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Sony Dev-50 digital binoculars fill a double bill as a still or video camera

Andy Ihnatko | June 5, 2013
" they're like Luke Skywalker's binoculars, as seen in Episode IV?"

After using his optical binoculars for a little while, I could see what he meant. The DEV-50 was more than adequate for taking in the broader and finer details of the birds, even at its maximum 12x magnification. But his conventional binocs were far superior at communicating subtleties, particularly for those birds who rudely chose to bob along in the shadowy bits of the ground.

He did like the DEV-50's zoom and optical image stabilization features, and noted that the autofocus didn't seem to have any problems tracking a bird in flight. This was an area where I--as an inexperienced user--vastly preferred the Sony to his conventional binoculars.

"Eastern Towhee," he said, confidently pointing to a small bird on a distant branch that looked kind of like a robin, but which definitely wasn't. I was wearing his optical binoculars and I ran into the same problem I always struggle with: I could see the bird clearly with my eyes, but I found it almost impossible to orient myself and find that same bird--or even that same branch--when I was looking through the 10x optical binoculars.

But it was a snap with the DEV-50. Raise them to my face, zoom wide, steer in the general vicinity, and then zoom right on in until I've got it. And my hands didn't need to remain terribly steady, either, thanks to the stabilization.

Is the DEV-50 a great birder tool? During my press briefing, Sony suggested that the DEV-50 could fill the roles of three common tools: binoculars, a spotting scope, and a camera. My birder companion didn't agree. "For one, a spotting scope is generally 30x magnification," he explained, comparing it to the Sony's 12x power. "And there are just so many different birders out there."

In the end, he pronounced the DEV-50 as attractive for recreational use but inferior for serious bird-watching and identification.

Round two: Baseball
The DEV-50 really shone at the ballpark.

There are always three or four dramas being played out on the field as the pitcher stands on the mound with his foot on the rubber. Whether I wanted to try to spot what kind of pitch he was preparing by zooming in on his hands, or I was paying attention to the tension of the batter, or trying to appreciate the reflexes of the overly antsy runner on first, or just drink in the patient boredom of the players in the visitors' dugout, the DEV-50 elevated my engagement with the ballgame.

A menu option lets you view the action either in 2D or 3D. I kept the binoculars in 3D mode throughout most of the game--a unique way to experience baseball. The DEV-50 walks you through a viewfinder setup when you take it out of the box. You click buttons and turn wheels and adjust diopters so that Line A now intersects with Line B without ghosting and everything's sharp and clear. Once you've finished the setup, the 3D is completely effective and yet not completely natural. The wholly digital presentation, coupled with the eyecups' total removal of your peripheral vision, makes it feel as though you're there at the ballpark but watching the game exclusively on 3D HDTV.


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