Sony Handycam HDR-SR1 review: Sony Handycam HDR-SR1

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MSRP: $1,599.99

The Good Hard disk holds about four hours of best-quality HD video; sharp, saturated, low-noise video; excellent build quality; fast, smooth focus with effective image stabilization.

The Bad Mediocre still photos; frequent motion artifacts in video; lame but necessary bundled software; no windscreen filter for microphone.

The Bottom Line The Sony Handycam HDR-SR1's combination of hard disk capacity, easy adapatability, great design, and a broad feature set make it the consumer HD model to beat for 2006.

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8.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 9
  • Image quality 7

A virtual twin of the Sony Handycam HDR-UX1 but with shiny black-plastic accents, the HDR-SR1 delivers essentially the same video but without some of the accompanying media headaches. It too uses the AVCHD format to record 1080i HD video, but on a 30GB disk rather than DVD. Interestingly, Sony charges about $100 more for the SR1 than for the UX1--both are a bit pricey--which probably has more to do with market elasticity than cost of production.

Some playback and editing irritations remain. Though the disk mounts as a USB storage device when you attach the camcorder to your PC, you still need to install Sony's Picture and Motion Browser software, with its two appendages: a Media Check utility that intercepts calls to any camcorder or media that might have M2TS files on it, and a Sonic UDF driver, though the latter matters only for the DVD version. Plus, there's an AVCHD player that you'll need to view your videos. The software lets you trim clips, but that's about it. If you've a yen to burn a DVD, you can push a button on the camcorder or use the software; keep in mind that a playable DVD, at least for the near-term, means down-converting to MPEG-2 standard-def.

However, as with the UX1, I found it a pleasure to use the HDR-SR1. It's built as sturdily, if a hair smaller in two dimensions; and its 1-pound, 9-ounce heft balances nicely in the hand. The hard-disk enclosure projects a bit above the top of the unit for a solid grip. Given the abundance of space on the SR1, nothing feels crammed in, and with a couple of small exceptions, all the controls fall under the correct fingers for easy one-handed shooting. Those exceptions? The proximity of the photo shutter button to the zoom switch, and the slight awkwardness of operating the on/off switch (for jumping between photo and camcorder modes) with an index finger. Like all Sony camcorders, the SR1 features a touch-screen-navigated menu system; I'm not a fan, but it works better on the SR1's large LCD than the smaller screens of lesser models.

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