Sony DCR-SR70 – Don’t Buy It!

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 60€ 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 50€. 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.

19 thoughts on “Sony DCR-SR70 – Don’t Buy It!

  1. Mac Sokulski

    Unless Sony did something drastic with the new models of their hard drive based camcorders, I will have to completely disagree with your statement. I own a Sony DCR-SR100 hard drive based camcorder, and I must say this is one of the better camcorders I had. When connected to my Mac it appears as a external USB hard drive. If there are photos on the hard drive (it also does 3.1megapixel photos) iPhoto automatically opens and asks if I want to import the photos. Movies are a bit different. Maybe not as smooth as iPhoto, but not complex either. My camera records in MPG format. But for some reason when the movie is played on a mac it does not have any sooud. So after a bit of searching I found a great free utility called MPEGStreamClip. Using this I can easily conver the .mpg files straight from my camera into a DV file which then can easily be used in iMovie or iDVD or something else. So yes the movie management is a bit different, but then try managing your videos from a miniDV camcorder. Now that is fun…. (sarcasm). The camera itself is very good. It has great antishake system that practically eliminates camera shake from hand held use. Start up speed is ok, faster than my miniDV, about 5sec untill it’s ready to shoot. It’s simple to use, nice touch screen LCD, which can be used in conjuction with the view finder. This makes great kid video, where they see themselves in the LCD and you can still control the action via the view finder.The videos come out really nice, comparing to my old miniDV camcorder, which I’m happy to retire. Another quick thing. I never install software that comes with a hardware product, unless it’s necessary drivers. The software is usually junk that hogs memory and CPU. I never installed software for this sony, as it appeared on my Mac as USB hard drive.
    MPEGStreamclip can be found at this URL:
    http://www.squared5.com/

    Sorry for a long post.
    Mac

  2. MyAppleStuff Post author

    Mac

    No problem with the long post 🙂

    They must have done something different. The one I was using would connect via the USB and transfer photos to iPhoto exactly as you say. I had no problem with that. BUT with a movie the ONLY way to transfer any footage over to the Mac is with the purchase of the 3rd party software. It says so in their manual, and to be fair (which is why I was kicking myself) it says so on a number of forums (by some pretty hacked off people I have to say!)

    I agree the picture quality is excellent, but the menu system was a little too complicated in my view. I dodn’t install software that comes with products either, but trust me – if you just connect this model to your Mac you get nothing at all. It really is frustrating but it isn’t “plug ‘n’ play” at all.

    I have downloaded that software though and will give it a go – thanks! I could get regular MPEG files off the Camcorder and onto a Windows PC with the software that came with it, so could transfer those to the Mac across my network. This software looks like it will help “do something” with them at the Mac end.

  3. Mac Sokulski

    Wow. Must have been my dumb Polish luck then :-), when I got that particular model. In my case I was a little bit disturbed when I got the video off the camera, and it would play in quick time fine, but no audio. Later I learned that it has something to with different way of “muxing” the audio. After a bit of searching someone mentioned MPEG Streamslip. Saved my day. Yes it is not a pretty and not very intuitive app (I just found out that it does batch processing, and I had this for a few months now). It does the job and it does it well. I’m really pleased with it. Hope the app helps with the video.

    Mac

  4. MyAppleStuff Post author

    I like the Camcoder for the quality of the recirdings. Looks awesome on both the TV and the Screen. I didn’t play with it long enough to get a great view on the audio, but it seemed a little low. Would benefit from an external Mic for sure.

    Up until I tried to transfer the footage to the Mac I would happily have owned one (And I would be churlish to say I would refuse one as a gift!) but in this ‘day and age’ the hassle with transferring footage to the Mac is just unecessary. So my philosophy is “if they don’t want to connect to a Mac then fine – I don’t want to buy one”.

    Maybe you could post some footage on the YourAppleStuff TV page that I have?

  5. Mac Sokulski

    I can understand the going the Windows route to get video from the camera to the Mac is kind of silly to say the least. I totally agree, that if something does not want to play with my Mac the easy way, then I will not buy that product. I usually stay away from Sony products, but still once in a while I get drawn to that name. It still has this air (in reality false air) of superiority from the old days. I don’t know if you know what I mean.
    Anyway I would love to post some video, but I don’t think people would find my kids so interesting as I do :-).

    Mac

  6. MyAppleStuff Post author

    I have always been a BIG Sony fan. At the moment I have 2 digital cameras, a HandyCam, a VAIO desktop and a TV. I have had numerous other Desktops and Notebooks that have all been Sony.

    That is one reason why I was so amazed and dissapointed with this CamCorder.

    Now I don’t know your kids so I can’t really comment – but your kids playing with all that great Mac stuff would be fun!

  7. Mac Sokulski

    Well to tell the truth I would not let the little monsters anywhere near my stuff :-). My 6 year old got a 12″ iBook for Christmas, so he can play his own little games, and the 17m old does not really care yet. This iBook is another story all together. This brings me to another point. There are no educational kids games for Mac, and if there are they are old and still require MacOS 9. Since Intel Macs do not support “classic” mode, thus the iBook with I believe is Panther (10.3). Windows has tons of these software titles. Maybe I’m not looking in the right places, but living in Edmonton Canada I have only one Mac dealer, with very limited supply of the old games.
    Well we sort spun out from the camcorder to kids to games. Nice one.

    Mac

  8. MyAppleStuff Post author

    Wayne

    Thanks for that.

    Mac

    So that’s another Mac in your collection! Lucky kid(s). I guess the 17 month one wil get an iPhone when they are available 🙂

  9. David White

    Hi Guys

    Yup I suffered the same dissapointment, I did have to buy extra software – the full version of Quicktime – less thn £20 I think and I really dont mind paying that to Apple – I have met Steve Jobs! I also downloaded MPEG Streamclip and only recently found the batch item too!

    I find the transfer from Camera to Mac then conversion cumbersome, but I prefer the 60GB to DV tape. But at least I can leave it on all night. I then bought Final Cut Express for £200, took out Procare from the Apple store £70, and now know enough to produce reasonably basic video interviews for the business, I am impressed, but would definately like ot cut out MPEG2 but would like a device with loads of HD storage.

    Nice blog, ta, glad to see I am not alone with my concerns – anyone got any more tricks with streamclip?

  10. MyAppleStuff Post author

    Funny you should say that. I have some MPEG movies that I recorded onto my PC years ago. Only yesterday I thought I would try and convert them using Streamclip, but it said that I needed to but the upgrade from Apple (I already have Quicktime Pro). Before I did that I tried the MPEG Edit EX first. This has been somewhat tortuous as I have had to copy the MPEG file from the PC to the Mac mini, then transfer it to the PowerBook (the applicatin doesn’t work on intel) then convert it which takes HOURS – I mean 5+ hours elapsed time, to get it into QuickTime movie quality (less if I settle on MPEG4), then I need to copy it over to the Mac mini again so I can watch it on the TV.

  11. Heidi

    Can someone help me out?
    I downloaded a demo version of mpeg2 works 4 and mpg streamclip 1.8. I have a Sony SR-82 (replaced the 70) and I cannot figure out how to get any of this onto my computer, nothing will open in Quicktime either.. Very confusing..

  12. Chris Marshall Post author

    I have to import some footage from my neighbours camcorder in the next couple of days from the actual wedding so I will get back to you when I do that as I am a little ‘rusty’ on this at the moment.

  13. Mac Sokulski

    Can you transfer any of the video files to your Mac? If yes, what format are they, or at least appear to be?

  14. Heidi

    Yes, I can transfer them, and they appear as Quicktime, but quicktime won’t open them..
    thanks
    heidi

  15. Mac Sokulski

    If you can get the files of the camera onto the Mac, that’s great. Do you have VLC player? It can be downloaded from http://www.videolan.org/
    It’s free, and it play practically any video format. Check if you can play your files in that. If yes, then while the file is playing press Command-I, or in the menu bar click Window then Information. This will open a window with info about the video, what codec it’s using etc. Once you get that then we can go to the next step.
    Another great tool for converting any video is VisualHub, from Techspansion (http://visualhub.net). There is trial version, and it will be enough to tell you if it can convert the video. Try those, hope it helps.

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