Sony Handycam HDR-SR11 review:

Sony Handycam HDR-SR11

High-resolution video capture demands a high quality lens and Sony didn't skimp. Sony included a 12x optical Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar T* f/1.8-3.1 zoom lens. It covers a 35mm equivalent range of 40-480mm in 16:9 mode, or 49-588mm in 4:3 mode. The lens focuses its light onto a 5-megapixel sensor that uses 2.86MP to capture 4:3 video, 3.81MP to capture 16:9 video, 5.08MP for 4:3 stills, and 3.81MP for 16:9 stills. The camera can interpolate the stills up to 10.2MP.

Video from the HDR-SR11 is quite impressive. Colors are very accurate and images are quite sharp. The camera's white balance does a nice job of keeping color casts out of your video in most lighting situations, and the camcorder is quick to adjust to changes in lighting types and levels when in the appropriate auto modes. Autofocus also locks very quickly, and the optical image stabilization is effective across the entire zoom range. Autofocus slows in low light, but it was still able to lock, even in very low light situations. I enjoyed using the CAM CTL dial for manual focus--it's much nicer than using the touch screen. The built-in microphone does a good job of capturing audio and can be set to zoom along with the lens. You can also notch the recording level down to low if you're in a setting with particularly loud sound. It's not quite as nice as some higher-end camcorders that let you adjust audio levels in multiple steps, but it's better than nothing, and appropriate for this level of camcorder.

Sony added face detection this year. The camcorder is fairly quick to notice faces and uses them to set exposure and focus. I tried it in a tricky situation, a diner, and it did a great job of locking on my friend's face and stuck with her when she moved around in the frame and kept the exposure correct for her face. Sony continues to include x.v.Color (their name for the xvYCC color space), though we have yet to see any appreciable difference, despite using the camcorder with the appropriate Sony TVs. The remote control included with the SR11 will likely make more of a positive difference than x.v.Color if you plan to attach the camcorder to your TV to view footage.

If you plan to watch, or edit your video on a computer, you should check out Lori Grunin's blog post on the subject of AVCHD and editing software. Sony includes its Picture Motion software with the SR11 and SR12, but it would be much better off including Vegas Movie Studio Platinum with a camcorder of this price. Picture Motion lets you view your footage, but it can only make extremely basic modifications.

There's a whole lot to like about the Handycam HDR-SR11 and HDR-SR12. It captures beautiful video as well as very nice stills, for a camcorder. If you're in the market for a hard-drive-based high-definition camcorder, you won't go wrong with one of these Sonys. If 60GB isn't enough for you, the HDR-SR12 offers a 120GB drive and is the same as the SR11 in all other respects.

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