The Good Excellent video and performance; impressive still photos for a camcorder; adequate manual controls; docking station included.
The Bad No wind filter; USB on dock only, not on camcorder; doesn't include Mini HDMI cable; no viewfinder.
The Bottom Line As the flash-memory-based equivalent of the HDR-SR7, the Sony Handycam HDR-CX7 serves up the same pleasing performance and quality as its hard-drive cousin.
Sony Handycam HDR-CX7
Join me, if you will, along the slow march toward the obsolescence of tape in video. We've definitely got a long road ahead of us, but it's fun to notice how much camcorders have changed already. On the one hand, tapeless camcorders such as Sony's Handycam HDR-CX7 give product designers the freedom to make smaller, sleeker camcorders. On the other hand, we've yet to see a model that records in the AVCHD format, as this one does, match the quality of the footage we've seen from tape-based models using the HDV format. However, for an AVCHD camcorder, this does produce very nice video, and will likely blow your socks off if you're used to a standard-definition camcorder.
Though it's been on the market in various camcorders for a while now, the AVCHD format has been slow on the uptake in software for editing and playback. Lori Grunin's recentoutlines which software titles are compatible and notes whatever glitches she has found when using those programs. Ultimately, the easiest way to watch your HD video is still a direct connection to your HDTV, but there is a modest, and slowly growing, list of software out there if you like to watch on your computer or edit your footage.
Sony's designers definitely made the most of the fact that the HDR-CX7 records its video to MemoryStick Pro Duo cards. The camcorder is little more than a lens and LCD screen in terms of size, though that's both a positive and negative thing. Sure, you can fit the CX7 into almost any bag, and even a large jacket or sweatshirt pocket, but the ergonomics of the grip are a little off. It's certainly more comfortable to hold than Panasonic's SD-based, but since there's no eye-level viewfinder, I often found myself holding it higher than I would some camcorders, and at a slightly odd angle. Also, since your hand basically covers the right side and top of the CX7, Sony was forced to put a handful of buttons on the left side, behind the LCD screen. That's never a very good move, since you can't readily see that spot when you're shooting, and if you do need to use one of those buttons while capturing video, you'll likely shake the camera horizontally while pressing it. Of the buttons placed there, the backlight compensation button is probably the most worrisome, since it's highly likely you'll use it on the fly, while most of the others would be used before or after shooting.
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