The Sony NSC-GC1 Net-Sharing Cam is not a camcorder or a Web cam, but something in between. The growth of online video sharing through Web sites such as YouTube and other social networks has opened up the market for a device that bridges that gap between no-frills Web cams, and the high resolution and fancy features found on expensive camcorders. Combine this with an easy way to upload your content direct to the Web and we could have a winner.
Plasticky, boxy, cheap. These are not words usually used to describe Sony electronics, however the NSC-GC1 also carries a price tag which reflects its build quality. Besides being a fingerprint magnet, the high-gloss plastic casing keeps the unit at a lightweight 150 grams. It's also compact at 29mm by 56mm by 104mm and can easily be wielded around with a single hand.
The design isn't very ergonomic; the sharp-edged retangular shape is far from the comfortable curves we're used to seeing on Sony Handycams and the upright position of the unit makes it all too easy to cover the flash with your fingers while shooting. Another quirk we discovered was the camera's unbalaced weight, which means the camera will not stand up on its own when the LCD is flipped out. This required us to be creative in order to use the timer function for hands-free filming.
Aiming to keep things simple, controls are kept to a minimum, laid out along two sides of the body with a directional pad and joystick for navigation. The buttons might be slightly small for large fingers but you shouldn't need to delve into the menu system often, so it isn't too much of a hinderance.
The 2.4-inch LCD display is below average with a resolution of just 123,000-pixels. Though this is adequate for shooting, it's not very impressive. However, the ability to swivel the screen 360-degrees is a big plus, allowing versatile shooting from almost any angle.
The NSC-GC1 records video in MPEG4 format which is saved to Sony's proprietry Memory Stick card format. There's no internal memory and the device doesn't come bundled with a card, so you'll have to fork out extra for storage.
Besides its low price and ease-of-use, the biggest selling point of the Net-Sharing Cam is the built-in software which provides a simple means of uploading your footage to YouTube, MySpace, Facebook or any video sharing site of your choice. Upon connecting the camera to a computer, you are automatically guided through the steps to upload.
In-camera editing options allow you to resize, rotate and split your footage before uploading. In addition to being a low-res video camera, you can also use the NSC-GC1 as a standard Web cam or a still camera. You can print stills direct from the device, at a maximum resolution of 5-megapixels.
With simple controls and a straightforward menu system, the NSC-GC1 is extremely easy to use and perfect for those who want to get a bit creative without needing in depth knowledge.
Video quality is unimpressive and definitely not useable for anything other than online. You can get better quality in a compact digital camera or camera phone but, again, the concept is what we're focussing on -- this device is not trying to replace existing technology, instead it is forging a new medium.
The Sony NSC-GC1 Net-Sharing Cam is a limited edition device with only 300 units available in Australia, so not everyone will be able to get their hands on one -- even if they want to. We think Sony has come up with a good concept, so hopefully we'll soon see more devices of this type.