The Sony Handycam DCR-TRV480 lacks the compact size and more advanced features found in MiniDV and DVD camcorders, but its ability to play back and digitise 8mm and Hi8 tapes will be appealing if you have a large collection of analogue footage. Though it lacks advanced features, its low price, 20x zoom lens and decent recording quality make it an attractive choice for budget-minded 8mm-video owners who are ready to transition to digital video.
Though it's roughly the same size as earlier Digital8 camcorders, compared to the entry-level MiniDV camcorders it competes with, the Sony Handycam DCR-TRV480 is gargantuan. Its bulky design (necessary because of the large tapes it uses) makes it difficult to fit in even the largest jacket pockets -- plan on using the included shoulder strap to carry it. At 879g with tape and battery, it's on the heavy side, but it's still light enough for one-handed shooting. It has a very solid feel, and its thick silver-and-grey plastic case should stand up well to typical shooting conditions.
In contrast to the camera's retro size, the DCR-TRV480 uses Sony's latest touch-screen LCD control scheme. This is a mixed blessing. On the upside, it keeps the buttons to a minimum -- there are only five on the camera, along with the zoom rocker, the start/stop triggers and the mode switch. While this makes getting familiar with the camera easier, you may grow frustrated with the need to navigate through the touch-screen menus to make even the most basic setting changes. At least the menu is customisable, so you can put your most commonly used functions on the first couple of pages. When you do need to go deeper into the menu system, you'll find menu items clearly labelled and navigation straightforward. An Easy mode puts all camera operations on automatic and removes almost all the menu items from view.