|Sony DCR-PC101 Review
12/11/2002 - Updated 11/06/2005
Strengths: Small, lightweight, durable, great picture, touch screen, fast zoom, night shot, image stabilization, and more.
Weaknesses: Cost, mediocre stills (especially in low light), buttons are difficult to access, zoom can be a little too fast, omni directional microphone on top (rather than in front), supplied with USB cable (instead of Firewire IEEE1394).
Comments: This is my first camcorder and I've been using the Sony DCRPC101 for several months now. It's small size and light weight allows me to take it everywhere (within reason of course). Pictures taken outdoors (bright light, overcast), indoors (incandescent, fluorescent), while driving (day, night), are impressive. I use a Macintosh to download footages through iMovie. It came with a USB cable, but the standard Firewire cable (6 pin to 4 pin, that comes with the Macintosh) is more reliable.
In my experience, the included NP-FM50 battery life varies tremendously, depending on how you use the camcorder. With the LCD on, constant on and off, taking 1 to 2 minutes of footage each time, repeated standby and replaying previous shots, the battery won't last through half a tape (30 to 40 minutes). With LCD off, 15 to 30 minute shots, limited standby, the battery will last over 2 tapes (2 hours, 12 minutes. Not quite the 3 hours as advertised). If you plan to shoot all day, buy the NP-QM91 battery. I did, and was able to record to 6 miniDV tapes (that's all I had). There was time left on the battery for one more tape. (FYI: 6 tapes equals 6 hours which translates to 51 GB of hard drive space.)
Using the camcorder for the first time, you have to get use to the location of the control buttons. They are small, and close together, compared to my friends DCRTRV25 and ZR50MC. After using it for a while, you'll notice how convenient the buttons are located. It's just a matter of getting use to the layout. The zoom is instant. From minimum to maximum, it takes less than a second. Not exactly what I wanted. With a little practice, you can achieve a smooth slow zoom.
I've read complaints about the cheesy plug cover hinges. I don't get it (not just yet). They are not hinged, but attached to the camcorder with what appears to be a nylon tether. I know hinges break, but unless you pick up the camcorder by these covers, I don't see how they can break.
As far as durability, my camcorder has been dropped (on carpet, twice, from waist height), ran over (radio control car), and toppled (on the driveway, mounted on a tripod, me tripping on the tripod). Besides a few scratches, the camcorder still functions like brand new.
I think all miniDV camcorders you buy today, have still image capture. The Sony DCRPC101 is equivalent to a 1 megapixel camera. I have a 3 megapixel Canon digital camera that is dedicated to taking still images, and I use it exclusively for that. Even though the digital camera can take video shots, it's image/sound quality is nowhere near that of a miniDV. And the same thing applies to the miniDV camcorder. The stills cannot compare to the digital camera.
If I have any complaint, that would be the built-in microphone. The microphone, and it is a good one, is on top of the camcorder. It is omni directional, and picks up sound everywhere. Of course, the closer the sound source is to the camera, the louder it is. If you are the one taking the video, and decide to add your voice, you will definitely come in loud and clear. During silent passages, you can almost hear a humming sound, which is the motor noise. My friends old JVC 8mm, records some very obvious noise, something I've never noticed before, until I started making comparisons. The ZR50MC also picks up motor noise or whatever it is. Another friends DCRTRV25 is very quite. But it's something you have to focus on. Like the old 8mm, if the picture is good, you don't notice it at all. If you are editing your video on the computer, and you find the hum/noise objectionable, you can reduce it using BIAS SoundSoap.
Unfortunately, SoundSoap does not eliminate it.