If you are serious about video recording and find using a smartphone, point-and-shoot camera or DSLR, buying a digital camcorder should fit the bill and Sony has a wide range of digital camcorders hitting different price points. Sony is an interesting brand to explore because they offer some fairly innovative products such as their digital cameras with built-in projectors. If you have about $1,999 to spare, you could even get this special digital recording device that has the form factor of a pair of binoculars. That device is known as the Sony DEV 50 and it succeeds the Sony DEV 3 and DEV 5 which were Sony’s very first digital binoculars products. Sony isn’t alone in this particular product category as there are some offerings from Canon and Nikon too but the $2,000 price tag is significantly more than the competition so it has a lot to prove.

Sony DEV 50

Sony DEV 50

Design

As ridiculous as the concept may sound to some people, the DEV 50 is unmistakably a high-tech product from the future. In fact, its predecessor, the Sony DEV 5 looked very futuristic in its own right and that was released in 2011. But the Sony DEV 50 is a nice improvement as it is 30% smaller than the DEV 5 making it is easier handle. The 2 eye cups on the back and 2 lenses on the front of the binoculars are basically the only elements that define the binoculars form factor. But if you look at the binoculars from the top, the layout is quite comparable to a DSLR camera with familiar buttons like the playback button and record button. There are some nice grips on the sides of the binoculars so you can hold the device comfortably for longer periods.

Like most other pricey digital imaging products, the DEV 50 is built like a tank so you don’t have to think twice about bringing these binoculars with you in your next hiking adventure because the Sony DEV 50 is built to handle a lot of abuse. It is weatherproof, dustproof, fogproof, freezeproof and even shockproof with a generous 3-year warranty.

Sony DEV 50 Viewfinders

Sony DEV 50 Viewfinders

Features

$1,999 can get you a fairly powerful digital camcorder that can record some very impressive video. Even DSLR cameras in that price bracket offer very good video quality and, of course, image quality. But the Sony DEV 50 is all about the video recording experience. The electronic viewfinders are equipped with OLED Tru-Finder display panels which result to better clarity while recording. The 1024×768 resolution is a huge leap from the older model which only had a 852×480 LCD display. Bird watchers, for instance, should be able to catch more details of the bird’s feathers. Contrast is significantly improved and reflections are pretty much non-existent. The binoculars is also able to see in the dark thanks to the Hyper Gain technology. It may not be a suitable replacement for night vision goggles but the electronic viewfinder is still reliable for framing subjects in dimly lit areas. The technology basically works by increasing the viewfinder’s brightness.

Of course, conventional binoculars give you the best detail since there are no electronics involved but you have to settle with a single magnification level unless you go for something far more expensive. The DEV 50 is basically for those that want the flexibility of zooming in and out and the zoom lever provides that functionality. You can go from 0.8x to up to 25x seamlessly and it feels a lot more satisfying than using a digital camcorder to do that. Shaky hands are less likely since you will be holding the binoculars firmly with both hands but the binoculars are equipped with Sony’s signature Optical SteadyShot 3-axis image stabilization technology anyway so you can go ahead and continue recording consistent video at high magnification levels. This also makes it a bit easier to keep fast-moving subjects in the frame. The previous model featured image stabilization as well but this model provides twice as much stability.

Sony DEV 50 Top View

Sony DEV 50 Top View

The DEV 50 also offers better video capturing capabilities thanks to the dual Exmor R image sensors. Physically, these sensors are tiny measuring about 4.6mm diagonally but they have a resolution of 5.4 megapixels. Autofocus is surprisingly speedy as well and it can continue to work while you are zooming. This is done automatically so you won’t have to manually adjust the focus as you zoom like you would have to when using ordinary binoculars.

Recorded videos look impressive especially if you go for the 1080/60p setting. It is powered by the same BIONZ image processor that powers many of Sony’s best digital cameras. You can also enable a 3D mode if you wish to utilize both G lenses to record some 3D movies. A 3D display is required if you want to preview these videos since the binoculars lack a built-in 3D display. The HDMI terminal makes it simple to connect the Sony DEV 50 directly to the TV.

The binoculars also works as a decent camera where you can take impressive 20.4-megapixel images. The Sony DEV 50 features a technology called Pixel Super Resolution which uses special algorithms in analyzing individual pixels as well as their surrounding pixels so proper optimizations are made to improve the overall image resolution.

The DEV 50 works with a number of memory card types so you are less likely to buy a new memory card if you have some spares. You can use the usual SDHC or SDXC cards or Sony’s own Memory Stick PRO Duo Mark 2 cards or Memory Stick Pro-HG Duo cards.

Bottom Line

As a digital camcorder, the Sony DEV 50 ranks right up there with the high-end camcorders but the high price you are paying is still worthwhile because of the unique method of recording videos and taking still images. It is very easy to zoom and it is fun to check out your surroundings in full detail. Also remember that you can use the DEV 50 as a standard pair of binoculars so you can look at stuff up close. Then you can instantly start recording the action takes place. You no longer have to put away the binoculars and take out your camera because the Sony DEV 50 handles these multiple roles very well.

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