Sony DEV-5 Digital Recording Binoculars review

Ever wanted to look like you’re in Splinter Cell but don’t want to go through all that Black Ops training? How about getting close to nature but you’re not keen on old-fashioned optics to get you close to that elusive purple spotted sea-gull?

Sony has the answer. In this case a twin CMOS driven GPS tagged fully 3D digital binocular that would make even the staunchest technophile blush with pure jealousy. Sony has once again taken a simple trusted technology – in this case magnifying optics and made a truly complicated over-engineered piece of modern tech. And we love it.

The binoculars put behind the standard lenses two Exmor CMOS sensors and then replay their input on a digital LCD screen inside the viewfinders. As there’s a separation between two lenses outputting to the eyes separately gives you natural 3D (just like eyes!). The fun part comes when the binoculars are given more functionality like photography and video recording. So what you end up with is a pair of digital recording binoculars. Or if you choose to look at it another way; a 3D video camera with reaaaaally long zoom and 3D viewfinder.

The unit itself is quite bulky but comparable to a ‘traditional’ pair of binoculars with a decent range. Measuring in at 219 x 155 x 88mm and weighing in at 1.3kg think hardcover fantasy novel in size and weight.

The DEV-5 can record video in AVCHD H.264 at 1080p in 3D twice to take both video streams into account. It records to Memory Stick PRO Duo and SD/SDHX/SDXC and can output to HDMI in 2D and 3D as well as replaying recorded content back to the viewfinder. Recording time in 3D is approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes according to Sony. We didn’t test the battery life of the unit but dedicated users would no doubt be inclined to carry multiples of the replaceable rechargeable battery.

‘On the bench’ or more accurately in the field the DEV-5s are comfortable and intuitive to use. The menu system is easy to figure out and both photo and view record buttons are comfortable and well placed. The concern we had with these is the slowness of the refresh of the image in the viewfinder compared to the movement of the binoculars. We found there was a lag when swinging the units around quickly and though that won’t be an issue for birdwatchers or snipers people watching fast moving sports like football or rugby in real-time might find it a slightly jerky experience.

Playback of recorded content from the DEV-5 units on a high def set showed the unit was quite capable of putting a clean and clear picture of a big screen without the inherent limitations of the viewfinder built into the binocs.

This is ultimately a really cool and very expensive toy. If you were a super keen but amateur wildlife aficionado you might justify it but professionals will stick with their 2D but quality DSLR cameras and lenses.

Available from Sony retailing for $1999.
APC rating: 7/10