Sony's history in video and video editing demonstrates the company's commitment to developing new technologies - Betamax and Digital-8 are two shining example of their desire to create a "Sony Standard" technology. You could argue that both Betamax and Digital-8 offered supperior quality over their more prevalent rivals, but history shows that both failed to gain mass market appeal. Well, it's time for a Sony to roll out a new recording format - a technology known as MicroMV. Rather than the standard DV codec, this format uses an adapted version of MPEG2. In theory, this would be ideal for creating DVD direct from your source material.
Sony's IP7 range of camera's make full use of the new format - the camera literally sits in the palm of your hand. MicroMV's unique selling point, the minute size of the digital tapes it uses, helps dramatically reduced the camcorders size. But size isn't everything, and the cost of this reduction in size is noticable.
So exactly how small is the DCR-IP7? Well, it fits snugly into your hand, with everything neatly packaged to bring its dimensions down t o around the size of a small PDA. The camcorder's actually deceptively heavy for its size, feeling approximately the same wieght as a standard DV camcorder. I also found myself worried about dropping the IP7 as unlike a normal camcoder, there's no hand strap to fit around your hand. The wrist strap acts as ample security against a dropped IP7, but I'm used to the feel of a hand strap. Infact, the IP7 looks and feels more like a digital still camera than a camcorder.
The buttons are well positioned, but I did find myself accidently pressing the record button a few times whilst handling the camera - which could have been potentially disasterous. The LCD viewfinder rotates neatly around and offers the ability to turn off the backlight to save excessive drain on the batteries. However, I found the monitor to be as good as useless without the backlight - worse than playing a gameboy advance in the dark! Overall, the camcorders features are nothing spectacular, with the cam's low light mode proving a let down by recording a strobing blurred image. If you're thinking of using this feature, don't even think out moving the camera around!
Sony's certainly done a marvelous job of squeezing so much technology into such a small camcorder (when changing the tape, the entire camcorder opens up, making you wonder where exactly all the camcorder components are housed!). But as the old adage goes, "size isn't everything".
The MicroMV format may use cute tapes, but the format itself is far from impressive. Unfortunately the model I've been using didn't come with Sonys MovieShaker software .No problem I thought, afterall Windows XP was designed to recognise DV equipment. The first step proved a breeze. Connecting the cam via its FireWire (sorry Sony, that should be ilink), resulted in the familiar XP new connection "ping" and a friendly dialogue informed me that a new device was ready for use. That's where my problems started. Without Sony's MovieShaker software, I couldn't capture any clips to my harddrive - my favourite editor didn't recognise the format, nor did any freeware application I know of. So I set about trying to download the software from Sony's site and quickly realised I was in for a long search.
From reading various forums, it seems that not only is MovieShaker just about the only way to capture clips to PC, but it's also ONLY available bundled with Sony Hardware. It gets better, Sony also refuse to ship the software outside of the USA. Eventually I stumbled accross an article that mentioned both Pinnacle Studio 8 and Ulead VideoStudio 7 support the MicroMV format. I wasn't able to get my hands on a copy of Studio 8, but the support is allegidly shaky at best. My last resort was therefore VideoStudio and Ulead didn't let me down. After downloading and installing the newest patch, I was finally capturing MicroMV footage.
This is where the celebrations ended. The image quality during capture was choppy, but this was only to be expected. I'd seen many postings that warned of video editing packages inability to import the captured MPEG2 footage. Although Premiere was happy to import the footage, it proved even more difficult to edit the clips than standard MPEG2 encoded video, with Premiere frequently crashing. VirtualDub wouldn't import the footage, nor would TMPGenc. Finally, after trying several apps, I ended up converting the MicroMV footage to DV using Flask, then imported the DV footage to Premiere for editing.
In summary, the IP7 using MicroMV sounds good on paper. It's extremely compact, the quality is reasonable (if sub-DV in my opinion) and it supposedly uses the same codec as DVDs. But there's so much that's wrong about the format it uses. It's difficult to both import and edit the camcorders footage and the price tag of the technology is too high. If you're a complete novice, and simply have to buy the latest gadgets, I can see this being a novel toy. But if you're planning on using a MicroMW camcoder for video editing, think again and buy a DV camcorder. Oh and save around half the price at the same time!