Sony Shoots for Pro MiniDV Market with Long-Awaited DCR-VX210
Posted Oct 14, 2003

The professional videography scene got a major shot in the arm in early October when Sony announced its new 3-CCD camcorder, the DCR-VX2100 MiniDV HandyCam. The VX2100 succeeds the popular VX2000, which defined the pro MiniDV category with its May 2000 release. Meanwhile, with the insurgence of competing models such as Panasonic's AG-DVX100 and Canon's GL2, fans of the VX2000 have long awaited Sony's counter-move.

Slated for December shipping with an MSRP of $3000 (the VX2000 currently lists on the Sony Web site for $2999, although it's widely available for closer to $2000), the VX2100 adds several significant enhancements, including improved optics and audio and Sony's proprietary Advanced HAD progressive scan CCD technology.

Advanced HAD, available in several of Sony's newer camcorders, is designed to improve minimum illumination, allowing the VX2100 to achieve better results in low-light conditions without the use of infrared technology. By increasing the CCD's sensitivity to light, Sony promises clearer, brighter video and better color reproduction, with less loss in quality due to dimly lit shooting environments.

The VX2100 also has a 58-millimeter aspherical lens and a two-position neutral density filter. The aspherical lens, according to Sony, minimizes the distortions that usually occur around the edges of video shot by a standard spherical lens, while the neutral density filter compensates for varying lighting situations such as studio lights or direct sunlight. The camera also boasts a new lens hood and a built-in lens cap.

Sony is also emphasizing audio enhancements with this model, with PCM Digital Stereo Audio in 12 and 16-bit audio modes. The 16-bit mode promises high-quality stereo sound, while the 12-bit Audio Dub mode records digital video in two stereo tracks for the simple addition of background music or voice-over to the video. The new camcorder also improves on its predecessor's audio features in terms of user control, an area in which the VX2000 was beginning to seem a bit long in the tooth compared to the competition. According to Sony, audio quality for manual recording has been improved by roughly 6dB, thanks to enhancements to the audio process circuit.

Videographers can also choose automatic or manual control for all aspects of exposure, shutter, and depth of field. A manual focus ring and a manual zoom ring provide the user with additional control and flexibility.

The DCR-VX2100 model differs from its predecessor with a darker grey chassis, larger viewfinder, larger eyecup, and oversized handle lined with both zoom and record start/stop buttons. The unit's new handle is designed for one-handed operation; by enlarging and adding zoom and record/stop buttons directly to the handle—in addition to identical buttons on the body—the DCR-VX2100 is equipped for capturing low-angled shots and use in tight shooting spaces.

The new camcorder also features a built-in color bar generator, 16:9 wide screen recording capability, both 12X optical and 48X digital zoom, advanced optical SteadyShot picture stabilization, and up to seven hours of operation with the optional NP-F960 InfoLithium battery.

A 2.5" Precision SwivelScreen Hybrid LCD Display—same size as the VX2000's—provides 211,000 pixels of viewing resolution. The hybrid system, according to Sony, allows for increased visibility in challenging lighting situations such as bright sunlight.

Like all Sony camcorders, the VX2100 features a Memory Stick slot for still-image storage. The DCR-VX2100 camcorder includes an 8MB Memory Stick card and can capture up to 120 JPEG compressed images to the card in standard mode, according to Sony. The camera will also capture stills in standard VGA 640x480, although this typically means larger file sizes than will accommodate 120 images on an 8MB card.

The VX2100 enters a much more diversified market than the VX2000 did at its debut in May 2000. Not only does it face competition from the likes of Panasonic, which features 24p capability still lacking in the 2100, and Canon, with its GL series; Sony also offers a more complex taxonomy of cameras designed to serve the various classes of users taking up MiniDV these days. Sony will continue to offer the VX2000 (no specifics on "end-of-lifing" that warhorse as yet), although the 2100 with its various enhancements will carry the same list price. Sony aims the 2100, like the 2000, at aspiring filmmakers already well-heeled in camcorder use. One notch down the ladder is the TRV950, a 3-CCD camcorder that lists for just under $2000, but offers less manual control than the 2100. The next step up is the PD150, which offers both MiniDV and DVCAM, and sells on the Web for just over $3000, which is probably $500-$1000 more than the typical street price for the 2100.