The Handycam DCR-SR88 is Sony's entry-level hard-drive-based standard-definition camcorder. The main attractions are its small size, large storage capacity, and megazoom lens, all at a sub-$400 price. It's also fairly easy to use out of the box; despite what is seemingly a never-ending menu system, there aren't a lot of shooting options. However, as with most camcorders in its class, the video results are mediocre--especially if you're watching them full screen on a large HDTV or are used to the detail of high-definition content.
If you're not terribly concerned with video quality and want a reasonably priced camcorder that's easy to use, has a megazoom lens, and can fit in a coat pocket, this Sony is worth checking out. If 120GB of storage seems like more than you'll need, spend $50 less on the DCR-SR68, which is identical to the SR88 but has an 80GB hard drive.
|Key specs||Sony Handycam DCR-SR68/SR88|
|Price (MSRP)||SR68, $349.99; SR88, $399.99|
|Dimensions (HWD)||2.2x2.6x4.1 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||11 ounces|
|Storage capacity, type||SR68, 80GB hard drive; SR88, 120GB hard drive; Memory Stick Pro Duo, SD/SDHC cards|
|Resolution, sensor size, type||680K pixels, 1/8-inch CCD|
|LCD size, resolution||2.7-inch LCD, 230K pixels (touch screen)|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||60x, f1.8-6.0, 39-2,340mm (16:9), 44-2,640mm (4:3) (35mm equivalent)|
|Minimum illumination||3 lux (1/30-second shutter speed)|
|File format (video, audio)||MPEG-2 (.MPG), Dolby Digital 2-channel stereo|
|Resolution (video/photo)||720x480 (9Mbps)/640x480|
|Recording time at highest quality||20 hours and 33 minutes|
|Image stabilization type||Electronic|
|Battery type, rated life (typical)||Li ion rechargeable, 45 minutes|
|Included software||Sony Picture Motion Browser (Windows only)|
Available in blue, silver, and red versions, the SR68/SR88 (the SR88 is silver only) is an attractive little camcorder. Its physical controls are textbook camcorder design with a start/stop button at the back and zoom rocker up top in front of a shutter release for snapshots in Photo mode. The whole package is roughly the size of a soda can. The hand strap is comfortable if a little low and because hard drives have become so small and light, there's barely a bump encasing it, making the body mostly lens. On the top left of the hard drive is a small door hiding a power input. The battery gets charged while attached to the camcorder.
The battery juts from the back; above it is a button for switching between photo and video modes. Below the battery on the bottom of the camcorder is a card slot that supports both Memory Stick Pro Duo and SD/SDHC cards. Up front below the lens is a small door hiding a proprietary AV output; a composite cable is included, but an S-Video cable is available. A slider on the right side of the lens opens and closes the lens cover; using it once your hand is under the strap is awkward.
Flip open the touch-screen display (there is no viewfinder), and you'll find two rows of buttons in the body cavity for power; backlight compensation; direct-to-DVD recording using Sony's $149 VRD-P1 DVDirect DVD burner; turning on and off an LED lamp under the lens; and changing over to Playback mode. The last of the I/O ports are in this cavity, too: an uncovered Mini-USB port.