Seriously, don’t buy this camera if you use a Mac, and let’s face it you are unlikely to be reading this post if you don’t!
Before I go further I will say up front I have little against the camera – it looks good, handles well and the picture quality is amazing. The problem lies in the transfer of data to your computer and specifically the lack of compatibility with the Mac.
Before Christmas some elderly neighbours of ours asked me to advise them on purchasing a new Camcorder. The choice was somewhat restricted as they wanted to purchase from a local store in case they needed to take it back, rather than from on-line. This made sense for them, but didn’t provide for much choice.
We settled on the Sony DCR-SR70. They are comfortable with Sony, liked the look of the camera and planned to get me to edit their videos and tidy up and archive the raw footage – after all I have a Mac!
This may have been a mistake! They primarily want it to record their sons wedding in March, and it will do a great job of that as the quality of the recordings is tremendous, and in “easy” mode it is a snip to use. The problem is with getting the recordings onto the Mac as by default the SR70 only comes with Windows software (the Mac version is 60â‚¬ and wont work with the Intel Core Duo!) and is, to put it bluntly, totally rubbish. Connecting the Camcorder via USB (yes USB NOT Firewire) is simple and to be fair the transfer is quick, but the editing facilities are non existent, so that means that you need to buy some editing software! So even if you want to use it on Windows (and I did try it as an option) you will need to have some pretty good editing software to compensate for the utter crap that comes with the camera.
I did try converting and transferring the files from the PC to the Mac but it was over complicated and not particularly good in terms of quality AND whilst it was sort of OK for a couple of three minute clips it wasn’t a viable option for a full length wedding movie.
I had no choice but to buy the software for the Mac. Well this is what the guy on the phone (no way of emailing them to ask a question) told me. Now this isn’t too bad in that I will get it paid for in the fee I am charging for making the movie but who really wants to have to buy any software to get a Camcorder to connect to your Mac (and the PowerBook G4 at that as it doesn’t work with Intel Core Duo – I know I said that already but I am still in shock!). Buying it wasn’t exactly easy. I wanted to check that it would work with iDVD and iMovie but they have no email address, their toll free numbers are permanently busy and even when I did find out what I wanted their online store automatically adds a 24 month download option and a backup CD with delivery charge, so watch out for that sneaky move.
Having ordered it I then had a message after an hour saying my card had been declined, so I went through the ordering process again and another hour passed before I got another message saying a different card had ben rejected. I phoned them up and they said that had been happening all day. They processed the order over the phone, said it was accepted and that I would get a confirmation email “soon”. It transpires that soon = 30 minutes, so I am not sure if that is good or nor, but by this time it felt like hours!
I then spent an hour trying to make it work before realising that they had told me I needed Capty DVD/VCD 2 when I reckoned they should have told me I needed Capty MPEG Edit EX which costs 50â‚¬. By that time of course they were shut for the weekend, so I had to fill in a refund form (only place I could find their email address was on the refund form – how bizarre is that?). To be fair the refund came back within 10 minutes. They were significantly quicker to give me my money back than to take it in the first place AND they didn’t answer my question as to what product I actually did require, until 15 minutes later in a separate email.
By this time it was to late to be bothered ordering so first thing in the morning I placed the order on line (thought I would see if they had solved the problem) and got am email straight back saying it would be processed in TWELVE to TWENTY FOUR hours! Why? Every other software order I have ever placed on line has been fulfilled within 10 minutes if not immediately. And a tip – if you buy anything off them DON’T select the Buy Now option as it adds the extended download and CD to your cart but gives you no way to edit the cart! You have to select Add To Cart and although it still adds the stuff you don’t want as a default you can at least remove it.
Now I guess to give them some credit they did beat their self imposed 12 hour target. I received the confirmation of the order at 0935 on Saturday, and the download link at 21.10 on the Saturday!
Finally then, does it work? Yes but it is incredibly tortuous, unintuitive and frustrating. The import application is just like the Windows applications that I was so keen to leave behind! It is difficult to identify the video clips that you want to import. Basically you need to identify them on the Camcorder by date, file name before connecting to the Mac. Once they are imported you then need to convert and save to MPEG-4 format so that you can then import that file into iMovie – at least then you are on home ground. I am very apprehensive about how this is going to pan out when I need to actually edit the wedding movie! At least you can import multiple clips at one go, that are seamlessly connected, but I am really struggling to say anything remotely positive about this.
Copying to DVD was OK, not as smart as on a Mac, but it was satisfactory.
To top it all off the Camcorder isn’t all that great – not the best menu system in the world, and takes a pretty long time to start up. When you add it all together I would suggest you stayed as far away as possible from this Camcorder!! I have learnt a lesson though, and I know it is my fault, to check that future Camcorders work with a Mac, but I still can’t believe that in todays market anybody would bring out something so archaic and unintuitive!
I am keen to get a new Camcorder this year. I want a hard drive, a very quick start up, and for it to be good looking – any suggestions or recommendations please let me know.