camcorders

Sony DCR-DVD205 Camcorder Review

$406.89 at Walmart
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Performance

**Video Performance ***(6.5)*

The DCR-DVD205 features a 1/5.5" CCD with 1.07 gross MP (in 4:3 video: 690K effective pixels; in 16:9 video: 670K effective pixels). At 3000 lux, the DVD205 produced a surprisingly decent picture, with a relatively sharp image, favorable color performance, and not too much noise. We use the term "surprising" because last year’s model, the DVD203, was generally terrible.

The color saturation is rather high, but no different than that from the DVD105. High saturation is common among low and middle-end camcorders, where consumers are led to believe that bright colors are more important than accurate colors. Hence, the DVD205 has strongly saturated blues and greens, but we can accept that, given the price category. There are some patches of blue noise, a problem that has hounded Sony camcorders in the last few years. Fortunately, the blue noise is not all that noticeable. Compared to most DVD camcorders, the compression artifacts are relatively few. Sometimes artifacts can negatively affect the curves and diagonals, creating some ugly stair-stepping, but the DVD205 kept that to a minimum.

The DVD203 was more strongly saturated. The picture was much brighter, with colors that absolutely popped off the screen. This helped to differentiate the colors a little, but also tended to blow out the whites. All in all, it was a rather poor image.

The DVD105, the entry level model and next step down from the DVD205, had a noisier image and did not look as sharp. The colors were also more vivid, all of which are likely a result of the DVD205’s slightly larger imager (1/5.5" versus 1/6").

The VDR-D100, Panasonic’s entry-level DVD camcorder, was very noisy and had a worse color balance. Both camcorders are saturated, but the Sony is saturated evenly, while the D100 pushes the red at the expense of everything else – as a result, the magenta tones tended towards pink. Finally, the Canon DC10, the lower-middle end DVD model, had flatter but more accurate colors. The Canon’s main strength was its lack of noise.

Video Performance  
 Sony DCR-DVD205  6.5
 Sony DCR-DVD105  4.85
 Sony DCR-DVD203  5.0
 Panasonic VDR-D100  6.25
 Canon DC10  7.0

**Video Resolution ***(13.4)*

The video from the DCR-DVD205 was tested for its resolution. How? We shoot a standard ISO 12233 resolution chart and running stills from that footage through Imatest imaging software. In 4:3, the camcorder produced 401.4 lines of horizontal resolution and 334.6 lines of vertical resolution, yielding an approximate resolution of 134308.44. In 16:9 aspect ratio, the DVD205 yielded 414.9 lines of horizontal resolution and 292.6 lines of vertical resolution, yielding an approximate resolution of 121399.74.

 Video Resolution
Sony DCR-DVD205   13.4
Sony DCR-DVD105   10.5
 Sony DCR-DVD203  8.2
 Panasonic VDR-D100  11.0
 Canon DC10  7.0

**Low Light Performance ***(3.75)*

We tested the Sony DCR-DVD205 for its low light capabilities, which we consider to be among the most important elements of any camcorder. Video is not as sensitive to light as the human eye, so there are often situations where you can see just fine but a camcorder may struggle. Low light performance is based largely on chip size. The 1/5.5" CCD of the DVD205 may give it a slight advantage over the standard issue 1/6" for entry-level models, but we didn’t expect too much.

At 60 lux, the camcorder produced a decent image. The colors are clearly oversaturated, which is often the solution for lower-end camcorders – if you can’t capture the light, fake it! And it would have worked, were it not for the abundance of blue noise that appears through much of the image. It’s a splotchy, distracting sort of noise, which is hard to ignore. Regular issue noise, the pepper-like black variety, is also in abundance. The apparent sharpness (how it looked) did not suffer too much, and the camcorder had no focus issues.

Last year’s DVD203’s images looked very similar, though saturation was higher, particularly in the yellows. This made for a less balanced color spectrum. The DVD105 is almost exactly the same in terms of color performance, though there is slightly more red in the DVD105 and more blue in the DVD205. Fine grain black noise is higher in the DVD105. However, there is almost no blue noise. The smaller imager made for less fine detail than in the images the DVD205 produced.

The Panasonic VDR-D100 had a brighter image with less saturation, likely a beneficial by-product of better gain. However, the fine grain black noise is much higher and overwhelmed a lot of the fine detail. The Canon DC10 is arguably the best low light performer. Sure, there was color saturation, but it was more consistent than in the Sonys’ images. The whites were not boosted out of proportion, there was no blue noise, and the blackish noise was apparent but not overwhelming.

At 15 lux, the DCR-DVD205 lost a good deal of color information. You can recognize the general tones, but that’s about it. Blue noise did not increase any more, but it didn’t get any better. There was quite a bit of fine detail loss.

The DVD203 was essentially the same, except that the yellows and whites were brighter. It also had much higher levels of fine grain noise. Color information was about the same. The Panasonic VDR-D100 was completely overwhelmed with noise, though color levels were better. Finally, the Canon DC10 had high levels of noise, but the outlines of subjects remained strong, and noise did not blur the detail. Color information was slightly higher.

Overall, the DVD205 was not great, due largely to uneven saturation and blue noise.

Low Light Performance  
Sony DCR-DVD205   3.75
Sony DCR-DVD105   3.0
Sony DCR-DVD203   2.5
 Panasonic VDR-D100  3.25
 Canon DC10  4.0

Wide Angle* (7.8)

*The DVD205 was tested for its wide angle in both 4:3 and 16:9 in order to determine if it has true widescreen. In 4:3, the camcorder showed a wide angle of 39 degrees. In 16:9, it showed a wide angle of 42 degrees. However, when switching from 4:3 to 16:9, a significant portion of the top and bottom of the frame is cropped. The minor amount of information added to the sides, in addition to the loss of information on the top and bottom makes this a quasi-widescreen mode. You're really not gaining any information, and you may actually have a little bit less in 16:9. But if you're simply looking to fill up your  widescreen TV, this will do the job.

Comparable Products

Before you buy the Sony DCR-DVD205, take a look at these other camcorders.

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Sections

  1. Performance
  2. Format
  3. Tour
  4. Auto / Manual Controls
  5. Still Features
  6. Handling and Use
  7. Audio / Playback / Connectivity
  8. Other Features
  9. Comparisons / Conclusion
  10. Specs/Ratings