I recently went on a birding trip to Scotland with my camera and a long lens, but this was not sufficient to see most birds. On the trip, I tried many different binoculars, and discovered that I absolutely needed to have image stabilization. Without it, my shakey hands make the image bounce about. The image-stabilized Canon binoculars that I tried worked well, but were heavy. The all-weather image-stabilized Canons all cost almost $2000 and are quite heavy (2–3 pounds). In addition, I am a photography nut and want to take pictures of what I see in my binoculars. The photography alternative is buying an expensive and even heavier telescope and tripod and placing a camera up to the eyepiece.

I had seen that Sony had introduced two electronic binoculars, which work like two Micro 4/3 cameras placed side-by-side. The image hits a sensitive photo detector, and is viewed electronically. This obviates the need to get large-diameter (expensive and heavy) glass lenses. Even in extremely low light, my OM-D camera provides bright (albeit noisy) images in the viewfinder. I discovered that Sony was coming out with a second generation digital recording binocular, the DEV-50V/B, with greatly improved specifications and reduced weight (1 pound 10 oz) and size. As you can see, it is dust proof and water resistant, autofucusing, and close focusing, and in addition can zoom over a wide range.

I asked some knowledgable friends, and they brought up two issue of concern:

  1. Can the focusing distinguish a bird from the tree or bush?  Can if focus manually?
  2. is the resolution of the view-finder (1024x768 OLED) high enough?

After some soul-searching, I ordered the DEV-50V/B from Amazon, and it is coming today.

DEV-50V/B

They arrived, and I took a video of the unpacking.

Unpacking video

Alas, The binoculars seem to be misaligned. When I get to Step 6, "adjusting the relative vertical position of the right and left viewfinder, the horizontal line is tilted with respect to the vertical lines. The manual says this is an indication of something wrong.

Nonetheless, I decided to try out the DEV-50V/B as soon as a hailstorm moved out of the neighborhood. When the light is good, and the zoom is not too great, it takes acceptable pictures:

My boatat about 30 feet

The original image was 6016 x 3384 pixels. But there is something seriously wrong with the JPEG engine in the DEV-50V/B. It you blow up this 20 megapixel image, all you get is JPEG artifacts:

Bad JPEG

In addition, when the digital zoom is engaged (the bird image is zoomed in all the way), the picture exhibits extreme JPEG artifacts, which are even visible in the viewfinders. This bird was at the very top of a tree behind my across-the-street neighbor's house:

Bird across street

Original

This is still a 20 Mp image, but it is clearly unusable for any reproduction purposes. Unfortunately, there is no ability to capture RAW images on the DEV-50V/B—you are stuck with awful JPEGs. My pictures were nicely tagged with my GPS location.

The next pair of images was taken of my Blue Heron decoy (to keep my Koi safe) from the same location, but at different magnifications:

Decoy from about 30 feet

Zoomed decoy

Again, the highly-zoomed image quality is unacceptable. It may have been misfocused, but it did not look that way in the viewfinder.

One final image is again of a bird in the top of a tree; this also shows unacceptable JPEG artifacts:

Bird aotp tree

Original

The birds were mostly scared away by the storm, and it was getting dark, so that is all for today.

Here are some more pictures I took in the morning:

Towhee

Original

Towhee at larger magnification

Original

Let me summarize my feelings about the DEV-50V/B:

Good points

  • They are lighter than most image-stabilized, weatherproof binoculars.
  • After a little training time, the controls match nicely to your fingers—middle finger on the zoom control, forefinger on the shutter.
  • The GPS worked well, even indoors.
  • They have advantages as binoculars:
    • The zoom feature is really nice since yoiu can locate a bird in wide view, and then zoom in on it.
    • The image you see is good so long as the zoom level does not employ the digital zoom feature (past the center bar on the zoom scale). Above this, you se an increasing blocky image without more detail.
    • The large (included) rubber eye pieces made it easy for me to use them with my galsses on.

Bad points

  • It is an awful camera.
    • The JPEG engine is truly awful. I did not feel that you could print any pictures from the binoculars. What is the point of the 20 Mp resolution if the image is processed to mush?
    • No RAW capability
    • The image stabilization was nowhere near as good as the one in my Olympus OM-D. Now that Sony and Olympus are interrelated, hopefully Sony will incorporate the 5-axis Olympus engine into the next generation of these binoculars. At 25x magnification, you need super stabilization, even with non-shakey hands.
    • My pair seemed to be misaligned, and the 3D adjustment (which uses a rapidly bouncing vertical bar) barely got above the proper adjustment point, and did so too fast for me to click.
  • They are just not very good binoculars, especially for birding.
    • The resolution you see is subpar. Looking at flower heads acrooss the street did not resolve their white centers. These were easily observed on "real" binoculars.
    • There is a fundamental conflict between photography and binoculars. With "real" binoculars, the brightness of the scene is identical to what you see without the binoculars. With the DEV-50V/B, what you see is for a properly exposed photograph, and is much dimmer than the real scene, even with the brightness of the eyepieces set at their maximum. The photo would be overexposed at the scene's brightness level, but bird markings need all the light you can get to see the colors and details.
  • The multipurpose button (used to navigate the menus) which tilts and pushes was really difficult to use. Going through the menus was painful. I had a great deal of difficulty setting the time zone. Pushing down to select resulted in a tilt, which changed the selection.
  • Sony supplies a power brick to plug into the binoculars in order to charge the battery. That takes 3 hours, so any purchaser will have to buy an extarnal charger and several more batteries since the battery charge lasts just a few hours.
  • Sony's level 2 support was clueless about this model, and totally unhelpful. They could not even cut a repair order because the model number is not in their system. They could not tell me what the tilted lines in Step 6 indicated. Their response was to return it to Amazon, which I am doing.

I hope that someone at Sony reads this and can comment on whether this "pre-release" DEV-50V/B was working the way it should. Until they do, I will not purchase a replacement pair. For $2000 they should work a lot better than this.

I just (December 2014) purchased a pair of Fujinon 14x40 Techno-Stabi binoculars for $1000. They lack zoom and photo taking, but they offer superb stabilized images.

Comments

Submitted by Basrie Kamba on Thu, 07/04/2013 - 08:39

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Theaks, Jerome. This is a great, high class and 24-carat review that allows people around the globe to save their money from buying something that is apparently not worthy. I just left a Sony store at Wisma Atria here in Singapore, planning to order the 3D Sony binoculars DEV 50. I was back at my hotel room googling for reviews on this newly-launched product when i saw your story. It is indeed a very hellpful review. Thank you for saving my money, Jerome. Happy bird watching. - basrie.kamba@gmail.com

Submitted by John on Fri, 07/05/2013 - 06:52

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I was wondering if all of the photographs you display were taken at 25X(digitally interpolated). If so, do you have any photograph examples taken at 12X or less to give an example of image quality without digital interpolation?

Submitted by Mike on Sun, 07/14/2013 - 16:45

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I have purchased these as well

I did so specifically for use when yachting, where changing between a camera and binoculars is not exactly easy when sailing.

So far I'm more than happy. The binoculars work fine and give me a better view than my current, mid range binoculars. The ability to then simply take a photo or video is great. It could be made more user friendly but I find them increasingly easy to use as time goes by.

The footage and photos are acceptable to me and for the purpose I use them.

I haven't had issues with them and once I got comfortable with them they are fine.

They are not a replacement for high quality cameras or high quality binoculars, but for my use they are way better then having a separate camera and binoculars.

Expensive, I'm not so sure. I'd be up for at least this to have a high quality camera and high quality binoculars, without the convenience of one device

Mike

Submitted by Michael on Wed, 08/28/2013 - 03:48

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some of the images where shot using 5x digital zoom. Keep in mind the sensor has only 5Mpix resolution, so it is clear that you end up with a low quality low resolution image in such a mode. Even the image with the "best" image quality (#0063) was shot using digital zoom

Submitted by Armando on Thu, 04/24/2014 - 07:06

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Thanks for the nice review

This type of equipment would have been perfect for me but since I see that quality is not so good and In fact quite bad I will not order one. Such a pity. Is there any other device on the market that is better that does the same job

There are other devices similar to this one (e.g., Nikon), but they are no better from what I read. The best thing is to get image stabilizing conventional binoculars. I tried the Canon ones, and they really helped, but they are heavy!

Submitted by dmcmrm2 on Wed, 05/13/2015 - 18:02

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I just returned from Hong Kong where I obtain the DEV-50V.
I have seen these at the HK airport in December. While in HK a couple weeks ago I told my wife and a walking by a electrics store in the mall my wife had to see if they had one in stock. They did not but my wife had to have one.
So I do not have but little experience with DEV-50V.
A couple day after buying the DEV-50V wanted to practice so went to the pool area at the Marriott Hotel to shoot images, then later that evening I went to a special event to learn using my next toy. After that evening the DEV-50V has been in my suitcase. Now I wanted to lookup reviews on my toy and ran across this reviews. So some fairly negative and some positive! I am a retired from a Highly recognized lab and have working closely with electronic device to the past 40 yrs plus! So I am not an camera expert nor a video buff but I will throw-in my to bits.
After reviewing these comment I decided to review my images on my camera, then to outside to shoot bird in the trees, the mountains and went to the 3rd story roof to shoot 360 of the mountains, trees, homes, road and etc.
1.) The Hong Kong photos from the Marriott hotel are incredible to see! Quality, clarity and total results are well beyond what I expected; my wife was shocked with the results and the cost is worth every cent at this point.
2.) Images at the special event are so impressive, for the cost of a new product on a scale of 1-10 I will give if a 10. I am only rating the video I reviewed at this point. I took a 3D video in the dark of a rain shower and until you see the video yourself the result cannot be explained, so will just say impressive.
3.) images today from my roof are incredible. With close up I would be able to see a ladybug on the tip of a pine needle with complete details and the background is also unbelievable.

Again I am lacking experience with these DEV-50V and will be going to Africa to really have fun with my DEV-50V. If you want to know my result after my return trip and added experience let me know.

I called Sony and the sent me the software download for viewing my file in 3D on my Apple and PC computers. Not being a computer nut this is not a task for computer users that are not experts or understand and have experience with computers. So spent 4-6 hours today trying to download the software and view my files. Unfortunately but this for me is not an easy task. So now I have a great toy that I can not easily view on my computer. Via the binocular the playback is a great experience.

Does anyone know how to playback files / images from the binocular to a Apple and PC? I spent the day trying to find info on the wed and found this site.

Sorry about the long review and comments but want those of you to know at the DEV-50V are great, also not noted in the stability of the image when recording are as good as the best video camera! You will be impressed with the stability of your images!

Submitted by Chris on Sun, 08/09/2015 - 10:23

In reply to by dmcmrm2

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I just purchased the Sony-50 and used it to record a number of trips across Alaska, and I was totally blown away by the utility and images of having these binoculars able to capture both 3d and 2d images as well as photos. I was able to take incredibly detailed shots of brown bears at full zoom and beautiful shots of glaciers. However I am still looking for a correct video capture program to import from the dev-50. Can you share the details of what software Sony pointed you to that should be used to import and view the video from the dev-50? Or at least where you called? I don't want to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a software package only to find out that the dev-50 is not supported. Thanks.

Submitted by Sarath Wijesinghe on Sat, 06/11/2016 - 03:13

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Where can I buy a new Sony DEV 5 or DEV 50?

Submitted by Joe Stanton on Fri, 01/13/2017 - 15:44

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What I am not sure of after reading your review is why you bothered reviewing it if the alignment could not be set correctly. This would obviously affect focus and jpeg artifacts. I owned the previous generation device and yes the still-frame quality is not as good as a true camera but that's not the point, but it was nowhere as bad as you experienced, perhaps because mine were able to be aligned, which I did each time I used it. For me the primary reason for owning this device was the 3-D recording ability and the reason I bought a 3-D TV. I gifted mine to a friend and have missed it ever since.

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