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Sony's DEV-3 / DEV-5 binoculars, shown in-hand. Photo provided by Sony Electronics Inc. Sony launches high-def video binoculars
(Friday, August 19, 2011 - 18:02 EDT)

Sony Electronics Inc. has today introduced two pairs of digital binoculars that it says are the world's first to offer high-definition video recording, zoom, autofocus, and SteadyShot image stabilization.

The basic concept of Sony's DEV-3 and DEV-5 binoculars is that they reduce the need for photographers shooting birds, wildlife, and sports action to carry two separate devices, one intended for immediate viewing, and the other for image capture. Instead, a single device can be used both to get an up-close view of your subject, and to capture high-res still images and high-definition video. Better still, there's no time lost in reframing the scene as you switch back and forth between separate devices. Courtesy of twin lenses, the DEV-3 and DEV-5 not only offer separate left and right views, unlike some past digital binocular models from competitors, but also take advantage of this to provide true 3D video capture. (Curiously, 3D still capture isn't possible, however).

Both the DEV-3 and DEV-5 share the same basic design, but with a few important differences. Most notably, the Sony DEV-5 adds a built-in GPS receiver that allows it to tag images and video clips as they're saved, marking each with the location at which they were recorded. Compatible software such as the bundled Picture Motion Browser can then use this to indicate the shooting locations or display thumbnails on a map. The GPS functionality is also used to offer a map display function, although it isn't currently clear as to what level of detail or coverage this provides.

Front view of the Sony DEV-3 / DEV-5 binoculars. Photo provided by Sony Electronics Inc. Click for a bigger picture! Rear view of the Sony DEV-3 / DEV-5 binoculars. Photo provided by Sony Electronics Inc. Click for a bigger picture!

Front (left) and rear (right) views of the Sony DEV-3 / DEV-5 binoculars.
Photos provided by Sony Electronics Inc.

Although both binoculars feature the same optics with a still image magnification range from 0.9x to 10x, the DEV-5 adds an additional digital zoom function that can double this to an effective 20x magnification. The DEV-5 also has a more expansive product bundle, which includes a lens cover, finder cap, large eye cups, a carrying case and a neck strap. The Sony DEV-3 and DEV-5 feature Sony G-branded optics with a variable aperture from F1.8 to F3.4 across the zoom range, and include the company's Optical SteadyShot image stabilization with Active mode, which provides a greater degree of correction than the standard Optical Steadyshot. Note, though, that Active mode is only available at wide angle when viewing or shooting in 3D mode, and you must switch to 2D mode to gain Active mode at telephoto. Either binocular model is usable in light down to 11 lux.

Behind their optics, each model has a pair of Sony Exmor R backside-illuminated CMOS image sensors, each with a 4.5mm diagonal and a total resolution of approximately 4.2 megapixels. Data from these twin sensors is handled by a Sony Bionz-branded image processor, and can provide JPEG still images at resolutions up to an interpolated 7.1 megapixels. For image viewing, the DEV-3 and DEV-5 have dual 11mm displays, each of which has a resolution of 852 x 480 pixels, with each pixel comprising separate red, green and blue dots, for a total dot count of 1,226,880 per eye. There's a -3.5 to +3.5 diopter adjustment, 14.3mm eye relief, a 35.6 degree, 16:9 field of view, and an adjustable interpupilary distance of 55 to 75mm.

Two-dimensional video capture is possible at up to 60 frames-per-second with a progressive scan resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (aka 1080p / Full HD), using MPEG-4 AVC / H.264 (AVCHD 2.0) compression. Standard-definition capture is also possible at unspecified resolution, using MPEG-2 Program Stream compression. 3D video capture uses Sony's proprietary MVC format, with unspecified (but high definition) resolution and frame rate. Movies include stereo Dolby Digital audio.

Right view of the Sony DEV-3 / DEV-5 binoculars. Photo provided by Sony Electronics Inc. Click for a bigger picture!

Left view of the Sony DEV-3 / DEV-5 binoculars. Photo provided by Sony Electronics Inc. Click for a bigger picture!

Right (top) and left (bottom) views of the Sony DEV-3 / DEV-5 binoculars.
Photos provided by Sony Electronics Inc.

Data is recorded on Secure Digital cards (including the higher capacity SDHC and SDXC types), or on Memory Stick PRO Duo Mark 2 or PRO-HG Duo cards. Sony recommends use of Class 4 or higher SD cards. Power comes from a proprietary NP-FV70 lithium ion rechargeable battery pack, rated as good for 155 minutes of 2D recording on a charge. Connectivity includes a stereo headphone minijack, high-definition HDMI or component video outputs, standard definition composite video output, USB 2.0 High Speed data, and a DC input.

The Sony DEV-3 and DEV-5 have what the company describes as a "stealth" design which keeps external controls and markings to a minimum, reducing the likelihood of wildlife being scared off by the user's movement. Both models have the exact same size and fairly hefty weight, which weighs some 2.65 pounds.

The Sony DEV-3 is, as you'd expect, the lower-priced model, carrying a tag of some US$1,400 approximately. For the added GPS receiver, bundled accessories, and more powerful digital zoom, the Sony DEV-5 carries a $600 premium, shipping at around US$2,000. Both models are expected to be available in the US market from November 2011.

Sony's DEV-3 / DEV-5 binoculars, shown with connector compartments opened. Photo provided by Sony Electronics Inc. Click for a bigger picture!

Sony's DEV-3 / DEV-5 binoculars, shown with connector compartments opened.
Photo provided by Sony Electronics Inc.

Original Source Press Release:

Sony Introduces World's First Digital Binoculars With HD Video Recording, Zoom, Autofocus And Steadyshot Image Stabilization

Share the Thrill of Discovery, Easy-to-Find, Never Lose the Subject; New Models Enable 2D and 3D Image Capture/Playback with Stunning Resolution, High-performance Features

SAN DIEGO, Aug. 19, 2011 -- Life’s “can’t miss” moments are now easier to observe and capture with the world’s first digital binoculars to record in AVCHD™ 2.0 format, from Sony. The new models, DEV-3 and DEV-5, are ideal for nature/bird watching, they can record Full HD video with stereo sound at the touch of a button, and even add a 3D mode that records scenes as thrilling stereoscopic video footage for playback on most 3D HDTVs.

“Now consumers can watch birds, wildlife, sports action and more in steady, sharply-focused close-up views, while capturing their subjects in crisp Full HD,” said Andy Bubala, director of the camcorder business at Sony Electronics. “These new models add entirely new levels of flexibility and convenience to viewing, recording and enjoying your favorite images and scenes.”

Users can select the variable zoom on both models to scan a wide area at low magnification before zooming in seamlessly to pinpoint a subject, such as birds in a field. Turning on the digital zoom at magnification settings over 10x boosts the DEV-5 model’s total magnification range from 0.9x up to 20x digital (image quality is reduced when digital zoom is on and recording 2D video at magnifications higher than 10x), rivalling many high-powered conventional binoculars. The DEV-3 model pulls wildlife, sporting subjects and architectural details closer with a maximum magnification of 10x optical. In 3D mode, the binoculars’ maximum magnification is 5.4x optical.

Unlike traditional binoculars, electronic autofocus keeps moving subjects sharply in focus at all times. A comfortably positioned dial allows fingertip adjustment of manual focus -- ideal for focusing selectively on a subject, rather than overhanging branches or other obstructions in the field of view.

Electronic autofocus allows both binoculars to focus cleanly on subjects less than half an inch away when recording in 2D (minimum of 32 inches when recording in 3D).

Separate images for left and right eyes are captured by a matched pair of precision G Lens optics by Sony with “Exmor R” CMOS sensors and powerful BIONZ® processors. Independent electronic viewfinders provide clear, detailed images for left and right eyes, offering a stereoscopic viewing experience that’s comfortable, natural and highly immersive.

The DEV-3 and DEV-5 digital binoculars feature Optical SteadyShot™ image stabilization (Active mode), the optical stabilization system that’s found on Sony Handycam® camcorders and Cyber-shot® cameras. Optical SteadyShot™ image stabilization helps keep images clear and stable, even when viewing at high magnifications. The binoculars can be connected via HDMI® to a Sony BRAVIA® HDTV or any HD television with HDMI input for viewing images (cable sold separately). 3D videos can be enjoyed on virtually any 3D-compatible TV, including Sony BRAVIA® models. There’s also a USB connection for transferring video clips to a PC for storing, editing and sharing.

The binoculars feature a “stealth” design that eliminates distracting buttons or external details that could reveal a user’s position to wildlife.

Both binoculars feature an ergonomic grip area that’s coated with an elastomer material for sure handling and stable operation. Top-mounted controls allow easy operation with gloved fingers, while dual buttons are provided to start recording instantly with either hand.

The DEV-5 model includes an on-board GPS receiver that automatically geo-tags video clips and photos. Tagged images can be viewed after shooting in online maps (requires compatible software).

Both binocular models come with a high-capacity rechargeable battery pack (NP-FV70) that allows up to approximately three hours of 2D recording on a single charge. Remaining battery time (minutes) is displayed in the electronic viewfinder.

The DEV-3 and DEV-5 models also include a battery charger/adaptor, A/V connecting cable and USB cable for PC connection. In addition, the DEV-5 binoculars are supplied with lens cover, finder cap, large eye cups, a carrying case and neck strap.

The new DEV-3 and DEV-5 digital recordable binoculars from Sony will be available in November 2011 for about $1400 and $2000, respectively, at http://store.sony.com, Sony retail stores and other authorized retailers nationwide. For images and information, please visit www.sony.com/news.

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