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Video Cameras

Sony Handycam HDR-HC5

This upgrade to the HDR-HC3 has been dressed in some shiny finery and given a price cut to boot.

Sony has launched two miniDV-based high definition handheld camcorders, the HDR-HC7 and HDR-HC5, to replace last year's HDR-HC3.

Upside
Featuring a 10x Carl Zeiss T* zoom lens, the HDR-HC5 retails for AU$1,999 and sits below the HDR-HC7 which directly replaces the HDR-HC3. Gone is the dowdy grey exterior of the HDR-HC3, replaced by a combination of ribbed metal on the lens barrel, and a mix of black and silver plastic elsewhere. It feels nice and substantial in the hand, with the major controls being easily operated by one's thumb and index finger.

While the HDR-HC7 gains more megapixels and microphone and headphone jacks, the only obvious improvement on the HDR-HC5's spec-sheet is the introduction of new longer-life batteries. Carried over are optical image stabilisation, dual recording, smooth slow record and 4-megapixel CMOS sensor. With dual recording you can take 2.3-megapixel stills while taping video, although the buffer only holds three stills per recording session. In smooth slow record mode, up to three seconds of action be slowed down to a quarter the normal speed, which is perfect analysing your golf swing or perfecting your Baywatch-style beach run.

Downside
As with the rest of Sony's Handycam range, minor and manual controls are accessed via touch-screen menus on the flip-out LCD screen. While a neat solution to the problem button overload, the LCD gets smudged and dirty quick smart -- a problem we encountered even during our brief hands-on preview. It's also a pity that the HDR-SR1's 3.5-inch LCD didn't make the cut for the HDR-HC7, which has a 2.7-inch LCD.

Transferring or viewing your cinemagraphic works should be easy with the supplied USB, i.Link, HDMI and component connections. There's also a MemoryStick DUO slot for storing photos, which is inconvenient for those of us who don't have any an all Sony household.

As with all removeable media camcorders, be prepared to stock up on media. With miniDV/HDV you can store 60 minutes of footage on one cassette. Those with itchy trigger fingers might want to check out Sony's hard-disk high-def camcorder, the HDR-SR1.

Outlook
The HDR-HC5 is essentially an HDR-HC3 with a better battery, shinier exterior and a lower price. If you're in the market for a HDV camera but can stretch to AU$2,299, there's the HDR-HC7. For your extra moolah you get more pixels, optical image stabilisation, an assignable dial, and headphone and microphone jacks.

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