An Open Letter to Sony

Dear Sony: 

I would like to convey my opinion (shared by quite a few fellow video
enthusiasts that I know) about your camcorders. We see two alarming negative
trends in the newer Sony MiniDV digital camcorders: 

1. Low light performance of the camcorders does not improve and often
actually gets worse with the next generation products (probably due to
smaller sensors with greater pixel counts, resulting in much smaller
individual pixels). Such small pixels, besides inferior low light
performance, also have a worse dynamic range, resulting in a harsh,
contrasty looking footage. Decreasing sensor sizes also widens depth of
field, making it harder to capture the main subject in a way that minimizes
background clutter. 

2. Angular coverage at the widest angle zoom setting (shortest focal length)
is lost - a case in point is TRV950 that is worse than TRV900, and PC101
that is worse than PC9. New lenses sometimes sacrifice aperture, distortion,
wide angle coverage, and light falloff, to get a big zoom range. Using a
wide angle attachment to gain back some of that wide angle coverage is a
very bad option as these attachments (even those priced hundreds of dollars)
add significant barrel distortion, light falloff, flare, and sometimes other

As a result of these trends, in this day and age, my colleagues and I feel
deprived of video tools at higher end consumer and prosumer level, that
improve on the basic video quality of the older versions of camcorders,
rather than merely add gimmicks, often at the cost of sacrificing some
valuable aspects of core video quality (mentioned above) to provide these

It should be entirely technically feasible to create a compact camcorder

* a large (1/3"), low pixel count, CCD sensor (that has a good balance
between light sensitivity and vertical smear control), possibly with a 3CCD
version available for more $$$ 

* a lens that does not trade off wide angle coverage, aperture, or lack of
distortion, to get an otherwise unattainable in a given price zoom range. If
it has to be a 4x or 6x zoom range as opposed to 10x, so be it, but the
widest zoom setting in 35mm camera terms, should be 30mm (with very low or
no barrel or pincusion distortion) - not 40 or 50mm as is often seen today,
and the aperture should be f/1.4. 

* balanced mike inputs 

* progressive scan 30fps and 24fps modes - useful not only for film
transfer, but (much more applicable) DVD creation, whereby progressive scan,
especially 24fps frame rate, footage, allows MPEG2 compression to create a
much higher quality / lower artifact video at a given bitrate (vs.
interlaced footage), or fit more footage in a given DVD space without
sacrificing quality. 

I am hoping you could take these points under advisement. I personally
believe that the video community needs all these points implemented in three

1) A VX2000 class and form factor semi-pro camcorder. Ideally, with the
interchangeable lens system this time, with telephoto (and perhaps even
fixed focal f/1.0) lenses available besides the included with the camera
wide angle zoom (say 30mm-150mm f/1.4) - all focal lengths being in 35mm
film SLR camera terms. 

2) A TRV-950 form factor camcorder, also taking into account all the above
points. Non-interchangeable lens should still be 30mm at the widest; OK to
have variable max. aperture. To conserve space, balanced mic inputs may need
to be wired as 1/8" mini phono TRS jacks (ideally with settings to reuse
same for mono or stereo non-balanced mics and to have or not have phantom

3) As compact a MiniDV camcorder as you can make, while still taking into
account the above points. OK to have a manual (non-motorized) tape loading
(i.e. perhaps a manual locking lever to thread the tape once inserted), if
it makes it more compact, simple, and solid. To maintain compactness without
sacrificing wide angle coverage or aperture, OK to have only a 3X zoom range
(30mm-100mm) - a screw-on 3X telephoto adapter accessory lens could be made

I feel, there are enough innovations possible that can entice people to buy
a new camcorder - features that supplement, facilitate and enhance, rather
than sacrifice, its key video quality aspects. For instance, you could have 

* a bluetooth wireless digital microphone adapter built in (with high
dynamic range / low distortion bluetooth wireless mic preamps available), 
* 802.11 wireless streaming (preferably in a Windows Media or RealNetworks
or QuickTime format), 
* a detachable (wired or wireless) touch-sensitive LCD monitor panel (that
would have camcorder controls so one could control frame focus point and
zoom, etc., without shaking the camcorder even on a lightweight tripod), 
* a component video out & optical digital audio out, for high quality

Please, no more gimmicks (like an overengineered digital camera capability)
that do not provide adequate results anyway compared to even cheap
contemporary digital cameras, yet force you into design tradeoffs that make
video quality worse in several ways. 

If your advertisement and marketing departments would then be called upon to
promote the value of such camcorder features as low light performance, wide
angle lens coverage, narrow depth of field, low lens distortion, and wide
dynamic range/non-harsh-contrast video, so much the better!! 


Alexander Karasev
January 2003

Sony's reply:

Response (Shawn) - 01/26/2003 05:55 AM Thank you for contacting Your suggestions have been forwarded to our Product Development team and I am sure that they would be glad to incorporate them in the future. The Sonystyle team is available to assist you with further inquiries. Customer (Alexander Karasev) - 01/23/2003 12:02 PM

If you feel that you or the video camera user community at large would benefit from Sony implementing some or all of these things, visit the Sony product feedback link and tell them about it:

Back to main page