?
A: I have both the smallest and the largest but I pretty much find that I only use the smallest. It really depends and how you are going to use the camera. I find that I rarely fill a tape on one outting. One tape is 60 minutes in SP. The small battery lasts about 120 minutes. Still I carry the large one just in case I need it.
Q: How do I get the still pictures into my computer?
A: I have a laptop computer and so I purchased the Memory Stick PCMCIA adapter. It's a standard adapter so Windows 95/98 comes with drivers for it to work (ie, no drivers come with the adapter). As far as the computer is concerned it's exactly the same as a CompactFlash adapter so I'm assuming it would work on a Mac too. I also have a USB card reader at work. The Antec Photochute 3. It works fine there too. There is also a Floppy Adapter for the Memory Stick. It is PC only at the moment.
Q: Have I edited video digitally and what do I need to edit
A: Yes, I have done this.
Under Windows 98 you probably have alot more options. As I run Windows NT I had to go with more expensive options. I purchased the DPS Spark (about $500) from Safe Harbor (a web mail order place) if I was to do it again I think I would buy the Pinnacle Systems DV300. It's the same hardware (both systems use the Adaptec 8945) but the DV300 comes with a full copy of Adobe Premier. The DPS Spark comes with their proprietary software.& nbsp; Note: Safe Harbor does not take returns for incompatibility according to their website.
After that I had to get a FAST scsi drive. Your hard drive has to allow writing of I think at least 4meg per second or it will not be able to keep up with the data coming out of the camera. I got my drive from Buy.com. Here's the number from the order.
9.1GB SCSI ULTRA2 WIDE LVD LP ULTRASTAR 10KRPM 80PIN 18LZX
It's a 10gig drive. 10gig is enough space for about 50 minutes of video. Note that to EDIT video you need space for editing so you can probably only edit about 25 minutes of video on a 10 gig drive. Also note that I needed an 80pin to 68pin adapter to connect that drive to the DPS Spark. I got the adapter at Fry's, a local computer store. One thing about hard drives. Most video editing hardware companies will recommend Seagate hard drives. I will personally NEVER buy Seagate ever again. One time one of their drives died on me. Most hard drive companies will ship you a replacement overnight if you cover it with a credit card. Seagate would NOT. As such I could not use my computer for an entire month as I waited for them to fix my drive. In other words I was OUT OF BUSINESS FOR ONE MONTH BECAUSE OF SEAGATE. DO NOT BUY SEAGATE!
You will also need some books on editing for CD. I personally captured some video and put it on a CD but then I found that some of my friends PCs were not fast enough to play back the video (I made it kind of large). I'm sure there are some books or websites that go over what formats, compression types, data rates, etc are best for CD−ROM.
I know that for Windows 98 there are I−Link/1394 cards that are less than $100 but I don't know what software they come with or if they are actually fast enough to capture the video. I would assume that even if you go with one of the cheaper cards you will still need a faster hard drive. Also, do not get the Adaptec 8920. It's "for still captures only" Personally I think it's the same hardware that's on the 8945 but Adaptec will not support video capture on that board even if it does seem to work.
Well I've made my decision about the PC100. As a VIDEO camera I have no complaints. It's been great. It's small, easy to use. As a DIGITAL video camera it's great. I've had no problems pulling video into my computer, editing it and putting it back on tape. But, as for it's use as a still camera it's complete CRAP. I'm pretty angry about this. Sony should have done better.
I've owned quite a few digital still cameras. Starting with the original Apple Quicktake upto the Sony DSC-F505 and inbetween the Sony DSC−F1, Kodak 210, Epson 600, Nikon Coolpix 900, and the Sony DSC-F55k.
Of all those cameras the PC100 is the by far the worst of the bunch taking the worst pictures. I print quite a few of my pictures for various projects and the results from the PC100 are so bad as to be unusable. Here's an example
click on either pictures for the full size version taken directly from the camera.It may not be clear what's wrong with the PC100 picture from these small thumbnails. If you look at the full size pictures you'll see lots of blotchiness in the PC100 picture. I don't know whether or not this blotchiness comes from a bad CCD (ie, bad electronics) or bad software (ie, the compressor in the PC100 is bad) What's even stranger is that the PC100 file is 26K LARGER than the F505 picture and yet the F505 pictures has almost twice as many pixels. 1600x1200 vs 1152x864 This is particularly noticeable in the blue channel of the picture.
All that blotchiness gets even more exaggerated in printouts.
This is pretty upsetting especially since the DSC−F505 does so well. Both products are made by Sony. You'd think they'd just put the compression software from their other digital still cameras into the PC100.
For me this basically makes the PC100 useless as a still camera. That brings up the question, is this camera worth the extra price. For example the Canon Elura is alot cheaper. $1250 vs $2000 The Canon does not have the still picture option but if that option is useless then what's the point of paying an extra $750 for it. For that price you can buy most of the current still cameras out there and can get better pictures at a higher resolution. Maybe Sony will come out with a firmware upgrade to fix the compression problems? I hope so.