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Itís that time of year again, as Sony wheel out the first of its new 98/99 season camcorders. First away is the DCR-PC10 digital pocket cam



The Sony DCR-PC10 is the replacement for the PC7, which arrived in the UK early last year. It was designed to provide some opposition to the JVC GR-DV1, the first pocket size DVC camcorder. At the time we had a few reservations, it looked great but the ergonomics werenít that hot, battery running times were poor and we were surprised by the lack of a microphone socket, but all things considered it was a decent enough machine.


To be honest our first impressions of the new PC10 were not that encouraging. To begin with it doesnít look significantly different to its predecessor, which basically means it is still awkward to hold; the top-mounted microphone isnít very directional, and thereís still no proper microphone socket.  Well, thatís not strictly true, there is an external microphone facility but you need a special plug adaptor to get to it. Itís not included in the outfit and it costs a whopping £50. Incidentally, the same adaptor (VMC-LM7), also gives access to the machineís Control L edit terminal.


Sony has made a number of changes, though most of the important ones are not easy to see from the outside. Those that are include a redesigned wrist strap, some of the secondary controls and the battery catch have been moved around and it has a new Carl Zeiss lens. This is the second collaboration between Sony and Zeiss; the first was a special edition Hi8 machine called the TR55, which made an all too brief appearance last year. The new lens looks pretty much like the old one but Sony point out that it has extra coatings, which reduce ghosting and flare and contrast reproduction is improved by 50%. The zoom is now rated at 12x and this can be digitally extended to 42x, (the zoom on the PC7 was 10x optical, 20x digital). Manual focus stays the same; itís controlled by a ring on the end of he lens barrel.


The LCD viewing screen is new too; the old amorphous silicon panel has been replaced by a poly-silicon design. Resolution is more than doubled and brightness has been increased by a factor of one and a half times. Sony has upgraded the exposure system. The PC10 now has a manual iris, controlled form a small thumbwheel on the back. Program auto exposure functions have been increased from three to five (spotlight, soft portrait, sports, beach and ski, sunset and moon and landscape) and thereís now a set of six digital effects (pastel, neg art, sepia, monochrome, solarisation and mosaic).


Titles can be added to recording, but only when using mini DVC cassettes with built-in memory chips, not all have one, look for the ĎCMí logo. The machine has a selection of ready-made titles, in 3 font sizes and 7 colours, or you can make up your own (one line, 20 characters). A cassette can store around a dozen titles.  Another new addition is Laser Link, which we have seen before on several recent Sony machines. It is a way of beaming pictures and sound to TVs and video printers. Itís not much use without the infrared pickup module though, itís another optional extra, this time costing £100.


In common with all new Sony camcorders the PC10 is being trumpeted as having a frugal appetite for power, itís called ĎStaminaí. When we reviewed the PC7 last year recording times Ė with all the usual stopping, starting and zooming, plus 5 minutes use of the main viewfinder screen Ė averaged out at around 20 minutes. We were hoping for a big improvement from the PC10 but sadly it was not to be. The best we managed, after running in the new battery, was just 28 minutes. By only using the viewfinder typical recording times only just made it past 40 minutes. Either way thatís not very good. We always advise carrying a spare battery or two, but the standard slim Infolithium pack (NP-F100) costs £100, which is quite an outlay, if you want to do a full dayís shooting. By the way, the time remaining indicator on our sample was unbeleivably optimistic, claiming between 20 and 30 minutes worth of power left, a couple of minutes before it shut downÖ


Lastly thereís i.Link. No itís not a new feature as such, itís Sonyís catchy new name for FireWire, otherwise known as the IEEE 1394 interface. Confused? You will be. Sad to say the PC10 socket only works one-way, at least as far as recording from an external source is concerned. Nevertheless, it has the full asynchronous transmission facility, which allows it to have a two-way conversation with a PC, for edit control, accessing the memory chip in DV cassettes and data transfer.


The rest of the PC10ís main features are more or less unchanged from the PC7. Briefly they include an electronic image stabiliser, time and datacode recording, plus the snapshot recording mode. It records two 12-bit PCM stereo soundtracks, one of which can be dubbed.  It has a fader, thereís an accessory shoe on the top, for an optional flashgun, and thereís a built-in speaker, so you can hear, as well as see an on-the-spot replay. Going back to the snapshot mode for a moment, Sony have fitted a small control interlock lever to the main function switch, this is to stop you inadvertently going past normal record to snapshot mode; itís a small but worthwhile improvement.


The one area where we hoped they might have made some changes was to the shape. It really is a quite tricky little swine to hold, especially if your hands are larger or smaller than the notional normal Sony seem to have opted for. The trouble is thereís nowhere comfortable to put the fingers that arenít needed to work the zoom or adjust focus, so they tend to get fidgety. This results in a lot of scuffling noises that inevitably get picked up by the microphone.



The new LCD screen is noticeably sharper than its predecessor, and maybe just a tad brighter, though like all LCDs theyíre next to useless in bright sunlight. Resolution is a little over 470-lines, which is about what it was on the PC7; chroma and luminance noise levels remain at a very low level. Colours are sharp and lifelike, in short picture quality remains very good indeed  -- comparable with most of the other compact DV cams on the market at the moment  Ė and the extra exposure options make it even more flexible than before.


We compared archived test recordings made on the PC7 with the PC10, to see what difference the new lens made. If there were any we have to say they were not immediately obvious from the normal test recordings. Thatís not to say the new lens isnít worthwhile. Itís more likely that the new coatings will help to reduce internal reflections, the sort you get when shooting on a really sunny day. The trouble is it always seems to be overcast when we do our outdoor testsÖ


Thereís no significant change to the soundtracks either, the microphone on the top picks up sound from all around, which is great if you want to add a running commentary, but not so good if youíre out of puff, unless you want heavy breathing on the soundtrack.


Stability is excellent; the electronic stabiliser irons out handshake and makes shooting from a moving car look quite smooth. The deck is very stable and you have to give the machine a really hard shake, before recording or playback is affected.



All of the changes to the PC7 have been worthwhile. The uprated exposure system is very welcome and the new LCD view screen works a treat, but thereís nothing dramatically new on offer. The PC10 is a smart little machine, definitely worth considering but its not vintage Sony.



The Panasonic NV-DS5, also £1700, still reigns supreme in this sector of the DV camcorder market, after that itís a toss-up between the JVC GR-DVX and the swish new Canon MV1. Sharpís VL-DC3 digital ViewCam is a bit too bulky and the JVC GR-DV1 is getting on a bit now but look out for the new one, itís a doozy.



Make/model                               DCR-PC10

Recording format               mini DVC

Guide price                                £1700



Lens                             f/1.8, 4.4-52.8mm

Zoom                            x12 optical, 48x digital 

Filter diameter            37mm  

Pick-up device            0.3in CCD

Min illum                       3 lux    



Long play (LP)                        yes                  

Max rec time                        90 mins (LP mode)

IR remote control                        yes

Edit terminal                        no (see text)


MAIN FACILITIES                

Auto focus                                yes                                          

Manual focus                 yes      

Auto exposure               yes                              

Programmed AE                          yes (5-modes)

Fader                                        yes                  

Manual white balance yes (presets)          

Auto white balance             yes                                          

Manual zoom                             no        

Power zoom                              yes                                                                              

Insert edit                                  no        

Audio dub                                  yes

Character generator                       yes                  

Digital superimposer                 no        

Image stabiliser                         yes                                          

Video light                                 no        

Battery refresh               n/a                               

Accessory shoe             yes      




Manual exposure, time/date recording, record review, retake, tally lamp, timecode recording, snapshot record, i.Link (see text)



Viewfinder                       0.6in and 2.5-inch colour LCD

Viewfinder info               deck mode and status, low battery, tape count, fader, focus mode, tape end, time/date, title, zoom position



Stereo                                       yes

Wind noise filter                         no                   

Mic socket                                yes/no             

Headphone socket              yes/no 

Mic                                           unidirectional electret



Sockets                                    AV out & headphones (minijack) DC power, ext.

microphone, Control L (multi-pin

Connector) DV out (DV jack)

Dimensions                               61 x 129 x 118mm                      

Weight                          640g (inc tape and battery)



Batteries (lithium ion and vanadium lithium), straps, AC charger/power supply,

AV lead             yes      

video light                      no                    

remote control            yes      

cassette adaptor n/a                   

RF Converter             no        

SCART adaptor            yes                  



Resolution                                 470-lines

Colour fidelity                           very good

Picture stability                         good

Colour bleed                              none

White balance                            good

Exposure                                   very good

Auto focus                                  average

Audio performance                   good

Insert edit                                  manual inserts clean

Playback thru adaptor              n/a



Value for money            8

Ease of use                   8

Performance                  9

Features                       8



R Maybury 1998 2502





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