Sony Handycam DCR-SR85 - camcorder - hard disk drive review: Sony Handycam DCR-SR85 - camcorder - hard disk drive

The SR85's video quality is tolerable for full-screen playback on small-to-medium-size TVs and computer monitors. However, video looks soft, lacking detail and clarity and tends to look washed out. Noise is within a reasonable level for its class, but quickly panning the camcorder--say, to capture a football pass or someone running on a playing field--turns the picture blocky, and moving while recording creates enough jerkiness to give you a headache when watching the playback.

On the upside, other aspects of the camcorder's performance are better, like its responsive autofocus, pretty good white balance, and quickly adjusting autoexposure. And the quality is better than the SR45, likely because of the larger 1-megapixel CCD sensor. (The SR45 is only 680,000 pixels). If you still live completely in a low-resolution world, plan to share resulting video on the Web, or simply want to capture the moment and don't mind losing detail and aren't concerned with visual imperfections, the SR85 should do the trick.

The Sony Handycam DCR-SR85 overall is a good camcorder. The 60GB of storage means you can more than likely take it on a vacation without worrying about running out of space. Plus you can save video and stills to Memory Stick Pro Duo cards up to 8GB. Its compact, lightweight build is great for grab-and-go videos. It's easy to operate, too, thanks in part to a responsive, 2.7-inch touch-screen LCD. But with HD camcorders coming within striking distance of the SR85's price tag, the quality of its SD video output is a definite sticking point.

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