Sony Handycam DCR-SR100 review: Sony Handycam DCR-SR100

You'll find the typical array of Sony premium-priced features in the DCR-SR100, such as Super SteadyShot hybrid image stabilization, NightShot and Super NightShot infrared modes, and a four-channel microphone for Dolby 5.1 Surround audio recording. With an optional mic, you can capture center-channel sound. The hotshoe can also accept a flash/video light, to replace the SR100's built-in lamp.

Despite these upmarket capabilities, however, the Sony Handycam DCR-SR100 is more suited to the point-and-shoot crowd than to the prosumer set--those more likely to push the Easy button than to dive into the menu system for a handful of scene modes or fingertip-dexterity-dependent exposure adjustment, spot focus, and spot metering. Fast power-up, responsive zoom operation, and generally zippy autofocus contribute to the Sony Handycam DCR-SR100 's fluid performance. The camcorder begins recording within a second of pressing record and imposes only minor shutter lag when shooting still photos. The autofocus and autoexposure adjust quickly to changes in subject, illumination, or zoom; the only exception is in dim light, where the autofocus seems to glide rather than snap into focus. Unfortunately, the touch screen itself is awkward to use and isn't as bright as some camcorders' LCDs.

When activated, SteadyShot reduces considerable amount of jerkiness and shake throughout the zoom range and doesn't get confused by panning. However, the stabilization becomes borderline effective at the full 10X; if you're shooting after a caffeine fix, you might want to mount it on a tripod before zooming in for a close-up.

As with most Sony cameras and camcorders, the DCR-SR100 uses an InfoLithium battery that displays how much power it thinks is left and how much longer it can shoot. Sony claims a battery life of more than two hours for the SR100, but in typical use, you can expect slightly shorter life. We suggest you stock an extra battery and watch the battery meter. There's a lot to like about the Sony Handycam DCR-SR100's video, though there's room for improvement as well. The picture looks soft when zoomed out but gets sharper as you zoom in; by 10X, it's extremely sharp, with no visible compression artifacts. Colors are saturated, though the auto white balance renders them a bit cool outdoors and slightly warm indoors. Dynamic range is typical of a single-chip camcorder, with little latitude in the shadows and highlights, resulting in muddy grays for the former and blown-out, flat whites for the latter. However, the DCR-SR100 generally produces very low-noise, artifact-free video, even in low light. Thus far, we've seen better MPEG-2 footage from only the 3-chip JVC Everio GZ-MG505. It's also better than that of the Sony Sony Handycam DCR-DVD505's, with far less edge crawl.

Though the DCR-SR100's 3-megapixel photos are adequate, they have that odd combination of softness and oversharpening that produces edge halos and other disturbing artifacts that appear on close inspection. But they're fine for Web sites, e-mail, or small prints. The Sony Handycam DCR-SR100 isn't a true digital camera replacement, but it does the trick if you just want an occasional snapshot, and you're not too picky about quality.

What you'll pay

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