|Tethered to a phone jack, the Bluetooth transceiver wirelessly sends data between camcorder and Internet.|
I found the InfoLithium battery readouts to be optimistic. Though it started out claiming more than an hour of power, it zonked out in about 40 minutes, and recharging took 2 hours. Admittedly, I do a lot of zooming and LCD viewing. Sony offers a heavier "170-minute" battery for $100. A MicroMV tape (one's included) is $12, and a 64-MB Memory Stick is $50.
There were things I didn't like. It's easy to accidentally hit the Back Light button (used to brighten the image by automatically opening the F-stop), but there's no indication that the function is active except that the viewscreen brightens - something too subtle to notice in daylight. After fumbling with the cam on a bright day in New York's Central Park, I returned to the office to discover that my entire video was overexposed. Even though I'd turned the camera off several times as I walked around the park, the Back Light function stayed on. So much for auto-exposure.
Then there's the "two-Mississippi" delay between the instant you press the record button and when video recording actually begins. Keeping the camera in standby mode until the second before your Little Leaguer takes his swing all but guarantees it'll be missing on playback. You learn to compensate by pressing record well before the pitch. MiniDV shooters can be more leisurely on the trigger.
When I hooked up the camcorder's USB port to my PC running Windows XP, I was pleased to find that the computer recognized the Memory Stick in the cam as its new Drive F and presented me with viewing options. I chose to look at an 11-second MPEG-1 clip that I had shot of my new apartment, which occupied 1.74 MB on the 8-MB Stick.
To transfer MPEG-2 video from the cassette to my computer, I connected the supplied i.Link cable and installed Sony's MovieShaker 3.1 software. Once I did, the first frame of each scene on the cassette appeared on my PC monitor as a thumbnail together with its date and time. For now you're limited to the bundled MovieShaker software since other video editing programs designed for MiniDV use haven't yet been updated for the MicroMV format. Also, there's no Macintosh support yet, and you can't use the i.Link cable to copy from a MiniDV to a MicroMV camcorder because the compression schemes for each format are different.
But the IP7BT's talents go well beyond that of a traditional camcorder. Thanks to the wireless Bluetooth technology, which uses the 2.4-GHz band, you can send and receive e-mail, upload still images and MPEG-1 video clips, and surf the Web to a limited extent using the viewscreen and the control button - all without a computer. The supplied Bluetooth transceiver contains a dial-up modem that plugs into any phone jack. (Its 6-foot cable has a standard RJ-11 plug on one end and a proprietary connection on the other.) To make use of it, you'll need to subscribe to So-net, an Internet service provider designed specifically for Sony's Bluetooth-enabled camcorders (there are also two MiniDV models). So-net offers two monthly plans: 20 hours of access for $10 or 150 hours for $20.
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