Sony DCR-DVD810

Cheap and versatile

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Sony DCR-DVD810
  • Sony DCR-DVD810
  • Sony DCR-DVD810
  • Sony DCR-DVD810

Pros

  • Three recording formats in one, highly affordable, good video performance for the asking price

Cons

  • Less-than-perfect audio, rubbish stills mode

Bottom Line

The DCR-DVD810 is an impressive standard-def camcorder that combines three recording formats for the price of one. If you like the idea of instant DVDs, but also want the versatility of flash memory, look no further.

Would you buy this?

  • Buy now (Selling at 1 store)

The DVD camcorder is a funny old beast. A few years ago, everyone with a passing interest in videography wanted one, despite numerous flaws with the hardware (including poor video compression, numerous editing difficulties and ruinous file errors). These days, most DVD cameras have overcome these problems and are vastly superior to their creaky predecessors, yet their popularity has taken a significant nosedive. Go figure.

In an attempt to inject some life into the ailing format, Sony has unveiled the DCR-DVD810 — a standard-definition handycam that offers three recording formats in one: inbuilt flash memory, Memory Stick and DVD. In addition, all the usual Sony perks are present on this camera, including a 25x optical zoom, a 5.1ch Surround Sound Zoom microphone, a Luddite-friendly 'Easy' button and an intuitive touch-screen interface. With an RRP of just under $700, this is an excellent-value camcorder that will be ideal for families and casual users.

Being a DVD camcorder first and foremost, the DVD810 is compatible with all standard 8cm discs, including DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW and DVD+R DL. Recording times range from 20 to 325 minutes, depending on the video quality and disc type used. The obvious advantage of this format is that you can pop your recordings straight into a DVD player without mucking around with computers or AV cables. If you find the DVD format too restrictive, that's no reason to completely discount this camera — as mentioned above, this is just one of three recording methods offered.

Like most current camcorders, the DVD810 includes a memory card slot for additional hybrid recording. Predictably, Sony has opted to use its Memory Stick Pro Duo format, which is not as widely supported as its SD/SDHC counterpart. (If you already own a bunch of SD/SDHC cards, you might be better off with a Canon or Panasonic model.) A 4GB Memory Stick can store 58 minutes of video at the highest quality setting. Currently, the Memory Stick format comes in a maximum capacity of 16GB, which cost over $300 a pop.

In addition to its memory card slot, the DVD810 comes equipped with 8GB of internal onboard memory. While this might not sound like much, it boosts the camera's recording time by up to 325 minutes (or 115 minutes at the highest quality). Conveniently, you can also dub video from the inbuilt memory (or a Memory Stick) directly to DVD.

In terms of design, the DVD810 retains the 'slightly squashed' aesthetic that is synonymous with DVD camcorders. With dimensions of 55x89x130mm and weighing just under 500g, it fits comfortably in the hand without feeling too flimsy. Surprisingly, Sony has included a traditional viewfinder in addition to the 2.7in LCD display. This is something that most vendors are excising from their lower-end models, so it's nice to see it here. However, because it can't be swivelled up or down, you can only use the viewfinder when shooting whatever is directly in front of you. (Still, gift horses eh?)

When it came to video performance, the DCR-DVD810 performed solidly for an entry-level camcorder. With its solitary 1/6in CCD sensor and effective pixel count of 670K, it does a good job with the specifications it's been dealt. While colours occasionally looked washed-out in our test footage and its low-light performance was predictably poor, the level of detail remained consistently sharp throughout. For the asking price, the image quality is definitely impressive. (The same cannot be said for still images, however, which offer a measly resolution of one megapixel.)

The DCR-DVD810 lacks an external microphone jack, although a top-mounted accessory hotshoe is included for use with Sony-branded microphones. This may be a worthwhile investment, as we found the inbuilt microphone to be ineffective in noisy environments. Nevertheless, it will produce quality audio if you don't mind a bit of background hubbub.

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