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Hardware Review of:
Sony DCR-TRV38
Mini DV Camcorder


Frank Land is Marilyn Birdís brother. It took considerable arm twisting by the editor of this publication to get this review written.

From the September 2003 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

My search for a digital camcorder led to the purchase of a Sony DCR-TRV38, largely due to my previous Sony experience, its related documentation and many desirable features. Sony's DCR-TRV38 miniDV camcorder delivers megapixel detail and clarity for video and also captures high quality still images (1152 x 864) resolution, storing them on Sonyís memory stick storage media.

Two important features are its 3-1/2Ē swivel screen LCD and color viewfinder. You can see clearly what you are shooting and get what you shoot.

The camcorder also offers the latest video technology, like 16:9 aspect ratio mode, MPEG Movie EX for higher quality MPEGs, and Super NightShot and color slow shutter for night filming in color.

Sony's SteadyShot system was critical to me to control shake and vibration frequencies and to achieve a level of smoothness without degrading the video.

Ease of transfer of footage was also essential for me to download video. Particularly desirable is the FireWire (IEEE-1394) interface that offers a high-speed, bi-directional digital link between the camcorder and computer. It also comes with a USB connection making it possible to stream live content to a PC.

The DCR-TRV38 has a touch panel system that makes it easy to navigate through menus at the touch of the LCD screen. I wasnít sure how helpful this would be, but like it a lot.

This model features 10x optical and 120x precision digital zoom. Its doubtful that Iíll use digital zoom very much as the quality suffers when you resort to digital zoom. Besides, a telephoto lens was included in the purchase package.

The DCR-TRV38 provides two recording modes, 12 and 16-bit audio. 12-bit creates two sets of stereo tracks; 16-bit mode offers one pair of stereo tracks. Audio dub capability allows you to add an additional 12-bit stereo track to your original recording, (something that I havenít tried yet).

The DCR-TRV38 came with a Carl Zeiss lens which reduces glare and flaring, while capturing excellent detail and contrast, resulting in brilliant, true-to-life color saturation and rendition of subtle tones. The camcorder also offers a built-in analog-to-digital converter to convert analog video/audio to a digital signal. Of course, your analog tape has to be miniDV for this to be used.

Its 6-mode program auto exposure fit a variety of situations: Portrait, Beach and Ski, Sports, Landscape, Spotlight, Sunset and Moon sound interesting. They may or may not be useful Ė Iím checking them out.

Sonyís accessory hot shoe can provide power, on/off, and operational commands to accessories via a multi-pin interface. This enables easy, synchronized operation between the camcorder and video lights and microphones without additional batteries or cables.

Its lithium batteries can be recharged at any time to provide longer battery life, however, charging while attached to the camcorder could offer problems, so I added a second battery and charger. Sonyís AccuPower Meter continuously displays the amount of battery time remaining in minutes in the viewfinder or LCD.

One feature that I think will come in handy is the remote for operation of the camcorder allowing you to play and record from a distance, e.g. on a tripod. When you intend to do a voice-over or appear on camera without additional camera help, this makes it easy.

There are many still life features with the DCR-TRV38, but since I have digital cameras, and this wasnít the primary reason I chose the DCR-TRV38.

There are so many features ó over 150 pages in the manual ó description of very many of them was not possible in the scope of this article.

So far, with just a month of using the camcorder under my belt, what I like best is the ability to control image quality. As for the various video effects available to you, a good editing program makes many of these unnecessary. The important quality that makes this a good camcorder in its price range is its ease of use in shooting quality images and its ability to capture your results quickly to your computer where you can manipulate them.

I am still experimenting with many features, but can already say clearly that this was a good choice for me.

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