The Good Very compact size; lightweight; easy to use; low price.
The Bad Mediocre video quality; short battery life; no accessory shoe; low-quality stills.
The Bottom Line Unless this camcorder's low-resolution, low-quality stills are important to you, you might as well go for Sony's less expensive DCR-HC26.
Sony Handycam DCR-HC36
The differences between Sony's entry-level MiniDV camcorders, the Handycam DCR-HC26 and the DCR-HC36, don't add up to much. The biggest is the HC36's Memory Stick Duo Pro slot for still-image recording. But, since the camera's 1/6-inch CCD outputs stills at a resolution of 340,000 pixels, you shouldn't expect to get decent prints from it. So, unless you really enjoy e-mailing drab, low-res images to your friends, that feature won't help you much. The other main difference is the HC36's remote control, which might come in handy when watching your tapes, but probably isn't worth the difference in price.
On the plus side, the Sony Handycam DCR-HC36 is small and lightweight, making it easy to throw in a bag or shoot with for extended periods of time. Plus, the top-loading tape compartment makes switching tapes easier if you're using a tripod. The basic controls are all in the right place, with the record button exactly where your thumb falls naturally, and the same applies to the side-to-side zoom rocker. Three buttons on the camera's left side control the amount of info that appears on the display and let you enter backlight or Easy mode. Everything else--including menu access--happens through the 2.5-inch touch-screen LCD. While the touch-screen interface is well designed and the menus are intuitive, the LCD felt too small for the task, as is often the case with Sony camcorders. Joystick controls, such as those found on some newer Canon camcorders are more comfortable to use, but Sony's touch screen is still much better than the hidden buttons found on Hitachi's DVD camcorders.
If you venture outside of the fully automatic Easy mode, Sony offers a fair amount of manual control. In addition to a handful of program autoexposure presets, such as Landscape and Portrait, you can also opt for full manual exposure. Of course, both auto and manual focus are also available, though setting critical focus manually via the LCD screen was not easy. Not only was the screen too small to tell if finer details were actually in focus, but we had a hard time getting the focus to land in the right place with the touch-screen controls. We were much more pleased with the camcorder's NightShot plus mode, which uses an infrared assist lamp to create monotone, greenish video, even in total darkness, that's much more pleasing than the extremely grainy and/or blurry footage you get from most camcorders.
Get a Sony 1080p camcorder bundle for $158
This collection of goodies includes a top-rated camcorder and some robust editing software. Plus: three bonus deals!
Phantom Flex4K records fire at 1000 FPS, 4K resolution
Vision Research's Phantom Flex4K camera has been used to capture a burning house fire at 1,000 frames per second in 4K resolution.
More PlayStation 4 rumours
With just hours to go until the Sony event in New York, more rumoured details have emerged about the PS4, including that it will be out in November and can be controlled by your phone.
Sony Handycam GW77V is waterproof, not cheap
For deep-pocketed recreational divers everywhere (now) Sony debuts its first rugged Handycam, the HDR-GW77V.
Sony HDR-TD20 3D camcorder in hands-on video
The Sony HDR-TD20 is Sony's latest camcorder to shoot in three dimensions, and we've had a go in this here video.
Sony PJ200 and PJ260 projector camcorders in hands-on video
Check out our video of the Sony PJ200 and PJ260 lighting up our lives with their built-in projectors.
Flip is dead, so here's some alternative cameras, camcorders and phones
Flip Video is dead, in the face of competition from big-name rivals, video-shooting cameras, and camera phones. Here's some alternatives.
Sony Bloggie 3D mini-camcorder makes 3D easy, pocketable
Sony's new Bloggie 3D mini-camcorder brings tri-dimensional shooting to your handbag with two lenses and a 3D screen. Other new Bloggies make do with dual screens and 1080p.
Panasonic HDC-SDT750: 3D camcorder in shops in October
The first big-name 3D camcorder will be in shops in October this year. Will the Panasonic HDC-SDT750 make your Christmas list?
Samsung HMX-E10: Budget 1080p camcorder with a twist
The Samsung HMX-E10 is a new budget camcorder that's getting us in a spin with its swivelling lens
Sony unveils Handycam NEX-VG10E, the NEX step in lens-swapping camcorders
The Sony Handycam NEX-VG10E is set to be the first lens-swapping camcorder to hit the market. We have the first picture and specs
Flip Slide HD is Flip's first media player: Catch ya on the flip slide
The Flip Slide HD is so keen to get out there and start showing off its PMP skills, it's appearing in shops before it's even been officially announced