camcorders

Sony Handycam DCR-DVD810 Camcorder Review

Sony Handycam DCR-DVD810 Camcorder Review

$528.98 at Amazon
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Performance

Video Performance* (3.00)

*The Sony DCR-DVD810 contains a 1/6-inch Advanced HAD CCD sensor. It has an effective pixel count of approximately 680,000 pixels and a gross count of 1,070,000 pixels for video images. This is the same sensor and pixel count found in the Sony DCR-SR85, which should make the two camcorders identical video performers. In comparison, the more expensive Sony DCR-DVD910 is equipped with a CMOS sensor that is 1/5-inches in size (with a 1,490,000 effective pixel count). The camcorder can record video in three quality settings—HQ (9Mbps), SP (6Mbps) and LP (3Mbps)—and videos can be captured at an aspect ratio of 16:9 or 4:3.

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Sony DCR-DVD810 at 3000 lux in auto mode

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Sony DCR-DVD910 at 3000 lux in auto mode

We start our video performance testing by shooting a DSC Labs Chroma DuMonde chart under a bright, even, 3000 lux of light. We then pull still frames from this footage and compare them to other camcorders that have made their way through our labs. At 3000 lux, the DVD810 produced a decent image—looking nearly identical to the frames we pulled from our Sony DCR-SR85 testing. The colors were very deep for a standard definition camcorder and the image was relatively sharp. Comparing to the DCR-DVD910, however, the DVD810 had a significantly worse image. The DVD910 showed crisper detail, less noise, and not as much interference or artifacting as the DVD810.

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Sony DCR-DVD810

at 3000 lux 100% crop

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Sony DCR-DVD910

at 3000 lux 100% crop

The blown-up images above show off the differences between the DCR-DVD810 and DCR-DVD910. Looking in the top right corner, it is difficult to read the numbers in the image from the DVD810, while the DVD910 produces legible numerals. Also, notice the vastly different color reproduction between the two camcorders, as well as the small blocks of discoloration and artifacting in the image from the DCR-DVD810. This is the same thing we noticed, especially in the blues and purples, coming from the Sony DCR-SR85. The image on the DVD810 does have more contrast than the DVD910, which makes text appear bolder and darker, but the DVD910 has a far smoother, crisper, and cleaner picture.

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Sony DCR-DVD 810 in auto mode

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Canon DC330 in auto mode

Out of the lab, the DCR-DVD810 provided the kind of image you'd expect from a standard definition camcorder. Areas with lots of detail had some interference, scenes with intense colors and bright light weren't reproduced faithfully, and artifacting was present in some of the footage. That being said, the video quality wasn't too bad for a camcorder in its price range. The images above are side-by-side comparisons with the DC330, a standard def camcorder from Canon that records to DVD. The Canon DC330 tended to capture more detail, like in the bricks above, and more saturated colors than the DCR-DVD810.

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Sony DCR-DVD 810 in auto mode

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Canon DC330 in auto mode

The biggest problem we noticed with the DCR-DVD810 was a choppy, blurry image along straight lines in bright light. In the images above, the DVD810 produced interference around the edge of the windows and along some of the lines on the trash can. The Canon DC330, on the other hand, produced a smooth, crisp image throughout. Even the blown-out portion of the windows looked crisp and the entire picture had little distortion or interference. The Canon also rendered deeper, more vivid colors than the DVD810. The Sony DCR-DVD910 clearly has a better image performance than the DVD810 in bright light, but the DVD910 comes with a steep $650 price tag (and it doesn't come with any internal memory!). If you're going to pay that much for a camcorder, you might as well spring for an HD model.

Video Resolution* (5.25)

*We test video resolution by shooting a DSC Labs video resolution chart under a bright, even light. We then view the recorded footage on an external monitor to determine the results. The DCR-DVD810 produced an approximate horizontal resolution of 350 line widths per picture height (lw/ph) and a vertical resolution of 300 lw/ph. These are identical scores to what we measured on the Sony DCR-SR85, and they are a bit higher than average for a camcorder in this price range.

Low Light Performance* (2.95)

*We test the low light performance of camcorders in three separate stages. The first is comparative analysis, where we compare low light images from other camcorders we've brought through our labs. In the second stage we run images through Imatest imaging software to determine color accuracy, noise percentages, and saturation levels. In our final stage, we look at light sensitivity by connecting the camcorder to a waveform monitor.

Beginning our comparative analysis testing with the DCR-DVD810, we shot a DSC Labs Chroma DuMonde chart at 60 lux (moderately low light) and 15 lux (very low light). We then pulled frames from this footage and compared it to images from other camcorders.

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Sony DCR-DVD810 at 60 lux in auto mode

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Sony DCR-DVD910 at 60 lux in auto mode

At 60 lux the DCR-DVD810 captured a good, deep image. It wasn't the brightest picture in the world, but the colors were saturated, blacks were dark, and whites popped with brightness. The image, again, looked very similar to our test shots with the DCR-SR85 (they both have the same CCD sensor and lens), which is to say a dark, yet rich image. The DCR-DVD910, in comparison, showed us a brighter, softer picture—however, colors didn't pop nearly as much and the text didn't appear as solid or bold as the 60 lux image from the DVD810. We must say, even though the DVD810's colors may be a bit too dark, the camcorder still produced a better looking image than the more expensive DVD910 at 60 lux.

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Sony DCR-DVD810 at 15 lux in auto mode

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Sony DCR-DVD910 at 15 lux in auto mode

At 15 lux, which is very low light, the Sony DCR-DVD810 continued providing a dark, yet colorfully robust image. Of course, noise and artifacting were prominent, but any camcorder in this price range will begin breaking down at 15 lux. The comparisons with the DCR-DVD910 at this light level were shocking. The DVD910 has a washed-out, grainy image at 15 lux, with colors that are more faded than your favorite childhood t-shirt. Yes, both camcorders have noise, blur, and grain, but the DCR-DVD810 still has a strong, pleasing image amongst the interference. This is the same quality we saw coming from the DCR-SR85 at this light level, which also produced a dark, strong picture.

For our second stage of testing, we use Imatest imaging software to determine the color accuracy, noise percentage, and saturation levels of the recorded video. We shoot an X-Rite Color Checker chart at an even 60 lux, and then run the frame grabs from that footage through the software. According to Imatest, the DCR-DVD810 produced a color error of 14.9 and an average noise of 1.6025%. Both these scores are very close to the numbers achieved by the DCR-SR85 (15.9 color error, 1.45% noise), which, again, makes sense because the two camcorders have identical sensors and processing systems. The DVD810's color error is a bit higher than some other standard definition camcorders in its price range (like the Canon FS100), but it's not a horrible score. It's also better than the 16.9 color error posted by the DCR-DVD910. Lastly, the saturation level on the DCR-DVD810 measured at 64.19%, which is also a slightly higher score than the DVD910 recorded.

Our final stage of testing determines low light sensitivity. We attached the DCR-DVD810 to a waveform monitor, which measures light in IRE (the standard in broadcasting). Watching the monitor, we slowly lower the lights until the camcorder is outputting a peak of 50 IRE. The DVD810 required 18 lux of light to produce 50 IRE, which is exactly what the DCR-SR85 required. The DCR-DVD910 needed only 15 lux to reach the same light level, but as we showed above, its low light image is washed-out and riddled with interference. Other standard def camcorders, particularly the Canon FS100 and FS11, the Samsung SC-MX20, and the JVC GZ-MG330 all required approximately 13 lux of light to output 50 IRE.

Overall, the Sony DCR-DVD810 isn't the best low light performer and it's light sensitivity is well below average for its price range. However, the camcorder retained color depth and provided a vivid image even in settings with very low light. In both our 60 and 15 lux tests, the camcorder exhibited an image far superior than what the pricey DCR-DVD910 showed us.

Stabilization* (5.90)

*The Sony DCR-DVD810 is equipped with SteadyShot, an electronic image stabilization system (EIS), which smooths out the image digitally. This is the same system used by the Sony DCR-SR85, while the DCR-DVD910 has a more expensive optical stabilization feature.  EIS can result in some loss of image quality, whereas optical stabilization should not.

We test stabilization by attaching the camcorder to our shake simulation device. Our device has two speeds—speed one is roughly the same as filming with a wobbly hand, speed two imitates the jitters of a moving car. At speed one, the DVD810 reduced 75% of the shake created by our device. At speed two, the camcorder reduced 87% of the shake. These are both average scores for Sony, which usually does very well in this test. The camcorder's performance was nearly identical to what we saw from the DCR-DVD910 and DCR-SR85.

Wide Angle* (9.60)

*We measured the maximum viewing angle of the DVD810 using a vertical laser. We placed the camcorder on a tripod, with image stabilization turned off, and its zoom pulled all the way out. We measured the wide angle of the lens to be 48 degrees, which is average for a consumer camcorder. It is also identical to what we measured on the DCR-DVD910 and DCR-SR85.

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Sections

  1. Performance
  2. Format
  3. Auto / Manual Controls
  4. Still Features
  5. Handling and Use
  6. Audio / Playback / Connectivity
  7. Other Features
  8. Conclusion & Comparisons
  9. Photo Gallery