Sony Handycam DCR-SX41series review: Sony Handycam DCR-SX41series

Features Sony Handycam DCR-SX41
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
Color effects None
Lens cover (auto or manual) Manual
Accessory shoe No
Video light/Flash No/No

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 SX41 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. What you can't do is control the zoom or recording with the screen, making it more difficult to operate if the camcorder is mounted on a tripod or you're shooting overhand.

For its low-end status, the SX41 performs reasonably well. It has an instant-on option that gets the camcorder up and ready to record very fast simply by opening the LCD (not an uncommon feature, but nice nonetheless). The autofocus is responsive; however, when it is zoomed out, it hunts to focus--particularly in low-light conditions (also not uncommon). The rated battery life for the included power pack is 100 minutes of continuous operation; expect less if you're frequently turning it on and off, using the zoom and touch screen, and reviewing clips. Extended life batteries are available, including one that, according to its manufacturer, has a life of up to 13 hours of continuous shooting.

Overall, its video quality 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, your recordings are destined for video-sharing Web sites, or you simply want to capture the moment no matter how it looks, the SX41 will suffice. Its video colors look good and its white balance is respectable, too. Though low-light video had its share of noise, the results were actually decent. Lastly, while the camcorder takes still shots, you'll likely get better photos out of a camera phone.

It's true that you can get much better video from an HD camcorder that costs $200-$300 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-SX41 you're trading off video quality for a very small, lightweight body, a touch-screen LCD, and a 60x zoom lens. Just don't expect HD when you're paying for SD.

Find out more about how we test camcorders.

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