Sony Handycam HDR-SR1 review: Sony Handycam HDR-SR1

The HDR-SR1 also boasts the same fun-filled prosumer feature set as the UX1. This includes A/V, component, and HDMI output jacks (though the HDMI cable is optional); headphone jack and mic input; intelligent accessory shoe; zebra stripes; a manual control ring around the lens for adjusting exposure, focus, or white balance; smooth slow record mode for analyzing action, albeit for a mere 3 seconds; and that perennial Sony perk, 5.1 Dolby surround recording. The hard disk accommodates about four hours of highest-quality HD footage.

One of the SR1's significant advantages over the UX1 is performance: the hard disk makes most operations, including start-up, almost instantaneous, although it does take a few seconds to load the thumbnail index. The zoom operated smoothly throughout the 10X range, though a tad faster on the way out than the way in, and as usual, Sony's Steady Shot does an excellent stabilization job. I found the autofocus quick and accurate, as well. The LCD is easy to view, even in bright sunlight, however in the same light it's hard to see the LEDs which indicate whether you're in video or still mode. As long as you use the eye-level viewfinder and don't spend a lot of time playing back your videos, the battery should last at least 45 minutes--bring extras on vacation.

Alas, the video quality doesn't live up to the rest of the package. Don't get me wrong--it's very good, with extremely impressive low-light quality as well as sharp, saturated colors in daylight. There's subtle but frequent jerkiness in moving objects, however, and the 2-megapixel ClearVid CMOS sensor takes pretty unimpressive photos that don't match the those of the Canon HV10.

If you really need video that you can edit, I recommend you stick with HDV models such as the Handycam HDR-HC3 or the Canon HV10 for your high-def needs. Though there's really no wonderfully convenient way to shoot HD video yet, the Sony Handycam HDR-SR1's combination of hard disk capacity and easy adapatability--it lacks only some killer software to improve the convenience quotient--plus a great design and broad feature set, make it the consumer HD model to beat for 2006.

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