The touch-screen menu system is good for those who don't make a lot of changes. In other words, it's responsive, but can get a little confusing for those unfamiliar with Sony's Menu and Home buttons. Pressing Menu gives you access to context-sensitive shooting options, and Home gets you access to everything else. The main problem with this is remembering what functions rest where. (Fortunately, Sony put the menu tree in print in the manual that comes with the SR47.) With little practice, though, the system makes sense and even full operation--not just point and record--becomes simple.
|Features||Sony Handycam DCR-SR47|
|White balance||Auto, Outdoor, Indoor, Manual|
|Scene modes||Auto, Twilight, Candle, Sunrise & Sunset, Fireworks, Landscape, Portrait, Spotlight, Sports, Beach, Snow|
|Focus||Auto, Manual, Spot AF, Tele Macro|
|Lens cover (auto or manual)||Manual|
This camcorder was designed for hassle-free recording and as such doesn't have a lot of extra shooting options. A majority of my field testing was done with the SR47 set to Auto for white balance, scene selection, and focus and it performed satisfactorily. There are more scene options if you chose to get specific and the same goes for white balance. Also, should you want to be more hands-on with focus and exposure, you can control both by touching the spot onscreen you'd like the camcorder to draw its information from.
For its low-end status, the SR47 performs reasonably well. It has an instant-on option that gets the camcorder powered up and ready to record very fast simply by opening the LCD (not an uncommon feature, but nice nonetheless). The autofocus is responsive, but when zoomed out it does hunt trying to focus, particularly in low-light conditions. The rated battery life for the included pack is 90 minutes of continuous shooting; expect less if you're frequently turning it on and off and reviewing clips. Extended life batteries are available, one of which Sony claims has a life of up to 11 hours of continuous shooting.
Video quality overall is very soft; the only time a somewhat sharp picture was obtained was in Tele Macro mode. Clips also display quite a bit of noise and digital artifacts until you scale down to YouTube-size dimensions. This includes noticeable purple fringing around subjects. If you still live completely in a low-resolution world, recordings are destined for video-sharing Web sites, or simply want to capture the moment no matter how it looks, the SR47 will suffice. Colors look good and white balance is respectable, too. Though low-light video had its share of noise, the results were actually decent. Lastly, while the camcorder does take still shots, you'll likely get better photos out of a camera phone.
It's true you can get much better video from an HD camcorder that costs $100 to $200 more. However, standard-definition video is less demanding to play and edit on an average desktop or laptop, and SD camcorders are less expensive. With the Sony Handycam DCR-SR47 you're trading off video quality for a lot of storage and a 60x zoom lens. Of course, it's small, lightweight, and easy to use, too. Just don't expect HD when you're paying for SD.
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