It's hard to tell Sony's line of MiniDV camcorders apart just by looking at them. That's because the entry-level Sony Handycam DCR-HC26, the step-up Handycam DCR-HC36, and the midlevel Handycam DCR-HC46 all have the same basic shell and extremely similar feature sets. But inside, each has a different CCD sensor, which means there should be some difference in performance. We found that the difference between the DCR-HC26 and DCR-HC36 was minor, and unless you feel you need its low-quality still images, we saw no need to step up to the DCR-HC36. However, the DCR-HC46 offers a more significant boost in video and still imaging for a modest increase in price, making it a decent value for the money.
Like its siblings, the Handycam DCR-HC46 is small and lightweight and will easily find a spot in a backpack or other bag. The layout is essentially the same as the DCR-HC36's. The main difference is the HC46's slightly-larger wide-screen 2.7-inch LCD touch screen. If you dislike Sony's touch-screen interface, this modest increase in size isn't likely to change your mind, especially since the HC46's wide-screen LCD is not as tall as the HC36's 4:3 display, but the increased size is nice for 16:9 shooting.
For shooters willing to venture out of Easy mode, the DCR-HC46 as a decent amount of control, including some autoexposure presets, manual exposure, and both manual and autofocus. As usual, Sony's NightShot plus did a fine job of capturing footage, even at extremely low light levels. Sure, the results are greenish, monotone images, but that's still more enjoyable than the grainy or blurry shots you'll get from most camcorders in this price range.