The Handycam DCR-SX41 is Sony's flash-memory-based standard-definition camcorder. Its main attractions are its small size, 8GB of internal memory backed by a Memory Stick slot for expansion, and a 60x megazoom lens. It's also easy to use partly because of the touch-screen-based menu navigation and because of its dearth 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 have gotten 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, will let you see people and things near and far, and can fit in a coat pocket, this Sony is worth checking out.
|Key specs||Sony Handycam DCR-SX41|
|Dimensions (WHD)||2x2.4x1.3 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||10 ounces|
|Storage capacity, type||8GB, flash memory; Memory Stick Pro Duo|
|Resolution, sensor size, type||680K pixels (410K pixels (16:9), 340K pixels (4:3) effective), 1/8-inch CCD|
|LCD size, resolution||2.7-inch LCD, 123K 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||6 lux|
|File format (video, audio)||MPEG-2 (.MPG), Dolby Digital 2-ch stereo|
|Recording time at highest quality||2 hours|
|Image stabilization type||Optical|
|Inputs/Outputs||None/Mini-USB, AV terminal|
|Battery type, rated life||Lithium ion rechargeable, 50 minutes|
Available in blue, silver, or red versions, the SX41 is a cute little camcorder. Its physical controls are textbook camcorder design with a start/stop button at the back and easy-to-control zoom rocker up top in front of a shutter release for snapshots in Photo mode. Off to the left of that is a Mode button for switching between shooting movies or stills. The whole package is roughly the size of soda can. The hand strap is comfortable if a little low. Just to the right of where the strap connects at the back of the body is a flip-down door concealing a proprietary AV jack and DC input for power.
Its battery juts from its back; below it is the Memory Stick Pro Duo card slot and power input. Flip open the touch-screen display (there is no viewfinder), and you'll find five buttons in the body cavity for power; turning off and on display information; direct-to-DVD recording using Sony's $149 VRD-P1 DVDirect DVD burner; an Easy button that locks down the camcorder's few advanced features for point-and-shoot recording; and a Backlight option to correct exposure of backlit subjects. An uncovered Mini-USB port and covered Memory Stick Pro Duo card slot are also in the cavity.
The remainder of the controls rely on the touch-screen menu system, which is good for people 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. Menu gives you access to context-sensitive shooting options while Home gets you access to everything else. The main problem with this is remembering what functions rest where. (Fortunately, Sony puts the menu tree in print in the manual that comes with the SX41.) With little practice though, the system makes sense and even full operation--not just point and record--becomes simple.
Generally, we don't bother discussing bundled software. However, the MPEG-2 files created by the SX41 don't play well with Macs. Also, Sony's Picture Motion Browser software that is included with the camcorder is Windows only. Apple's iMovie '09 supports the files, but you can also convert them to a Mac-friendly format using a free application called MPEG Streamclip for Mac.