The MicroMV cassette inside the camcorder is like a bonsai version of a MiniDV tape.
The camera's extreme portability comes at a price, however. There's not a lot of free real estate, which means that the physical controls are shrunken and consolidated.
Our biggest beef was with the tiny wide/telephoto toggle that zooms the 10X Carl Zeiss lens; manipulating it requires slender fingers and a certain amount of practice.
The five-way control button behind the 2.5-inch LCD on the other side of the camera was easier to use as we navigated menus, but we found ourselves wishing for a separate Select button.
|Small controls can be bad news for fumble-fingered users.||The zoom lens uses a tiny toggle.|
We can hardly imagine a less convenient way to type an e-mail message than using the camera's four-way switch to move a cursor over an onscreen mock-up of a cell phone's dialpad. Fortunately, the camcorder saves not only the addresses that you've entered but also the subject line and the messages, so it takes just a few button-pushes the second time you want to mail Grandma a digital still with the message "Hving fun, will call 2nite." You can save still images and Web-quality video clips on a Memory Stick, then e-mail them or upload them to a free account at Sony's ImageStation site.
You can save still shots and MPEG video on the included Memory Stick.
A remote control and wireless Bluetooth adapter come with the camera.
Cumbersome text entry aside, the Bluetooth features worked as advertised; once you've done the initial setup, just plug the Bluetooth transceiver into any phone jack for Web and e-mail access right on the camcorder's LCD.
Built-in memory on each of the tiny MicroMV cassettes stores a thumbnail index of your video clips.
The camera also offers plenty of shooting features through the LCD menus, including effects presets for shooting different types of scenes, manual exposure and focus, and a way to combine video footage with stills in-camera.
In VCR mode, the camera allows you to search a thumbnail index for the footage you want--a convenient perk made possible by 64K of built-in memory on each MicroMV cassette.
There's a cost to the MicroMV format's small size: it needs to compress the video more than MiniDV. While MiniDV footage is compressed within each frame, MicroMV adds the frame-to-frame compression of MPEG-2. This means that objects that don't move or change are recorded once, then played back for as long as they remain stationary. To the user, this translates into a theoretical drop in quality when compared to MiniDV, with the likeliest problem being motion artifacts--blocky, pixelated footage that occurs if your subject is moving too fast, if there are a lot of sudden color changes, and so forth. That said, we didn't notice any such problems.
Automatic exposure doesn't match that of MiniDV models.
Overall, the IP7BT's video quality was difficult to distinguish from that of Sony's DCR-PC110 MiniDV camcorder, which we used for comparison. The major difference between the two was that the autoexposure function of the IP7BT was a bit less reliable. We had to manually adjust exposure when shooting footage of buildings against a broad swath of sunlit sky, whereas the MiniDV model yielded acceptable results in auto mode.