Digital Zoom: 120 X
Optical Zoom: 10 X
LCD Screen Size: 2.5 in
Recording Media: Mini DVD-R/RW
Audio Support: Stereo
Additional Features: Built-in Speaker|PC Connection|Viewfinder|World Clock
Image Stabilization: Digital
Average User Rating: Number of User Reviews: 4
Reviewed by: scrounger on Apr 19, 2004
Strengths: see below
Weaknesses: see below
Summary: I am a point and shoot type: Kids/parties/family stuff. No pro training or desire. I just wanted a new camcorder to video the little ones as they grew up.
I haven't bought a camcorder in 10+ years and I did a lot of research. I was ready to buy a Sony DCR TRV38, but the new DVD recorders had just come out. These are 2 different categories of camcorders, but each has its appeal. I decided to give the DVD201 a try for the convenience of direct DVD recording. I have compared the two (borrowed my parents' TRV38 for comparison) side by side. Here are my impressions:
1. Size: the DVD201 is smaller and felt good in hand. Very easy controls.
2. The DVD201 didn't have a touch screen LED. That's good for me!! Its LED screen is 2.5" versus 3.5" on the TRV38. Sony has incorporated a new technology for the LED that lets you see it in bright sunlight. This feature was EXCELLENT!! It actually worked. I never had to use the viewfinder because of screen "washout." It easily beat the TRV38 in that department. The TRV38's LED was unusable in bright sunlight.
3. Image quality: Hands-down, the TRV38 wins here. I was a bit disappointed with the DVD201. Why? Read the review of the Sony DCR-HC40 at camcorderinfo.com and you'll see that they weren't impressed with the CCD (sensor) of that camcorder (it got unsatisfactory marks for low-light quality / and video quality in general). Unfortunately, that CCD is the SAME ONE USED IN THE DVD201. In order to make the camcorder smaller, Sony had to reduce the size of the CCD to 1/5". They claim that "new technology" compensates for the smaller sensor......NOT REALLY!! The larger 1/4.7" CCD of the TRV38 shows in the quality of the video. Both have the same 690K effective pixel resolution, so what gives? Does it matter? Not really!! The bottom line is that the TRV38 provides richer, fuller, and brighter video quality than the DVD201 (for $200 less). The DVD201 video looked gray and washed-out compared to the TRV38. Maybe it's the media itself; mini-DV versus mini-DVD. Maybe it's the sensor. Maybe it's the recording format. It doesn't matter why......the video quality doesn't compare to cheaper units. [side note: the TRV38 has consistently earned very high marks for video quality and low-light ability]
4. As far as low-light ability, the TRV38 "wins" here too, but not by that much. I thought the DVD201 was comparable here with the TRV38. In low light, both videos were a bit grainy. The "Super nightshot plus" gimmicks were just that; gimmicks. The DVD201 does look better due to color being incorporated into the nightshot IR scene. Not a big deal, however.
5. Here's where the new Sony shines: The convenience of the DVD201 is unmatched. Simply pop in a mini-DVD (expensive media, however) and record away. Unfortunately, you have to "finalize" the disc before playing it in a DVD player. The manual warns that this process could take 1 minute to 2 hours?!? HUH? I have burned several so far and it never took more than 3 minutes. Here's the real kicker: Pop the finalized disc into your DVD player and watch it right now!! It's that simple. You will be enjoying your videos while everyone else with a mini-dv camcorder is still trying to hook up the darn camera to the TV with cables. THIS IS THE SINGLE BIGGEST REASON TO BUY THIS CAMCORDER..........Convenience. You don't have to download anything to your computer, compile it, burn a DVD (on the computer), and then pop it into the DVD player.
6. My kids love to watch their home videos...right now!! This camera eliminates the need to hook up anything to your TV with cables (where little hands can break an expensive camera). If you loathe the thought of taking video on a mini-DV, downloading it to the computer via hotwire, compiling/editing your obviously amateur video, re-writing it to a DVD with a DVD burner, and ONLY then get to enjoy it "effortlessly" on your TV, then the DVD201 is for you.
7. Here's the downfall, however; Not much editing ability with the DVD201. Using a DVD-R disc, you burn the DVD as you are taking the video. If you use a DVD-RW, you can download the video to the computer, erase, edit, and rewrite with it. (Apparently, the supplied editing software sucks, but I can't comment because I haven't used it). I will probably never edit much, so I don't mind. If you love to edit, think twice about this camera.
PROs: Small size, good feel, excellent LED screen, ultra convenient DVD media (can eliminate computer interface if desired), perfect if you don't care about doing much editing, excellent image stabilization, "finished product" for kids' review very quick (shoot the video, finalize disk, ready for DVD player, DONE!!), good sound quality
CONs: Video quality not as good as cheaper units (looks gray/washed-out), expensive media, can only shoot 30 minutes per disc (high quality), sound of DVD spinning captured on tape (low "whir" audible), a bit grainy low-light performance, no wind filter, not much editing ability
HERE'S THE QUESTION TO ASK YOURSELF: Is the convenience of the DVD media worth an extra 200 bucks at the expense of video quality? I'm still debating. Don't get me wrong. The video quality is good, but not great. The DVD201 is a good point and shoot camcorder, but isn't video quality what it's all about? Maybe. Maybe not. Convenience is a huge factor for some of us. One thing is for sure; the DVD201 beats the heck out of the JVC VHS-C I'm replacing. Of course that camcorder is 10+ years old.
BOTTOM LINE: Who will buy this camcorder? People who place convenience at the top of their list of features and are willing to sacrifice some video quality to get it!!!
Hope this helps.
Reviewed by: Workindood from MI on Dec 12, 2004
Strengths: Small, COOL, Decent Images, Able to burn copies to regular sized DVD-R disks then Reformat DVD/RW-R disks
Weaknesses: Pricy, Only 20 mins recording time on HQ.
Summary: (Edited December 12th by Workindood) I just got back from the Store with this camcorder. I just returned the DVD101 for this one. This DVD camcorder is far superior to the DVD101. I was able to get the Store to waive the 15% restocking fee. I would recomend buying a longer life battery. I got the 11 hour one, and I use the "included" battery for back-up. Yes there are better quality camcorders out there, however, to be able to burn right to the disk then pop it in your DVD player is COOL. I bought DVD/RW-R disks and use them like memory. Then I make a disk copy on cheap DVD-R disks, then rewrite on the DVD/RW-R disks again. This saves a lot of money. Also it is light in your hands even with the bigger battery. I also recommend getting the 4 year protection plan. It covers the battery, but better it covers the unit for cleaning as well as replacing it.
Reviewed by: ZRRIFLE from CO on Apr 12, 2004
Experience: 14 Days
Strengths: Great image, neat effects, small size.
Weaknesses: Price, disc noise.
Summary: Originally was going to purchase the DCR-DVD200, but glad I waited until the DVD201 came out, mainly because if it's smaller size and features. The image quality is very good, and the stereo audio is a nice feature as well. However I notice the disc "whirring" noise thoughout my recordings seems constant, unless there is alot of noises, voices, etc., in the background to drown it out. That's the main quirk I have with this camera, besides the price. But it's nice to be able to record over and over again on a DVD-RW and just pop it in the DVD player. The Pixela software it comes with is nothing to brag about, matter of fact you're better off using the free Windows Movie Maker on the PC.
Reviewed by: andrik from NY on Apr 27, 2004
Experience: 14 Days
Strengths: direct dvd recording,easy to use,compact size
Weaknesses: only 20 minutes of recording on one disc,some rewritable discs will not play on all dvd players,editing is very limited
Summary: If you have extra money to throw away on dozens of blank miniature DVD-R for the sake of convinience go ahead buy this camcorder.But if you have little time to kill transfering miniDV images trought a computer on DVD-R (with some editing done in the process)you can buy excellent Canon ZR90 and save $500 !!!