Sony DCR-DVD105 Camcorder Review
Video Performance* (4.85)*
The Sony DCR-DVD105 offers a 1/6" CCD with 680K gross pixels (340K effective). This is the smallest chip size you’ll find among the major manufacturers, and is common among entry-level models. As expected, the image at 3000 lux is underwhelming. The picture isn’t bad—it’s just not good.
Color balance is decent, with a bit more emphasis on the blues and greens than the reds (common for Sonys). The picture looks a little oversaturated, but that is almost universal among lower-end camcorders. Most non-discerning consumers would rather have vivid than accurate colors, and Sony knows that.
On the whole, the picture is rather soft-looking; it lacks crispness around the edges and borders. Thankfully, however, there is not much in-camera sharpening. With low-resolution chips, sharpening can often have a detrimental effect on the look of curves and diagonal lines. Here, Sony seems content to present a softer image that masks the lack of detail.
Last year’s DVD92, which the DVD105 is replacing, had an almost identical image, which leads us to believe that little has changed in the imaging system this year. The picture looks marginally sharper, but color performance is identical.
The Sony DVD205, the next model up, has a slightly larger imager (1/5.5"). The review for this is not complete yet, but we have tested it, and the difference from the DVD105 is obvious. The picture looks much sharper – clean, crisp lines – and has a more even color pallet.
The big problem that starts appearing in the DVD205 is blue noise, an issue that plagued last year’s Sonys. This year, enigmatically, Sony has improved some models and left others behind. For example, the MiniDV models, the HC36 and HC96, no longer show the blue noise, but the HC46 does. Perhaps this a manufacturing default; it’s definitely an issue to be aware of.
The DC100, Canon’s entry-level DVD camcorder, also had an oversaturated image, but this time skewed too heavily towards the greens. A number of compression artifacts also sullied areas of the picture. The Canon was less noisy, however.
Finally, the Panasonic VDR-D100 produced an image with less saturation, but a very heavy dose of fine grain noise. The Panasonic was better able to capture fine detail, but the noise levels are hard to ignore.
**Video Resolution ***(10.5)*
The DCR-DVD105’s video was tested for its resolution by shooting a standard ISO 12233 resolution chart and running stills from that footage through Imatest imaging software. In 4:3 aspect ratio, the DVD105 produced 337.0 lines of horizontal resolution and 312.0 lines of vertical resolution (with an average 0.89% clipping), yielding an approximate resolution of 105144.0. In 16:9 aspect ratio, the camcorder produced 394.0 lines of horizontal resolution and 212.4 lines of vertical resolution (with an average 1.53% clipping), yielding an approximate resolution of 83685.6.
Imatest reports clipping when information (pixels) in the image either blows out or, as was the case here, bottoms out (all channels equal zero). This is often a result of too much in-camera sharpening, which creates stronger looking edges by darkening the darks and brightening the lights. Clipping can create some accuracy issues with Imatest scores. The scores, which can be seen below, were in the same range as other camcoders of the same price range, with a notable improvement from last year.
Low Light Performance*(3.0)*
Camcorders with a 1/6" CCD do not generally fare well in low light, as chip size ultimately determines the amount of light the camera can capture. At 60 lux, the DCR-DVD105 retained a lot of color information. The high saturation that we saw in bright light seems to be working to its advantage here. Noise levels went up considerably, though. Thankfully, there was almost none of the blue noise that affects so many Sonys. This noise is mostly blackish, and, while distracting, is really no different from most 1/6" chip camcorders.
Last year’s DCR-DVD92 had similar noise issues and slightly dulled colors. The DCR-DVD205, the next model up from the DVD105, had stronger greens, but otherwise differed little from the DVD105 in terms of color. If anything, it looked less healthy than the DVD105. There was less noise overall, but the presence of the insidious blue noise was enough to spoil the picture.
The Panasonic VDR-D100 had a brighter image, but the color variance suffered. The yellow and green tones tended to run together. Of course, noise levels (which were high even in bright light) shot up even higher. Finally, the Canon Elura 100 produced results similar to the Panasonic’s. Noise levels were just as high, but the Canon’s noise was thicker and tended to group in several multi-pixel clusters.
At 15 lux, the DVD105 lost most of the color information, becoming almost grayscale. Color tones were a matter of vague guesswork. Noise levels went up, of course, and tended to overwhelm a lot of the fine detail.
The DVD92 had essentially the same image – same noise levels and same color performance issues. The DVD205, with its larger chip, managed a bit more color information. Blue noise really took off, though, and could no longer be ignored.
The Panasonic VDR-D100 had, again, a brighter image with more severe noise problems. It did manage to report more color information, perhaps due to better automatic gain control. The Canon Elura 100 was only slightly duller than the Panasonic, but still much better in its color performance than the DVD105. The DVD105 retained slightly more fine detail than the Elura, however.
|**Low Light Performance**|
Wide Angle* (8.6)*
The DCR-DVD105 produced a wide angle of 43 degrees in 4:3 and 43 degrees in 16:9. This lack of difference between the different modes indicates that the camcorder does not have a true wide angle. Rather than simply widening the field of view (almost like opening the shutters), the camcorder clips information from the top and bottom in order to create a 16:9 frame. In doing so, you actually lose rather than gain information.
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