The touch-screen menu system is good for those that don't make a lot of changes. In other words, it's responsive, but can get a little confusing for those unfamiliar with Sony's Menu and Home buttons. Menu gives you access to context-sensitive shooting options while Home gets you access to everything else. The main problem with this is remembering what functions rest where. (Fortunately, Sony lays out the menu system in print in the manual that comes with the DVD650.) With little practice though, the system makes sense and even full operation--not just point and record--becomes simple.
|Features||Sony Handycam DCR-DVD650|
|White balance||Auto, Outdoor, Indoor, Manual|
|Scene modes||Auto, Twilight, Candle, Sunrise & Sunset, Fireworks, Landscape, Portrait, Spotlight, Sports, Beach, Snow|
|Focus||Auto, Manual, Spot AF, Tele Macro|
|Lens cover (auto or manual)||Manual|
This camcorder was designed for hassle-free recording and as such doesn't have a lot of extra shooting options. A majority of my field testing was done with the DVD650 set to Auto for white balance, scene selection, and focus, and it performed satisfactorily. There are more scene options if you chose to get specific and the same goes for white balance. Also, should you want to be more hands-on with focus and exposure, you can control both by touching the spot onscreen you'd like the camcorder to draw its information from.
For its low-end status, the DVD650 performs reasonably well. The autofocus is responsive, but when zoomed out it does hunt trying to focus, particularly in low-light conditions. The rated battery life for the included pack is 80 minutes of continuous shooting recording directly to DVD (90 minutes to Memory Stick); expect half that time if you're frequently turning it on and off and reviewing clips. Extended life batteries are available, one of which claims a life of up to 11 hours of continuous shooting.
Video quality is overall soft; the only time a somewhat sharp picture was obtained was in Tele Macro mode. Clips also display quite a bit of noise and digital artifacts until you scale down to YouTube-size dimensions. This includes noticeable purple fringing around subjects. If you still live completely in a low-resolution world, recordings are destined for video-sharing Web sites, or simply want to capture the moment no matter how it looks, the DVD650 will suffice. Colors and white balance are good, and exposure is decent, too, though highlights tend to blow out. And despite low-light video having fair amounts of noise and artifacting, the results were actually respectable for this class of camcorder. Lastly, while the camcorder does take still shots, you'll likely get better photos out of a camera phone. Also, they can only be stored to Memory Stick so switching from actively recording video to a DVD to capturing a still image is not fun. You're better off grabbing a still from video, which is possible.
There's a good chance that by 2011, standard-definition DVD camcorders will be a dead category. It's already antiquated for most users' needs. If you need a reasonably compact all-in-one solution for recording video and transferring to DVD on the go, the Sony Handycam DCR-DVD650 is an option worth considering. However, I recommend recording to Memory Stick first and then transferring to disc. The camcorder makes it easy to do, and it's safer than recording directly to DVD--especially if you're not stationary.
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