Hands-On Review: the Sony DEV-50 Digital Recording Binocular


Sony's DEV-50 recording binocular is a binocular-camera hybrid that fuses imaging prowess that rivals today’s prosumer camcorders with functionality that stands alone in the digital binocular market—it records 2D and 3D video in Full HD 1080p and has a 0.8-12x optical zoom range. Featuring two 20.4MP Exmor R CMOS image sensors, dual Bionz image processors, simultaneous zoom-autofocus, and a water-sealed housing, this multi-purpose imager will be useful to a birder in a national park, family at a theme park, and fan at a ballpark.


In addition to upgrading the sensor resolution and imaging engine for their latest recording binocular, Sony broadened the manual-exposure capability, streamlined the housing, and added three-axis image stabilization. SteadyShot technology provides image stabilization on the horizontal and vertical axes, and its roll-motion compensation will be appreciated especially during water-bound activities like sailing and rafting. Since the DEV-50 is capable of up to 25x magnification using digital zoom, three-axis stabilization will be useful for high-powered viewing on dry land.

The DEV-50 is the second generation of Sony’s DEV series of recording binoculars and demonstrates their commitment to developing a high-definition 3D recording device that strays from the familiar form factor of the conventional camcorder. Weighing a manageable 1.7 lb, the new DEV binocular is lighter and more compact than Sony’s previous-generation DEV binoculars, the DEV-3 and DEV-5. Additionally, this DEV series recording binocular has a built-in GPS receiver and an XGA OLED 2,359k-dot stereoscopic electronic viewfinder that displays a jaw-dropping Double HD 3D image.

In 3D mode, the view is closer to augmented reality than photorealism. Once I dialed in the diopter correction for each eyepiece and set the appropriate interpupillary distance, a stunning image transported me into the field of view. The DEV-50 offers an immersive viewer experience reminiscent of IMAX 3D—depth, color rendition, clarity, detail... it's all there in hyper-realistic glory.

The DEV-50 technical specs translate into truly vivid images. A Full HD 1080p image transmitted to each eye means nearly excessive detail and image brightness that sacrifice neither contrast nor dynamic range. Almost as impressive is the accurate color balance achieved by Auto White Balance in mixed lighting—without sudden color shifts or comical color rendition. The low-light shooting capability of the DEV-50 also exceeded my expectations; its Hypergain function increases the sensor sensitivity without introducing excessive noise.

As long as you aren’t switching back and forth between 2D and 3D shooting, or photo and video capture modes, then the DEV-50 is easy to operate. Simultaneous zoom-focus will be greatly appreciated by birders and sports fans alike. And the zoom adjustment lever has excellent action that facilitates smooth magnification adjustments.

The binocular’s manual focus wheel is located between the two eyepieces; this breaks from the conventional placement of a binocular’s center focus wheel, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. One of my coworkers pointed out that the manual focus dial is conveniently located for the way he is comfortable holding a binocular. The focus wheel sits right under his thumb and, in the case of the DEV-50, the focus placement eliminates the possibility of accidental button pressing atop the housing. This wheel can also be reassigned to control the exposure, shutter speed, aperture, white balance shift, or 3D image depth.

A cold shoe centered among the interface buttons—directly opposite the ¼”-20 tripod mounting socket—provides a convenient mount that will balance the attached accessory over the tripod’s center of mass. After several hours of shooting, it was obvious that Sony’s suggested accessories, a clip-on LCD monitor and ECM-CG50 auxiliary shotgun microphone, would elevate the DEV-50 to a respectable video-recording rig. Although the rechargeable battery provided adequate run time, Sony also offers an optional NP-FV100 extended run time rechargeable battery that boasts twice the capacity of the included battery.

My initial amazement over the DEV-50’s image quality was slightly tempered by one of the device’s limitations. Sony relies heavily on in-view menu navigation. This leads to the housing’s uncluttered button layout, but the lack of dedicated toggle switches and one-touch mode selection means a lot of time scrolling and clicking while looking in the viewfinder. For users who can’t decide whether they want to capture photo or video, 2D or 3D, switching between modes may lead to missing capture-worthy moments in the field or on vacation. When I introduced the DEV-50 to several coworkers at B&H, they had similarly enthusiastic reactions to the spectacular 3D view, but their assessment (like mine) was somewhat undercut by the click-tacular menu navigation and confounding pop-up warnings.

Overall, the DEV-50 recording binocular is an impressive piece of technology; I was shocked by the quality of the 3D view, and the combination of 3-axis image stabilization and simultaneous zoom-focus really enhanced the viewing experience. An HDMI micro connector makes this digital binocular plug-and-play with Sony Bravia 3D TVs, allowing you to appreciate the Full HD image recorded by each of the binocular’s optical channels. Like most Sony devices, the DEV-50 will record to a Memory Stick or SD card, and has a USB port to export recorded photos and video to your computer.

Having an idea of how you intend to use the DEV-50 should eliminate most of the "huh?" moments I experienced early on with menu navigation. Although it is a versatile imaging device, don’t expect the DEV-50 to replace your binocular and camcorder without losing some of the features inherent to each. If you’re interested in the DEV-50 primarily as a digital binocular or as a 3D recorder, then dial in the settings you need and have a blast. For birding with a hyper-real depth of field or capturing the view from your seats at Madison Square Garden, the DEV-50 blends portability and 3D image quality like no other in the consumer market.

To learn more about the Sony DEV-50 Digital Recording Binocular, stop by the B&H SuperStore in New York, speak with a sales professional on the telephone at 1-800-606-6969 or contact us online via Live Chat.

Imaging Sensor
Type(2x) 1/3.91" Back-Illuminated Exmor R CMOS
Resolution20.4 MP (6016 x 3384)
Aspect Ratio16:09
Pixel Gross(2x) 5430K pixels
Processor(2x) BIONZ Image Processor
Lens System
Lens TypeG Lens
MagnificationVideo: 0.5 - 25x
Photo: 0.8 - 12x optical (25x with digital zoom)
Focal Length (35mm Equivalent)2D (Digital Zoom OFF): 49.8 - 791.2mm
2D (Digital Zoom ON): 49.8 - 1645.7mm
3D: 33.4 - 402mm
Photo Mode (16:9): 29.8 - 1647.9mm
Photo Mode (4:3): 36.3 - 2007.4mm
Minimum Focus Distance2D Wide Mode: 0.4" (1 cm)
2D Tele Mode: 31.5" (80 cm)
2D Tele Macro Mode: 0.15" (0.38 cm)
3D Wide Mode: 6.6 ft (2 m)
3D Tele Mode: 78.7 ft (24 m)
StabilizationOptical SteadyShot with Active Mode (2D Wide / Tele, 3D Wide)
Type(2x) 0.5" (1.3 cm) XGA OLED
Resolution1024 x 768
Angle of View36.9° 
Eye Relief13.9mm
Diopter Adjustment Range± 3.5
Interpupillary Distance55 - 75mm
Still Image Format2D: JPEG
3D: Not Applicable
Still Image Resolution20.4 MP 16:9 (6016 x 3384)
15.3 MP 4:3 (4512 x 3384)
10.0 MP 16:9 (4224 x 2376)
5.0 MP 4:3 (2592 x 1944)
2.1 MP 16:9 (1920 x 1080)
0.3 MP 4:3 (640 x 480)
Video Format2D HD: AVCHD format ver.2.0 compatible (1080/60p/60i) MPEG4-AVC/H.264
3D HD: AVCHD format ver.2.0 compatible (1080/60i) MPEG4-MVC/H.264
Video Resolution2D HD: 1920 x 1080 (60p / 50p PS); 1920 x 1080 (60i / 50i FX, FH): 1440 x 1080 (60i, 50i HQ, LP)
3D HD: (2x) 1920 x 1080 (60i / 50i)
Video Bit Rate2D HD PS: ≈ 28 Mbps
2D HD FX: ≈ 24 Mbps
2D HD FH: ≈ 17 Mbps
2D HD HQ: ≈ 9 Mbps
2D HD LP: ≈ 5 Mbps
3D HD: ≈ 28 Mbps
Audio FormatDolby Digital 2-Channel Stereo
Microphone / SpeakerBuilt-In Stereo Microphone / Monoral Speaker
Media Type
Memory Stick PRO Duo (Mark 2); Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo; Memory Stick XC-HG Duo
SD/ SDHC/ SDXC Memory Card
(Class 4  or Higher)
DC InputYes
HD Outputmicro-HDMI, Composite Video
SD OutputComposite Video
Microphone InputStereo Minijack
Headphone OutputStereo Minijack
Memory Card SlotMemory Stick PRO Duo; SD/ SDHC/ SDXC media
Dimensions5.9 x 6.3 x 2.9" (15 x 16 x 7 cm)
Weight1.7 lb (765 g)



Why in the world would Sony not provide for 3D still images with this product?  There appears to be no way to create an HD level still from the video because the camera only processes the second image needed "on the fly" - it doesn't exist until the software creates it as it plays.  If I'm wrong on that, and there is a way, I'd sure like to hear about it, because that would restore me to being a potential customer. 

 We are going to Svalbard in 2.5 weeks. This sounds like a perfect way to see and record. Your advice? Cost? Can it get here in time?

Hi Diane -

This hybrid product certainly is convenient to use.  The unique Sony DEV-50 Digital Recording Binocular give the bird-watcher, hunter or sports enthusiast the ability to capture Full HD 1920 x 1080 2D or 3D video through binocular style lenses. You can sit back and enjoy nature or watch the game from a distance and when the mood strikes, you can start recording or capturing digital still images. The DEV-50 features two Sony G-Lenses, two BIONZ Image Processors and dual 1/3.91" Back-Illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensors. The DEV-50 also supports magnification up to 25x. 

Please click on the highlighted area above to see the latest pricing and shipping information.  We can ship this out right away and easily get these to you before your trip to Svalbard.