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Home > Reviews > Camcorders > DCR-TRV950

Sony DCR-TRV950 Review
11/12/2004 - Updated 3/26/2006

I've been using Sony's DCR-PC101 for quite some time and I have to confess, it is one heck of a camcorder. But, there are times when I needed something at a more professional level, such as manual controls (audio, focus shutter,...), more accurate colors and less video artifacts. Being an amateur videographer, I decided to step up to the DCR-TRV950.

Inside the Box
Contents Stylus
Small
items
Remote
1 - AC Power (On-Camera Charger AC-L10)
1 - Battery Pack (NP-FM50)
1 - Remote Control (RMT-811)
2 - AA Batteries
1 - A/V Cable (1/8" mini to RCA)
1 - 8MB Memory Stick
1 - USB Cable (you will need a 4 - 6 pin Firewire cable for use on a Mac)
1 - Shoulder Strap
1 - Lens Hood
1 - Lens Cap
1 - TPP-3ST Stylus (for use with the LCD display)
1 - Operating Instructions manual with Quick Start Guide (254 pages)
1 - CD-ROM with USB Driver (PIXELA ImageMixer version 1.0) for Windows
1 - 1-Year Parts & 90-Day Labor Warranty

A look at the DCR-TRV950
Right Front Left
Back Top Bottom
For someone like me, who's been using an ultra compact comcorder, Sony's DCR-TRV950 feels large and bulky. Reaching for the zoom control and photo button on top is difficult for small hands like mine. Even reaching for the Power/Start/Stop switch on the back of the camcorder with my thumb is difficult. Trying to balance the camcorder with one hand, with the fingers on the zoom control and thumb on the rear switch, is quite a challenge and very uncomfortable. I guess after time I may get use to it (or maybe not).

The camcorder is light for it's size (2 lbs. 2 oz. bare, 2lbs. 6 oz. with battery) and is easily hand hold able. It's all plastic body probably attributes to it's lighness.

Accessing the manual buttons (Program AE, Shutter Speed, White Balance, Exposure and Audio Level) and SEL/PUSH EXEC dial on the back, the Focus switch and Focus ring on the left, obviously requires two hands. In fact for me, when hand holding this camcorder, it requires two hands just to maintain the balance.

Using the DCR-TRV950
 
The Sony DCR-TRV950 includes a rather small NP-FM50 battery. A fully charged NP-FM50 battery should give you two hours of shooting (based on Sony's specifications) but, after using this camcorder for awhile, I found the specs to be misleading. Inside the manual, on page 17, you'll find a table indicating the recording time.

Recording Time
Battery Pack Recording with
the viewfinder
Recording with
the LCD screen
Continuous Typical* Continuous Typical*
NP-FM50 (supplied) 95 50 75 40
NP-FM70 175 100 135 75
NP-QM71 200 115 155 85
NP-FM90 310 175 240 140
NP-FM91/QM91 360 205 280 160
*Approximate number of minutes when recording while you repeat recording start/stop, zooming and turning the power on/off. The actual battery life may be shorter.

I wonder, who does continuous shooting? With the NP-FM50, I sometimes get 40 to 45 minutes, based on "Typical" in Sony's Recording Time table. However, when using the LCD, the battery, in my experience, has never lasted more than 30 minutes. I'll have to admit one thing, the large 3.5" diagonal touch screen LCD on the DCR-TRV950 is absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately it sucks up battery life.

The battery life indicator (viewfinder or LDC) displaying the amount of minutes left on the battery is, shall we say, a bit off. With a fully charged NP-FM50 the LCD displays 60 minutes or more. With a fully charged NP-QM91, the LCD sometimes displays 300 minutes or more. The NP-QM91, with "Typical" usage, will last through three 60 minute tapes with minutes to spare, when using the LCD sparingly. Needless to say, I've ditched the smaller battery in favor of the larger NP-QM91.

The included 8 MB Memory Stick is inserted on the right side of the camcorder on the cassette door. You open the Memory Stick slot by sliding the "Memory Open" switch forward, near the top the top of the camcorder.

I've taken a few stills with the DCR-TRV950 and, at the highest quality setting, the images are very good, for a 1 megapixal camera. But, it is no match with a digital camera. The flash, used only for stills, automatically pops up in low light conditions.

Another switch on top, forward of the zoom control, opens the cassette door. The miniDV cassette is loaded from the top (good), unlike my DCR-PC100, which is loaded from the bottom (bad).

The lens is threaded for a 37mm filter, and I would strongly recommend getting a UV filter to protect the lens. I've stressed this point to all my friends, that a filter can easily be replaced, but not the lens.

After a few sessions with the DCR-TRV950, I noticed clicking and other sounds in the audio portion of the video. It didn't take me long to figure out that it was the lens cap swinging from the bottom, or pulled tightly into the grip strap, that caused the noise. Since the microphones are located below the lens the sound of the lens cap was easily picked up. So now the lens cap cord is detached from the grip strap and, whenever I'm using the camcorder, the cap goes into the bag or my pocket.

Conclusion
The Sony DCR-TRV950 offers a lot of control over the video and, to some extent, the audio. I often wish that the audio was controlled by a separate dial, instead of the two step operation where you have to press the Audio button, then operate the dial. While we're talking about audio, I find that the built-in microphone seems much too sensitive to handling noise and it picks up faint sounds from the zoom motor.

Now about the zoom, it is fast. From wide angle to telephoto and vice versa, it only takes a fraction of a second. To sustain a gradual zoom takes a lot of practice and steady fingers (or lay off coffee). There doesn't appear to be any adjustments you can make to slow down the zoom when hand holding. With the camcorder mounted on a tripod, I can then use the remote control to provide a consistent steady zoom.

If I am pleased with anything about this camcorder, it is the video. The colors captured on the video is very accurate. Not overly saturated, sharpened or contrasty. The Sony DCR-TRV950 captures video so clean and natural that, with an application like Final Cut Pro, you are provided with a lot of head room to make adjustments for how much contrast, sharpness, softness, contrast, etc, is needed.

Overall, my experiences with the Sony DCR-TRV950 have been mixed. I do, however, continually use this camcorder because it simply takes great videos.

:-)

Gary

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