Sony is at the forefront of the high-definition revolution, with CEO Howard Stringer promising that 75 per cent of the company's hardware will be HD-compatible by the end of the year. Leading the way is the Handycam HDR-SR8, a camcorder that boasts AVC-HD recording to a gargantuan 100GB hard drive. It's available now for just under £1,000. If that's too much money, you can opt for the 60GB HDR-SR7 for around £850.
Sony knows how to put a camcorder together. This smart black camcorder nestles into the hand like it was born there, its elegant 69mm (2.7-inch) LCD sparkling with life and key controls falling neatly to hand. Not that there are too many of these, as the touchscreen interface handles most functions -- from spot focusing to scene selection -- with aplomb. There's a quick manual wheel near the lens that can be customised to alter focus, white balance or exposure, although not full iris and shutter speed control.
You also get a superb widescreen colour viewfinder, and additional shooting controls on the LCD for flip-over self-portraits and shooting at awkward angles.
The 10x Carl Zeiss zoom lens lacks the sheer magnification of some rivals, but makes up for it with silky smooth operation, split-second focusing and crisp detail. It's also efficiently stabilised using Sony's Super SteadyShot system. Another Sony stalwart is the Super NightShot mode, allowing eerie infrared filming in total darkness.
Choose the highest XP shooting quality (a healthy 15Mbps in the 1080i format) and you'll fit an epic 13.5 hours footage on the 100GB hard drive inside. Clips can be viewed by initial frame or at various intervals, but there's no editing on board.
Full quality AVC-HD movies from its 3-megapixel CMOS sensor are simply breathtaking. Detail is confident, accurate and natural, auto exposure and white balance are utterly reliable and even the 5.1 soundtrack sounds semi-professional. Choose ‘x.v.Colour' for an expanded colour gamut that captures primary tones so luscious you'll want to lick your TV screen.