camcorders

Sony DCR-DVD305 Camcorder Review

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Performance

**Video Performance ***(6.6)*

The Sony DCR-DVD305 comes a’calling with a 1/5.5" Advanced HAD (Hole Accumulation Diode) CCD, with 1.3 gross MP (690K effective pixels). This is the same size chip as the DCR-DVD205, the next model down, but that camcorder does not have the HAD technology. HAD increases the amount of light hitting the sensor, thus increasing the signal-to-noise ratio.

At 3000 lux, the picture looked a lot like every other Sony in their lower and middle-end DVD line. It’s not terrible, and it’s not great. It’s… fine. The color balance is healthy, and does not show a leaning towards blue, as some Sonys do. The apparent sharpness of the image is decent, pretty much what we’d expect to see from an imager of this resolution.

We are pleased to observe that there seems to be some noise reduction compared to the DCR-DVD205. The DVD205, like several Sonys of the past, have tendency to produce blotchy, blue noise. While the 2006 camcorders seem to be producing this aberrancy less frequently, it still crept its way in to some of our findings. Perhaps it’s the HAD technology, but the blotches are gone. Of course, there’s still noise in the image, but no more that we’d expect from similar camcorders in its class. The DCR-DVD205 and DCR-DVD305 had virtually the same color palette.

The next model up, the DCR-DVD405, has a much larger imager, a 1/3" HAD CCD. The performance on this camcorder was just terrific – there’s little comparison. It did seem to lay a little heavy on the reds, but overall, the crispness of the image could not be topped.

The Panasonic VDR-D200, priced about a hundred dollars less than the DCR-DVD305, produced a dull, grainy image, which was a problem plaguing almost all the Panasonics this year. After color and noise concerns, how sharp the picture looks to the eye is the third major concern. And this is where Panasonic was able to top Sony. Though the imager is smaller and has fewer pixels, the picture looked sharper.

Finally, the JVC GZ-MG77 has no problem showing its colors – they pop like neon on the Sunset strip. Some people appreciate a little glitz in their video performance. The DCR-DVD305, on the other hand, might relate better with the June Cleaver-types. This makes the Panasonic VDR-D200 the perfect camcorder for the Eeyore crowd. The lack of noise was also a point in favor of the GZ-MG77.

Overall, the Sony DCR-DVD305 would be a suitable, perhaps even complimentary camcorder for the infrequent shooter (as most camcorder owners are). The video performance is decent, and as the review will go on to describe, very easy to use.

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**Video Resolution ***(11.0)*

The Sony DCR-DVD305 was tested for its video resolution by shooting a standard ISO 12233 resolution chart and running stills from that footage in Imatest imaging software. In 4:3, the camcorder produced 319.0 lines of horizontal resolution and 345.1 lines of vertical resolution, yielding an approximate resolution of 110086.9. In 16:9, the camcorder produced 368.0 lines of horizontal resolution and 325.3 lines of vertical resolution, yielding an approximate resolution of 119710.40.

This resolution is on par with other camcorders in its class. It’s a bit lower than the DCR-DVD205, though manufacturing and testing variances land it in the statistical ballpark.

{column='Video Resolution' models='Sony DCR-DVD305,Sony DCR-DVD205,Sony DCR-DVD405,Panasonic VDR-D200,JVC GZ-MG77'}

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

We tested the Sony DCR-DVD305 at two light levels, 60 lux and 15 lux, in order to determine its low light performance. Because the imager is only 1/5.5", we didn’t expect to see a power-house performance.

Sure enough, at 60 lux the image picked up a good deal of noise. It seems that the Advanced HAD technology, which is supposed to increase the signal-to-noise ratio, has a breaking point – somewhere above 60 lux – where the noise has no problem accumulating. What’s most bothersome is the tenacious blue noise that we see on so many Sonys. And it must be a byproduct of the CCD, because the camcorders that use the ClearVID CMOS do not show the same problem.

The DCR-DVD205 and DCR-DVD305 looked essentially the same. Colors managed to distinguish themselves, likely through some auto gain, with the clearest colors being in the green portion of the spectrum. Both had noise issues.

The DCR-DVD405 was much brighter – no surprise, given its larger chip. The colors looked remarkably more vivid. Again, there’s no competition between these camcorders. The DCR-DVD305 is simply outclassed. No hard feelings – they’re siblings after all.

The Panasonic VDR-D200 at 60 lux was a little darker and a lot grainier. The 3000 lux image was so dark  and this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. The JVC GZ-MG77 just looked blown out. This was a real surprise, considering how vivid the colors were in bright light.

At 15 lux, the DCR-DVD305 lost most of its color information. We passed the point of a useable image. Blue noise was present, though all of the colors succumbed to a rather somber dark grey. The DCR-DVD205 told the same sorry story. The DCR-DVD405 managed to retain a little more color, but it too struggled at 15 lux.

The Panasonic VDR-D200 actually managed to push a little more color through than the DVD205 or DVD305, but just barely. And the thick, black grain was more than enough to make us say "pass, please." Finally, the JVC GZ-MG77 showed surprisingly little noise for what amounts to a difficult shooting environment for a camcorder. There was hardly any color, but the lack of noise meant that some of the more high-contrast fine detail (like text on the chart) was still readable.

{column='Low Light Performance' models='Sony DCR-DVD305,Sony DCR-DVD205,Sony DCR-DVD405,Panasonic VDR-D200,JVC GZ-MG77'}****

Wide Angle*****(8.0)*

The DVD305 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 40 degrees. In 16:9, it showed a wide angle of 44 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.**

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Comparable Products

Before you buy the Sony DCR-DVD305, 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