2MP still photo quality from Sony camcorder
By Ian Burley
Sony takes another step towards the true still/video hybrid camera
Itís one of my personal digital utopian dreams that, one day, I might have a camera that combines the benefits of a digital camcorder and still camera with practically all the best attributes of both and with minimal compromise. Weíre getting closer to that dream with Sonyís new DCR-IP220. This new Sony is a reasonably high specification digital camcorder and itís the first to include a genuine 2 megapixel still image mode.
At present, some digital still cameras have, at best, a primitive video clip mode, while some camcorders offer a low resolution still picture feature. Neither solution is ideal. But now Sony is delivering a genuine, un-interpolated, 2 megapixel still mode, the wall of compromise looks like it is weakening.
Foremost a camcorder
Letís not get too carried away; the DCR-IP220 is first and foremost a digital camcorder. Still imaging subsystem of the camera is not as flexible or feature rich as a dedicated 2 megapixel camera, like Sonyís own CyberShot DSCP2, for example. However, Sonyís message is that here at last is a camcorder that lets you take very acceptable stills that can be printed.
The DCR-IP220 use Sonyís proprietary MicroMV cassette tape format for video recording. This truly diminutive cassette means that for a camcorder of its specification, is one of the smallest in its class. Sony says the camera can achieve around 530 lines of horizontal resolution in camcorder mode, up there with the better digital camcorders at present.
Bluetooth wireless connectivity is included, as is has a touch-sensitive external 2.5 inch LCD view screen. In camcorder mode the Carl Zeiss-branded lens has a 10x optical zoom range, equivalent to a 52-520mm lens and this can be extended by another 12x (maximum) using digital zoom.
For stills, Sonyís Memory Stick card is the storage medium. Like the majority of 2 megapixel cameras, the DCR-IP220 shoots 1600x1200 resolution stills and you should be able to get perfectly acceptable 6x4 inch or 5x7 inch prints from these. In still mode, the 10x lens starts at a wider 39mm through to 390mm equivalent range. One neat feature is that you can use a ring at the end of the lens for either focussing or zooming. Its function is controlled via a mode switch. A pop-up flash unit is built in, which is really a must for shooting indoors or at night. Other features include Sonyís familiar NightShot and NightFraming modes for shooting in very low light conditions and holographic autofocus.
The DCR-IP220 will be available from October and is expected to retail for around £1600 (about €2500)
If Sonyís new DCR-IP220 had been launched about three years ago, I might have decided that dream had become reality. Back then, this DCR-IP220 would have offered the same resolution as most of the top-end digicams of the day. The three year gap will close, for sure. Exactly how quickly is the big question.