My New Toy

closePlease note: This post was published over a year ago, so please be aware that its content may not be quite so accurate anymore. Also, the format of the site has changed since it was published, so please excuse any formatting issues.

Yes, that’s new toy, singular. I got the camera, but no computer. I’m a bit miffed about the price of the camera. When we went to check it out on Saturday, they were offering a $100 mail-in rebate, which brought the price down to $899. When we went in to buy it last night, the rebate was gone so it cost $999. Last night was also, “friends and family night” at Best Buy, which means that you could get 12% off of certain items if you had a special coupon (and I did, though not because I actually know anyone who works there). So it wasn’t =all= bad since I got the 12% off (it ended up coming to a little over $950), but that extra $100 off would have been nice.

As far as the camera itself is concerned, it’s not the world’s best camera. I’ve been describing it as the MiniDV version of the camera I already own, but that’s not entirely true. It does have some nice features that my camera doesn’t have, such as the ability to shoot in 30p, interval recording and an option to stop it from shutting off automatically. These are all things I wish my old camera had, so it’s nice to finally get them and be able to use the MiniDV tapes I already have (from other projects).

In fact, I think I really confused the guy at Best Buy who gave me the camera. He was trying to sell me accessories for the camera like tapes and a carrying case, but I kept telling him that I didn’t need them. He gave me this look that I could tell meant, “but how are you going to shoot anything without tapes?”

Okay, now for the camera’s faults. The biggest one (Kris, you might want to be sitting down for this one) is that there is a button labeled “EASY” that =removes the options for advanced and manual controls from the menu=. It makes the menu buttons bigger and the only options left for you to choose from are “BEEP”, “CLOCK SET” and “LANGUAGE”. FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS VIDEO, WHY? Because it’s a consumer level camera. The idea is to remove the hard stuff so that any moron can use the camera and make shitty home movies.

Other faults are that it has a touch-screen menu on which many of the manual settings must be controlled. A bunch of the settings in the menu don’t stay how you set them when you turn the camera off, so if you want to make use of them (like, say, Super Night Shot as opposed to regular night shot), you have to remember to turn it on manually when you switch to NS.

I also don’t like a lot of the “port” (the places where you plug stuff in) covers. The power, iLink and USB ports have those annoying rubber covers that I’m always afraid I’m going to tear off accidentally. The headphones, mic, and LANC ports also have an annoying cover that you can’t completely remove (well, you =could= remove it, but you’d never get it back on). Also, they’re rather poorly placed. While I could plug in a mic and headphones while holding the camera, my hand covers the LANC port. Granted, I never use it and the chances of anyone using it while the camera is being held are slim, but the possibility exists.

Another less than endearing feature is that the camera is a bottom-feeder. Oh sure, at first it seems really cool that the bottom of the camera opens up to accept the tape, but wait until you have the camera attached to a tripod. Fucking annoying. Sony needs to do away with this “feature” soon.

While it’s nice to have a remote control for the camera (especially now that it won’t automatically shut-off. *ahem*), the battery is a button battery. This is kind of a crappy trade off, in my opinion. Sure, the remote is tiny, super slim and weighs almost nothing, but now I have to go to the trouble of finding a new button battery when this one dies, which, as we all know, is annoying.

Last, but not least, the stock battery only lasts for just less than 80 minutes on a full charge; unless you want to use the LCD screen. Open that baby up and you’re looking at less than an hour. And that’s just in standby mode, who knows how long it really lasts while shooting (Kris and I once had a “phantom” battery that would say it had about 20 minutes left, then suddenly die). So it looks like I’ll have to troll eBay for a new battery (since the dumbass at best buy said that you couldn’t get one that lasted longer than what came with the camera, which I know is untrue. Sony includes an accessory booklet with the camera and about two or three pages in is a listing of batteries that are measured in =how much longer they last than the stock battery=).

Does the camera have some really cool features? You bet. Despite my not liking the touch screen menu, it’s something that I think I’m going to get used to very soon; especially since there’s an option to customize the primary menu. Once I figure out the options in the menu I use most, I can add those to the menu (and remove the ones I don’t want on there). I can even choose the order in which they show up on the screen.

Another cool feature is that you can stream video from the camera via USB. I’m not really sure what purpose this would serve other than a glorified webcam, but I suppose if you were webcasting, it would probably come in useful.

There’s also a cool little button next to the LCD screen that dims the screens (thereby saving battery life). Speaking of the screen, it’s huge. The LCD is way bigger than the one on my old camera. Also, my old camera could record still pictures to a memory stick, but the quality wasn’t that hot. This one can record both still pictures and video (why?) to the new Memory Stick Duo (see Infra). The quality is a lot better at 2 Megapixels (1600×1200 max resolution on stills) and the video is recorded in MPEG-1 (to the Memory Stick, it records normally to tape).

Sony’s new Memory Stick Duo really yanks my chain. When I got my first camcorder about four years ago, I didn’t think I’d ever really use the Memory Stick that came with it. Then, when I was in the market for a digicam, I wanted a Sony because I liked the size and style of the Memory Stick better than anything else out there (plus, I have a Sony VAIO computer). About the time I got my digicam, Sony came out with the Magic Gate Memory Sticks (I think that’s what they were called), which were different from the original Memory Sticks (I have four of the originals, all in different sizes, curiously enough). Now Sony has these Memory Stick Duo ones (I think there might have been another type that came out before these. I seem to recall that the AIBO required some special Memory Stick). They’re about half as long as the original ones, but hold just as much info. All I can say is, what the fuck? An 8MB Duo came with the camcorder (as well as an adapter, which I’ll get to in a moment) and I’m honestly afraid I’ll lose it. I like that technology allows us to have smaller stuff, but there is a point where things are =too= small. I prefer the size of the old Memory Sticks; I always felt they were “just right”.

What about compatibility? Well =of course= the new Memory Stick Duos work in your old gear, so long as you have an adapter that makes them the same size as the original Memory Sticks. And what about the old sticks, do they work in your new gear? Not a chance.

So what the hell is going on here? While they won’t admit it, this is clearly just a plot by Sony to force users to constantly buy new equipment. I’m sure the Memory Sticks I have will cease to be supported before long, which will force me to buy a new digicam and new Memory Sticks. I’m also sure that a new type of Memory Stick will come out in a few years and they’ll eventually stop supporting Memory Stick Duos.

Does that mean I’m going to stop buying Sony products? Probably not. I really like Sony products because (A) I have so many and they all work really well together, (B) while I’m usually pretty anti-corporations, I’m a sucker for brand loyalty if I really like a company’s products or services (and Sony teeters on the edge of my acceptability threshold) and (C) Sony products are usually really well put together. I can’t think of a problem I’ve ever had with a Sony product that was a result of something they did wrong. Are there sometimes design flaws? Yes, but their electronics are solid.

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