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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?"

The digital zoom doesn't really call attention to itself when you're using the DEV-50 as binoculars. But it can take some mighty awful photos if you shoot at maximum zoom. Such extreme zoom shots are clear enough to see two tourists 500 feet away but not nearly clear enough to even guess whether one is taking the other's photo with a camera or an iPhone.

That said, the DEV-50 can take some lovely photos, if you stay away from the deep end of the zoom range. Of particular note: it can focus on close objects even at high magnification. I had no trouble shooting crisp portraits of the squirrels feeding just four or five feet away from me in the park.

Camcorder action
The DEV-50 is an exceptional video camera. It might in fact be my favorite of all the video cameras I've ever tried. And for one simple reason: it's the only "for real" AVCHD 1080p camcorder I've used that lets me watch a live event--while I'm shooting video of it. I'm watching this sporting event, or live performance, or brilliant landscape through binoculars, with a full sense of depth. And because I flicked a button under my left index finger, I'm also getting video of everything I'm seeing as I'm experiencing it.

Conventional camcorders (and phones, which are even worse) force me to look at a tiny little square instead of the full spectrum of something wonderful happening right in front of me. Honestly. Is that any way to live? It's such an awkward way to experience something fantastic that I barely shot 20 minutes of video during a two-week trip to Asia, despite carrying a $1000 Panasonic camcorder everywhere.

I probably shot more video with the DEV-50 over two weeks than I had with any of my own cameras or test cameras, combined, over two years. Because it was fun, and I felt engaged with my environment.

You can shoot video in either 2D or 3D. It struck me that the DEV-50 quickly becomes the best (and most expensive) ViewMaster ever made. When you ask me what the Red Sox game was like, I can hand you these binoculars, adjust the eyepieces for you, and then press Play. As you look through the electronic viewfinders, you'll be seeing exactly what I saw, exactly how I saw it, through the exact device with which I saw it.

Are we in the Matrix? Even just slightly?

It's appropriate to mention the superior video quality and flexibility of a $2000 HD SLR or camcorder here. But those are clearly different beasts for different consumers. The quality of the DEV-50's video is excellent, on par with a conventional consumer camcorder, as is the audio quality. The DEV-50 accepts external microphones, via a standard mic input and accessory shoe.


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