Here Comes the 828! (Winter 2003)


8 megapixels

   5:1 Zoom

  28mm to 200mm equivalent (and marked that way!)

   Holo Night Focus Projector

   Manual Zoom Ring--direct link--YAY!




    • Black
    • Sharp
    • EVF
    • Zeiss lens
    • $999

Here Comes V1! (May 2003)

  5 megapixels

   4:1 Zoom

   Holo Night Focus Projector





  • Beautiful
  • Sharp
  • Optical Viewfinder
  • Zeiss lens
  • $700
  • Special Converter Optics

707 Becomes 717!

In October, 2002, Sony will introduce the DSC-F717, an upgrade to the famed DSC-F707. It's virtually the same camera with a list of very attractive improvements.

  • Higher ISO sensitivity of 800
  • Novice auto mode
  • HQX Movie mode that shoots as long as you have memory space
  • Zoom demand via the front "focus" ring
  • Faster start up time
  • Intelligent hot shoe for external flash
  • 5-zone, 6-way focus acquisition areas

...and a number of minor improvements to the menu Set Up system. All other great features of the 707 have been retained.

It's not a huge set of improvements, but this is not a camera that needs huge improvements. The Sony F7x7 cameras are rapidly becoming the definition of digital photography's state of the art and the 717 is an example of the sort of careful upgrade we've seen previously in cameras like the Leica M series in 35mm film.

The big news around here is that the Sony eBook will feature BOTH the DSC-F707 and DSC-F717 from its debut on September 15. Weeks before you can buy the 717, you can explore its secrets in the Sony eBook.

EXTREME PDA! updated 9 22 2002

In March, 2002, Sony announced the imminent arrival of two new PDAs in their Clie line. The PEG-NR70 and PEG-NR70V.

That last one got our attention right away. It has a built-in digital camera hiding within its hinge.

The format of each is identical, except for the camera. That adds a hundred-dollar premium to the price. It doesn't make a high resolution image, in fact it is just a bit larger than a QVGA frame, but, hey, when you need to take a shot--it didn't weigh anything or take up more room in your pocket or purse--so why not?

I've been using one of these since May, 2002 and it has become an indispensible part of my work pattern. Like all PDA's, it keeps me on schedule and takes notes whenever I wish. It is a finger-actuated calclulator, an MP3 player, an emergency camera and a reliable list-keeper.

Friends ask me about it a lot. One, who heads a local high tech animation company, keeps movies on his that show his work. A pocket video player! Too bad the built-in camera isn't into shooting movies!

The image screen is a jaw dropper. You may remember how great-looking the color screen looks on their previous model PDA, the PEG-T615C (Who, I demand to know, dreams up these names?) with its "transflective" viewing. Meaning, it works in just about any light situation whether rear-lit or under bright light.

Well, the new ones have the same screen, only bigger. Now the screen area is 320 x 480 pixels large and completely fills one whole side of the device. But the device has four sides. How? That clamshell design allows it to have two protective surfaces in addition to its screen and control surfaces.

Sony has put all this to good use. As you may interpret from the picture, you can fold it flat with everything protected, or open it to make a cell-phone-like larger unit, or you can flip the screen and fold it flat making a normal-looking PDA configuration. No, it does not have a cell phone inside, but they're working on it. At least they SHOULD do that. A wireless PDA/cell phone this size will exist in the future, but this isn't that, yet.

Flat, it is a bit larger than the smallest PDA's but look what is lurking under the hood:

  • It is a Palm OS™ PDA so it takes all that available software.
  • It is a Wireless Remote Control for many IR devices--even non-Sony!
  • It has the tiny camera for shots anywhere, anytime.
  • Its color screen has 153600 pixels and is quite bright.
  • It will display images from your Memory-Stick digital camera.
  • It is a fully functioning MP3 player (comes with remote & earphones).
  • It enters your computer from its USB cradle (included).
  • It expands with Memory Stick media.
  • It has a miniature QWERTY keyboard on one surface.
  • It beeps appointment reminders at you from a built-in speaker.

Availability is now.

About $600 for the one with the camera and $500 for a version without the camera.


For whatever reason, Sony does not efficiently compress the images the on-board camera shoots. They each take up 156,000 bytes of memory! The image quality is Not Great. Each image can be effectively compressed to about 8K in Photoshop, but they take up nearly twenty times that much space in the memory-starved Clie.

Can somebody at Sony's Clie design team please 'splain that to me? I hope they find a way to upgrade the camera system via firmware.

Here's a Sony Link that tells you the official word.

World's Smallest Video Studio!!     updated 9 22 02            

Okay, that's overstating the idea, but this is the world's smallest broadcast quality video camcorder. Of course, the idea of what qualifies for the title "broadcast quality" may be a pivotal argument in that last sentence, but when you have actually been involved in broadcasting images from something this small, you may change your mind.

Let's put it this way, the Sony DCR-IP7BT (and slightly less capable DCR-IP5) make video images in MPEG2 format that are 500 video lines horizontally versus broadcast video's 330 lines horizontal. Is that good enough to be "broadcast quality" or do we need to define a different buzzword here? How about this: It's virtually the same image quality as DV video, which has been arriving on your TV from all over the world in the last few years. Ever watch "Survivor?"

Anyhow, these are the first two camcorders in the new MICRO-MV format which uses a tape cassette 70% smaller than a MINI-DV cassette. Yow! The camcorder only weighs 12 ounces. And they both have a 10:1 Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar™ zoom lens punching images into a Sony 680,000 pixel image sensor.

Like all of the DV cameras, there is a digital zoom thing included for those of you who like silly extremes. In this case you can zoom into Bigfoot with a 120X zoom, but geez, that isn't a great looking effect at all. Never mind, there are the gang of usual amaterurish "special effects" that have been with us since the days of Hi-8 available in the menus. Want Sepia, Posterization, Mosaic, Negative and more? Show of hands? Anybody? The good thing is, you are not required to use digital zoom and/or special effects at all.

The DCR-IP7BT model has built-in Bluetooth transmission. With the right peripheral, the included BTA-NW1 Modem Adaptor, you can Bluetooth onto the web and browse on the camcorder screen. 30 feet (10 meters) is all it covers, but wireless is the future, and it's a start.

That same model is the only one that takes Memory Sticks for capturing VGA still images. Now you can combine your Sony PDA (above) and review shots on either device.

Like its DV older siblings, the DCR-IP -series have an iLink output (A.K.A. Firewire) for input to your computer and the units come with a software program for basic in-computer editing.

A significant point to the MPEG2 image format is this: The image is very good looking but takes up less than half of the storage space of DV images. Meaning, your computer can hold over twice as much video. No pain there.

The viewfinding is via the flip-out screen or eyepiece finder. I picked one of these up at PMA and mistook the eyepiece image for an optical viewfinder--as if it were a direct view through the glass of the lens--it's that good.

Worth noting:

  • Super SteadyShot--Sony's very effective way of stabilizing the image by indexing to a subset of the 680K pixels. In practice, it makes uncompromised full-resolution images that are MUCH more stable.
  • Progressive shutter for still images (no interlace artifacts).
  • Scene thumbnails that let you locate scenes visually from the tape. The memory for these is in the cassette.
  • Memory Stick recording of stills on the -BT model. But you can record them on the tape, too, with either camera.
  • 16:9 mode for wide screen TV owners.

Both camcorders are available today. About $1700 and $1300.

Hands ON Report:

Well, it certainly is small. That's good when space is at a premium, such as for vacation or keeping it with you all the time. The image quality is quite good. Colors are accurate, audio is nice and it makes an image that is very artifact-free.

But the tiny stud that serves as a zoom control is among the worst ever produced. It has no "feel." The control is proportional making the zoom move from slow to quick, but without any feedback or tactile feeling from the single button, you can't intuitively use it. Darn. This alone would send me on to other products. Sony's own small DV cameras, for instance.

In-camera stop/starts produce an unwanted effect on playback. At each stop/start point, the image freezes for about half a second, disrupting the sense of flow in a major way. Darn, again.

Much of the optional functions that are buried in this camcorder can only be accessed via the many faceted menu system. Puzzling your way through it is a painful, counter-intuitive process. Darn three times. And you are out.

Sorry, Sony. This one promised much, but didn't make the grade.

Want more? Visit the Sony site.

Perhaps Sony's newest, swing down pistol grip MicroMV camcorder is better. Check out the DCR-IP55 here.



© 2002 Peter iNova. All rights reserved.