Over the years Sony has shown its ability as a genuine innovator in the digital imaging space - in the early days of Gizmag the (then) bleeding-edge, 5-megapixel Sony F707 digital camera was a treasured part of our kit - and its latest venture looks like it could be holding that line. That venture is the company's move into digital binoculars with two models - the DEV-5 and DEV-3 - which boast full HD video recording, 7.1 megapixel still capture, optical image stabilization, 3D recording, HDMI output and (on the more expensive DEV-5) geotagging via an in-built GPS receiver.
Both models feature f1.8 - F3.4 G Lenses, a pair of 4.5 mm Exmor R CMOS sensors, BIONZ processors, dual electronic viewfinders, 10x optical magnification, stereo sound recording and video capture at 1920 x 1080 / 50p. Image stabilization is the same SteadyShot system found on Sony's camcorders and Cyber-shot cameras while electronic autofocus promises to keep moving subjects sharp and can be used at close range (as close as 1 cm in in 2D mode which drops back to 80cm for 3D recording). Sony says that the battery is good for around three hours of 2D recording on a single charge.
3D video mode recording is at a resolution of 1920x1080/50i but the maximum digital zoom drops to 5.4x on the DEV-5 model (and there's no stereoscopic image capture functionality for still shots on either unit).
Apart from GPS functionality, the main difference for the extra US600-odd outlay is that the DEV-5 throws a 10x digital zoom into the equation to give them an overall magnification of 20x (oh, and you also get a lens cover, finder cap, large eye cups, a carrying case and a neck strap).
Design-wise, all of that electronics give the units a chunky look that's more like military issue night-vision glasses that conventional binoculars. Both have an elastomer coated grip area, dual recording buttons for operation by either hand and top mounted controls that cater for bird-watchers wearing gloves on chilly dawn excursions.
The binoculars use Memory Stick DUO or SD card as the recording media (there's no on-board storage) and connectivity is via HDMI output as well as a USB port. An external microphone jack provides the option of upping the sound quality and there's also a cold accessory shoe viewing that can be used to mount an LCD viewing monitor.
The DEV-3 and DEV-5 binoculars are due to hit shelves in November and they're not exactly going to be stocking-stuffers with pricing of around US$1400 and $2000 respectively.