DVDs were never a perfect solution for directly recording video with a camcorder. The medium makes even less sense now with hard-disk-drive and flash-memory models reasonably priced and able to store much more video in far smaller packages. About the only advantage camcorders like the Sony Handycam DCR-DVD650 have is the capability to create on-the-spot DVDs--assuming what you're recording is less than 20 minutes long.
The camcorder also has a 60x megazoom lens and is fairly easy to use; partly due to the touch-screen-based menu navigation and partly because of its dearth of shooting options. You can record video to Sony's Memory Stick cards, too, should you need to record larger amounts of video and need to transfer them to a DVD while away from a computer. However, as with most camcorders in its class, the video results are mediocre--especially if you're watching them full screen on a large HDTV or have gotten used to the detail of high-def content.
Those wanting more recording flexibility can step up to the $429.99 DVD850 that offers 16GB of internal flash memory as well as the capability to record to 3-inch DVDs and Memory Sticks and transfer video directly from either internal or removable memory to DVDs. It also features Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.
|Key specs||Sony Handycam DCR-DVD650|
|Dimensions (HWD)||2.2 x 3.5 x 5.1 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||15 ounces|
|Storage type||3-inch (8cm) DVD-R/RW; Memory Stick Pro Duo|
|Resolution, sensor size, type||680K pixels (effective: 410K pixels (16:9), 340K pixels (4:3)), 1/8-inch CCD|
|LCD size, resolution/Viewfinder||2.7-inch LCD, 123K pixels (touch-screen)/Electronic|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||60x, f1.8-6.0, 39-2,340mm (16:9), 44-2,640mm (4:3) (35mm equivalent)|
|Minimum illumination||6 lux|
|File format (video, audio)||MPEG-2, Dolby Digital 2-ch stereo|
|Recording time at highest quality||20 minutes per single-sided 3-inch DVD|
|Image stabilization type||Mechanical and electronic|
|Inputs/Outputs||None/miniUSB, AV terminal|
|Battery type, rated life||Li-ion rechargeable, 80 minutes|
Available in silver and black only, the DVD650 is compact considering it has a DVD drive slapped on the right side. Its physical controls are textbook camcorder design with a start/stop button at the back and zoom rocker up top in front of a shutter release for snapshots in Photo mode. The handstrap is comfortable if a little low, but the drive gives you something to grab on to easily.
The battery juts slightly from the back from below the extendable eyepiece for the electronic viewfinder, which turns on when the larger LCD on the left side is closed. Up front below the lens is a small door hiding a proprietary AV output. Flip open the touch-screen display and you'll find a button for turning off and on display information, a Memory Stick Pro Duo card slot, and an uncovered Mini-USB port. On the left side of the lens back by the eyepiece is an Easy button that locks down the camcorder's few advanced features for simple automatic recording; a button for changing over to Playback mode; and a button that instantly adjusts exposure for backlit subjects.
The touch-screen menu system is good for those that don't make a lot of changes. In other words, it's responsive, but can get a little confusing for those unfamiliar with Sony's Menu and Home buttons. Menu gives you access to context-sensitive shooting options while Home gets you access to everything else. The main problem with this is remembering what functions rest where. (Fortunately, Sony lays out the menu system in print in the manual that comes with the DVD650.) With little practice though, the system makes sense and even full operation--not just point and record--becomes simple.