Tech Review: Sony DVD Handycam

A number of Twitter users I follow have spent a fair bit of time playing around with vintage film and video cameras, which started scratching the itch to dig out my old Hi-8 and MiniDV cameras and get them back into working order. However, looking around for capture devices and videotapes revealed there’s not really a satisfacto- ry capture device and NOS videotapes are incredibly expensive. So I poked around on Craigslist, and discovered someone selling a Sony DVD Handycam for $50. I realized there was a way around the capture device/media issues, because I had an external Blu-Ray drive I could use, and they still made mini-DVDs. A phone call and a 60 minute round trip later, it was mine.
There’s little info about these online. What I can parse from the manual that came with this is there were eight models of DVD Handycams, and I have the most basic one, the DCR-DVD92. These all record on 8 cm/3.5 inch DVD-R, DVD-RW, and DVD+RW. When I was in high school with dreams of being a filmmaker, I briefly looked at these before grabbing a MiniDV camera, mostly because I remember the DVD cameras being very expensive with fewer features.

Ripping files from the DVD for editing purposes required some experimentation. I eventually settled on using Handbrake to convert VOB files to MP4s, and when it comes to editing, iMovie doesn’t pervert the video settings unlike DaVinci Resolve. DVR kept outputting the video in 24 FPS no matter what I did. (I’m sure I’m a dum- my.) Overall though, I’m happy with this purchase.

As far as faults go, color is washed out like most digital cameras from this era, but that’s pretty much it. The image overall for 720p SD is surprisingly crisp. This catches far more detail, picture-wise, than I remember. Sound quality is real- ly good too; first thing I noticed is that this camera is far quieter than any of my old tape-based cameras. And then there’s Nightshot Plus.
This, of course, is Night Vision Mode. It makes for oddball shots given how infra- red processes colors and the odd “shadows” the infrared light makes. I honestly want to make a horror movie shot only in Nightshot, as well as shoot concerts with this once the ‘roni is gone. I’ve shot some daytime outdoor footage with this for a potential future project, and it’s not bad. Overall, if you want an easy way to play around with old media cameras, a DVD Handycam is not a bad bet.

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