You've no doubt seen the term 'immersion' regularly if you've followed the progress of 3D over the last couple of years. Imagine the process of using binoculars, and it's easy to see that they're a great solution for building that immersive experience. With your eyes pressed right up to the eyepieces, you're disassociated from the external world and focussed directly on the images you're watching. They fill your full field of vision. Great stuff!
What are video binoculars? Let's see the features.
Simply put video binoculars are high quality binoculars with digital recording cameras built in. Models that have hit the market so far have been but a taster for what is to come with the arrival of Sony's breakthough models.
Both the recently announced Sony models - billed as the world's first true digital binoculars with HD video recording ability - offer the perfect solution to record full 1920 x HD 1080p video and 3D AVCHD video, play it back on an in built display, and capture 3D or 2D stills using the 7.1 megapixel camera.
Still images are displayed in 4:3 format, or 5.3-megapixel stills in the 16:9 format. The Optical SteadyShot Image Stabilization technology shows a steady image when viewing and ensures capture of a steady image when recording. The binocularsí 10x optical zoom draws subjects closer to you while dual electronic viewfinders put forth a stereoscopic image with 852 x 480 resolution and 16:9 aspect ratio.
The 60 frames per second Sony technology employed in conjunction with their back illuminated Exmor CMOS sensors adds to the overall quality giving images that are free of any noise in low light conditions, and the duplication of these sensors in both the Dev-3 and Dev-5 models renders them capable of recording and displaying stunning quality 3D images too.
And guess what?
You don't need 3D glasses! The stereographic 3D effect is created because you're viewing separate channels for your left and right eyes through the eyepieces of the binoculars. It's a perfect solution to the problem of 3D glasses, which is one of the main reasons that 3D TV hasn't taken off as was widely anticipated in 2011. Video binoculars also solve one of the other 3D TV problems - a lack of 3D content. It's truly simple, with these you have a solution to make your own.
There's no doubt that 3D entertainment is here to stay, as has been proven by the success at the box office of movies such as Avatar. That success is likely to be built upon with the arrival on the market of Sony's branded Playstation 3D TV late in 2011.
Other features include twin 10x optical zoom lenses with a pair of 1,227 dot viewfinders, along with a manual focus facility, Sony Steadyshot, and Image Stabilisation. It doesn't end there. You'll be able to transfer video and still images using the removable storage slot which takes SDXC, SD, and SDBC cards utilising Sony's Memory Stick Pro Duo, while audio recording is enabled using a stereo microphone via an audio input jack. Playback can be carried out using the HDMI connection to connect to other suitable devices such as a 3D TV or 3D laptop. Thereís also a USB connection for transferring video clips to a PC for storing, editing and sharing.
The binoculars should be easy to use for focussing on your intended targets. Users can select the variable zoom to scan a wide area at low magnification before zooming in to pinpoint a subject. By activating the digital zoom at magnification settings over 10x you get a boost to the total magnification range from 0.9x up to 20x, though the quality of images does see a reduction when digital zoom is activated and when recording 2D video at higher than 10x magnification. These magnification qualities present the DEV-3 and DEV -5 as serious rivals to many standard high power binoculars, but unlike those traditional binoculars the electronic autofocus will keep subjects that are moving in sharp focus.
In 3D mode the maximum magnification drops to 5.4x, however this should still give a great experience of viewing in 3D though for recording you'll need to be at least 80cm away.
All of these features come with the Dev-3 model, while additional features and accessories such as an enhanced zoom that simulates a 20x telephoto lens, GPS, a neck strap and carrying case take you into Dev-5 model territory.
The on-board GPS receiver in the DEV-5 automatically geo-tags your photos and videos, while additional software can enhance this feature giving capability to view captured images later in online maps.
Both video binocular models are powered by a high capacity rechargeable battery pack (NP-FV70) that provides around three hours worth of 2D recording on a single charge. Any unused battery time gets displayed in the electronic viewfinder.
How have video binoculars evolved?
A modern binocular has four main parts. An objective lens, an eyepiece, and a prism, each contained in a barrel, the barrels are connected at the center with a pivoting hinge and a focus device is provided depending on the style. With the ever advancing micro technologies, manufacturing processes, lighter materials and highly specialized lens production; high tech has come to the outdoorsman in the shape of these new video binoculars.
Reducing the weight while increasing the magnification is always a goal, the farther you can see the clearer the image, the lighter the weight the more compact the design, all these and more have been but a mere three century pursuit in a 5,000 year love affair with manís marvels of optical glass. Advances in technology are no longer measured in centuries or even decades but in years and months. As in many other technological advances government funding for the development of sophisticated surveillance technology has brought the high tech to the common man. The quest for the almighty corporate dollar enhanced that technology and sped up the process. Never before has there been a time that the enjoyment of the outdoors was so much improved by the machinery of modern man.
The first video capture and playback binocular was released by Bushnell to the public in 2003 in their Bushnell Instant Replay model. This 3 in one binocular was a technological leap for the bird watcher and sports enthusiast alike, offering a 2.1 mega pixel optical camera, zoom and video capture. Since then we've seen the release of similar budget priced models with the Vivitar Viv-cv-1225v Digicam Binoculars and the Long Ranger Digital Video Binoculars.
August 20, 2011 saw the first news announcement of the next evolution with Sonyís HD 2D and 3D image capture video binoculars, followed by early demonstrations at an annual bird watchers festival held at Rutland in the UK. The DEV-3 and the DEV-5 models will be available in November 2011.
How to choose the best video binoculars
Speed, zoom, HD, lenses, weight, still and video capture, and accessories all factor into the right choice with retail prices from as little as $37 to over $2,000.
Speed, how fast does it focus, how fast is the camera?
Faster is always better when trying to see a moving object. Bird watchers will want the fastest focus and video available. With their intended subjects often taking flight unexpectedly the ability to adjust focus and offer high speed video beyond still shots is imperative. An investigator , opera watcher, or parent of a sports star might do with a bit less speed and opt for more zoom.
On average zoom in binoculars ranges from 0 to 100X. Fixed focus lenses, where the lens is set and no adjustment is permitted are best when the subject is past the 30 to 40ft range. With no zoom long range observation is hindered, however for the backyard birder a very reasonable option if the subject is expected in the same location with little or no distance fluctuation.
However for long range observation the higher the zoom the farther away from the subject you can be. For an avid ornithologist who may choose to camp out in a stationary location and wait for his subject to appear high zoom ratios are vital. Digital zoom is an electronically controlled zoom where the lens does not actually move. Optical zoom is when the lens actually shortens or lengthens to achieve the required distance and focus. Look for optical zoom whenever possible however the convenience of automatic zoom will keep moving subjects in focus allowing the observer to concentrate on the subject and not the device.
HD is a well known technology now. With advances in HD recording and viewing becoming standard the option of HD in a binocular is worth the increase to those consumers where clarity and crispness of image are paramount.
The digital camera should be considered as with any non-binocular camera purchase. Flash and lighting are not as much the concern as is the resolution. The higher the mega pixel the higher the resolution, the highest mega pixel camera without sacrificing zoom or speed within a given budget should always be top on the list of considerations. Zoom and speed are nothing if the quality of the glass and the refraction are not up to par with shutter speed and zoom distance. Look for high quality lenses that offer full multi coatings and are aspherical to increase brightness, also look for 5 megapixel or greater cameras for the best still shots.
Weight & ease of use
Weight is a significant factor in any binoculars if they're not mounted on a tripod. The longer the binoculars are to be carried the lighter they should be. Mobility and terrain should be considered when making a selection. Look for ounce saving materials, which may include grip or ruggedized coatings for moisture control and ease of handling.
Sony's new video binoculars are lighter than they look, weighing in at around two and a half pounds. Suitable stability is achieved by holding with two hands, just as you'd with any normal binoculars. There's a toggle sited on top which operates the auto focus zoom, though there's an option to use manual focus too via a wheel near the eyepieces.
The design is a clever one, especially for anyone shooting objects that could be spooked by noises. Control are kept to a minimum on the binoculars themselves to minimise noises from clicking, and the buttons that are on the top are big enough to be operated when wearing gloves. Both models feature an ergonomic grip area - coated with material that guarantees firm handling and stability during use.
Still and video capture capability
Both these are important considerations, but which is more important of course depends on the subjects in the viewfinder. Long-range video capture may be more important to a parent at a college football game than to a backyard birdwatcher.
If video and stills are equally important look for the best battery capabilities, with high resolution (10 X 32 or greater), that offers reasonable speed and length. It does no good to have great video if you miss the touchdown. Storage may become a concern. Look for the largest storage capacity within budget with easy access memory cards for quick field changes. Invest in additional memory.
Still shots that can be consecutively captured with one click are convenient and allow for hand - eye delay. Gang shots of 3 or 5 images per second gives the user near video like recording with high camera resolution aiding capture of moving subjects.
The Sony video binoculars can record approximately two and a half hours of 3D footage when using the add on 32GB memory card. Recording 2D footage gives around 3 hours.
Options and accessories
Options and accessories abound for all price points of binoculars whether video, digital, or manual. Look for units that offer a wide variety of add-ons for multipurpose events. Tripods and monopods are excellent choices when a steady hand outweighs maneuverability. The single leg stabilizer of a monopod will afford great flexibility without sacrificing stability. Comfortable straps, bags, and other sundry items will make the outing more convenient and enjoyable. Quality lens covers, and cleaning clothes are vital infield companions to assure the clearest image. Consider a harness over a strap, it reduces neck strain and when walking on uneven foot paths and provides more security than a single neck strap. A hard case over a soft case also provides protection from falls when in the field or luggage when traveling. If boating or observation near streams or bodies of water is to be included, a waterproof case and harness are a must.
The quality of the lens, the speed and distance of the focus and zoom, the product materials as they affect weight and durability, the available accessories, the memory and battery life, and overall flexibility for mixed use should all be taken into consideration along with budget when ready to purchase a pair of video binoculars.
Who's going to benefit most with a pair of video binoculars?
Sony have a potentially wide range of users to which they can aim marketing. Obvious target groups are bird watchers and other nature enthusiasts, though there are widespread potential benefits for anyone involved in long distance surveillance, security operations or policing too.
For anyone attending music or opera concerts the benefits are clear, who hasn't experienced the disappointment of being too far away to feel as if you're a real part of the action?
Hobbies which involve taking photographs and recording videos are almost too numerous to mention. Plane spotting and train spotting spring immediately to mind, with enthusiasts in both those regularly wanting to record their sightings.
Those of us with architectural and building interests can get in on the act as well, while sports trainers get a solution which lets them film their proteges in action for later performance analysis. In fact, a use can be found for almost anyone that gets involved with leisure pursuits or outdoor adventures on any type. Imagine taking in that natural scene and capturing it for playback later.
It's difficult to see anyone taking a pair of these to a football match with a crowd of spectators, but sports such as motor and horse racing often see spectators with binoculars for those sections of races where the participants are further away. Now you can watch and record the action for enjoyment in the comfort of your own home at the time it suits you..
How much will Sony's video binoculars cost?
It'll be no surprise that with such an exciting product displaying a range of high quality features, pricing is not cheap. The Dev-3 model is currently believed to be kicking off at around $1400, while the additional features and accessories with the Dev-5 video binoculars push the price up to around $2000 (£1250 in the UK)
For technical information on how binoculars work you can't beat the Wikipedia information page, or for more complete detail on the Dev 3 and Dev 5 models you can visit the actual Sony video binoculars product page on Sony's store website.
Sony's Dev-3 and Dev-5 digital video binoculars are scheduled for release in the late autumn of 2011.
If you're an avid live sports fan, bird watcher, opera or music concert fanatic, or attend any events where you're some distance from the action and want to record still or video action, then you're going to love these new video binoculars. They have the potential to be used to near unbelievable effect in any pastime or hobby that needs to be watched from a distance...and you get the chance now to view images on a full screen 3D TV or Smart TV via video streaming functions.
View the action in 3D and get high quality 3D or 2D images, video and still, all caught from long distance using futuristic looking digital video recording binoculars.
Every now and then you get to hear of a new product which grabs your imagination by the roots and shakes it. The new video binoculars from Sony - to be released on the market later this year - are one of those products. There's every chance that these new binoculars will be an astounding success for the Japanese manufacturing giant.
Combining the ability to view high quality 'homemade' 3D still and video images with one of the most popular real time long distance viewing tools - and mixing it with a still picture capture facility plus video recording and playback facility - these video binoculars may well become one of the must have gadgets of the next few years for sports enthusiasts and hobbyists of all types and ages.