Hi-Res mode records footage onto tape progressively as MPEG-2 data in 16:9 aspect ratio with an effective pixel count of 1,280-x-659. PS50 also records images to tape progressively as MPEG-2, but records at 50 frames per second (as opposed to Hi-Res’s 25fps) with an effective pixel count of either 941-x-485 (wide mode) or 839-x-576 (4:3 mode). The final mode, DV, records to tape in standard interlaced video format at 25 frames (actually 50 fields) per second. The camera has a sturdy, well-balanced chassis that makes day-to-day handling comfortable. It also features a 90-degree rotating grip, which although solving no specific problem, is still useful. Externally the PD1 suffers a couple of flaws. First, the viewfinder eyecup is made from hard rubber and is too shallow to fully shade the eye when shooting in bright conditions. The large battery accentuates the problem: as it extends considerably from the back of the unit, it’s all too easy to bang your cheekbone on the battery as you lean into the eyepiece.
MPEG-2 encoding onto DV tape is to be welcomed if it provides us with professional-quality footage at consumer price-points. However, there are some major problems with this system at present. For one, at the time of writing, there are no Mac editing suites that can natively edit the MPEG material that the PD1 produces in two of its three modes. Windows-based software for MPEG editing is included, however. Although iPhoto can access the PD1’s stills images, until Final Cut or iMovie extend some support for MPEG editing, any video footage shot in the PS50 or Hi-Res modes of the PD1 is lost to the Mac. Despite the complete absence of Mac support, the PD1 should be commended in part for attempting to take technology in a new direction; unfortunately, it isn’t quite there yet.