Overall this camera is a very good quality at a reasonable price.Decent budget camcorder This may be an older camcorder, but it is pretty good for users who aren't interested in speculative HD recording or who do not have money in their budget for something better. Having never used high-end video equipment, I have no frame of reference by which to judge the quality of the Sony's features. I can only say that it serves my needs fairly well with a couple of small flaws.
But first, the good.
First, the picture quality is fine. This unit was released when high definition was not affordable to most consumers, so the picture is merely adequate. But let's not forget that this was considered an entry-level Digital8 camcorder. Playing back the video on a good display reveals good detail despite this. I find the optics quality far better than the Sony digital still camera I owned, which was NOT entry-level. I also appreciate the 10x optical zoom, which pushes in quickly, but not too quickly. I have never been a fan of digital zoom, so I don't use it. But it is OK.
Another feature I enjoy about this camcorder that seems to be lacking more and more in modern devices is an optical viewfinder. It has the requisite LCD screen, but it is always nice to know that you have a battery-saving viewfinder to fall back on when you have a lot of filming to do. I own an extended life battery that gives me about three times the capacity compared with the stock one, which yields only about 1.5 hours of stop-and-start filming.
As far as the LCD screen goes, I do think it is pretty good. It's colorful and fairly clear. The menu display is intuitive and laid out logically and simply. However, I do not like how the menu is brought up by pressing the "Menu" button located on the side where the LCD screen closes, but navigating it involves a scroll wheel found on the back of the unit. They should have combined these, as I find myself having to always look to make sure I am pressing the correct button for the Menu. A small gripe, indeed.
The camera's light is actually pretty good. It is incandescent rather than LED or gaseous, so the light is bright but soft. Nothing can replace a lighting rig. But if you're purchasing a budget camera, you probably don't have money for a lighting rig anyway. In a pinch, though, the light does the trick without washing out the subject, provided the subject isn't too close.
I really like that this camcorder is kind of weighty. Since this unit uses cassettes, the transport mechanism surely adds to the weight. I find the weight adds to stability during shooting. It also gives the camcorder a sense of durability and reliability. It has proven to be quite reliable throughout the six years I have owned it. As far as actual durability, I cannot say, as I am very careful when it comes to electronics.
Now, for the bad.
Actually, nothing is really wrong with this camera. Some of the features seem to either be afterthoughts or are just unnecessary. For instance, the Night Shot. It isn't entirely useless, but all it does is slow the shutter speed to let more light in. Video taken at night is slow, kind of fuzzy and noisy. Improved optics and CCD might solve this, but I just don't use it.
Another feature that seems unnecessary is the Photo feature. Now, this IS useless. It works, but I find it just as easy to capture a frame from filming using pretty much any video editing software. And the quality is the same. Now, if this camcorder used removable Flash memory (i.e., MemoryStick) then it might be justified. Otherwise, it just seems like an afterthought.
Overall, if you're searching for a budget camcorder for everyday needs, this is a good unit. It can be picked up cheaply used (less than $200), as it is no longer available. Obviously several modern video machines capture HD images, but this comes at a price. If you would like a camcorder for less than $200 and do not mind using cassettes, pick one of these up. You won't be sorry.