- Sensor: 1/8-inch 0.8-megapixel Advanced HADCCD
- Zoom and optics: Sonly Lens 60x Optical Zoom
- Physical Dimension: 58.5mm x 55.5mm x124.5mm (W x H x D)
- Weight: 230g without battery
- Memory used: Memory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo High Speed, Memory Stick PRO Duo Mark 2, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, SD/SDHC/SDXC
- Format used: MPEG2-PS
- Built-in projector
- LED light for shooting in the dark
- Good video and audio quality
- AF and zoom slower than expected
- Colors lacked a bit of saturation
- No internal memory
- The Sony Handycam DCR-PJ6 is a camcorder that does more than let you take long videos in high quality.It’s packed with an interesting treat—a built-in projector, yet is still offered at a reasonable price.
The days when the camcorder was the mass weapon of choice in video recording are long gone. Using one’s smartphone or point-and-shoot camera makes much more sense nowadays since these devices are powerful enough to shoot high-quality videos on the go and they make sharing content on the web much easier. The camcorder seems rather lame now compared to all the other cameras out there. The Sony Handycam DCR-PJ6 looks, feels, and performs pretty much like your average ‘corder, except for one thing—it throws in a built-in projector. It got me thinking—is this added feature enough to push someone to consider getting a camcorder in the current era of digital imaging? Let’s take a look at the device and see if it indeed has the chops to change one’s mind.
When I first picked up the DCR-PJ6 and slid my hand into the strap, I immediately noticed how light it was compared to a lot of camcorders I’ve handled. The battery was even attached to the rear at that time. It’s weightless and compact, making it easy and comfortable to hold.
The start/stop record button can be found on the rear of the device, placed at just the right angle to make it easy for you to press it with your thumb. The zoom lever can be found atop the device, together with a dedicated button for taking stills. Up front is the lens, and beside it is a small lever that controls the lens cover. Directly below the lens is the built-in LED video light.
The device has a 2.7-inch LCD screen that can be swiveled to up to 180 degrees. The projector is found on the other side of the screen. On top of it is a slider that controls the focus of the projected image.
The interface is a tad confusing since there are a lot of menus and sub-menus, and it’s pretty tough to navigate through them with the five-way controller. While rummaging through the many lists of options, I found a scene selection menu where you can customize the camcorder’s settings depending on the type of scene you’re recording.
However, if you’re in too much of a hurry to capture a moment to go through the scene selection menu, there’s an Intelligent Auto mode that allows the camera to recognize up to 18 combinations of scenes, then automatically adjusts the settings based on the conditions, guaranteeing that you get the perfect shot even if you don’t have the time or a free hand to tweak the settings manually.
The standard video codec for the DCR-PJ6 is MPEG2-PS—the format used by analog broadcast TV systems.Even though I would’ve preferred shooting in HD, I was very happy with the results. Colors needed a wee bit more saturation, but the overall quality was way more than acceptable. They turned up rather sharp with minimal digital noise on a TV screen and on the screen of my laptop. Shooting in the dark wasn’t much of a problem. As mentioned, the DCR-PJ6 has a built-in LED video light upfront, which allowed me to take footage in dark conditions.
Zoom speed and AF were slower than I expected, considering that camcorders generally have faster zoom and focus than other types of cameras during video capture. The device is capable of 60x optical zoom, but it also has up to 70x extended digital zoom. The only bummer is that you can only use Extended Zoom when SteadyShot—the camera’s image stabilization system—is turned off.
Optical SteadyShot is the feature that I found the most useful. My hand often shakes when recording long clips, and I don’t think I’m best suited to hold a video camera without a tripod, but surprisingly, when I played back the videos on the camera and on my computer, they were smoother and less wobbly than I had imagined because I switched on the Optical SteadyShot.
Audio quality was good—loud and audible, even if the person being filmed was a meter or two away from the camera. This is likely due to the device’s built-in zoom microphone.
Of course, the cherry on top is the built-in projector. It isn’t the first one in the market to have one, but I still think of it as an interesting, novel feature. It’s like having a mini-theater attached to your camera. As long as you have a white wall or any other flat surface, you can sit together with your friends and watch all the clips you took of your day, like how we did during our Subic trip.
Battery life is reasonable. I was able to use the device for an average of three hours of non-stop shooting after each full charge. Unfortunately, at one point, I had to cut my shooting short because I had to transfer the recorded clips from my SD card. I had to wait for everything to be copied to my hard drive before I could delete the contents of the SD card so I could start shooting again. I would’ve preferred if the device had internal memory—probably 8GB at the very least.
The Sony Handycam DCR-PJ6 carries a reasonable price tag of PHP 17,999. Despite its comparative affordability, some may be reluctant to purchase a dedicated device for shooting videos, and would probably opt for a powerful point-and-shoot or bridge camera within the same price range. Some would even consider getting a smartphone that is more expensive, as long as it has Full HD video recording capabilities. With the DCR-PJ6, though, you get a powerful video recorder that can take long clips in good video and audio quality, a fair-enough stills shooter, and a handy projector for the price of only one device. It may seem like a useless combination to some, but somewhere in the market, someone’s looking for that sort of multifunctionality. This may not be enough to convince people to actually purchase a camcorder, but it’s a good reason for me to conclude that this particular camcorder isn’t as lame as you think.
First Published in Gadgets Magazine, May 2013
Words by Racine Anne Castro