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Video Cameras

Sony Handycam HDR-UX5

High-def recording for the masses at AU$1,799. You'll have to do without optical image stabilisation though.

Sony has launched two DVD high definition handheld camcorders, the HDR-UX7 and HDR-UX5, to replace last year's HDR-UX1. Click here to read about the other high-def and standard-def cameras that Sony have launched or are about to launch.

Upside
The AU$1,799 HDR-UX5, which features a 10x Carl Zeiss T* zoom lens, brings the price of high-def recording well and truly under the AU$2,000 barrier. The HDR-UX1's design has been updated with relocated controls and an exterior furnished with 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.

In sliding under AU$2,000, the HDR-UX5 had to shed a few features seen in its predecessor, namely optical image stabilisation and the large 3.5-inch touch-screen LCD. Carried over are the 4-megapixel CMOS sensor, dual recording, 5.1 channel surround sound recording and smooth slow record. 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 can be slowed down to a quarter the normal speed, which is perfect for 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 2.7-inch LCD screen. While a neat solution to the problem of button overload, the LCD gets smudged and dirty quick smart -- a problem we encountered even during our brief hands-on preview.

Transferring or viewing your cinematic works should be easy with the supplied USB, i.Link, HDMI and component connections. If you've got a Blu-ray player, you can also pop your DVD discs straight into the player to view on the big screen. As with all removable media camcorders, though, be prepared to stock up on media. Those with itchy trigger fingers might want to check out Sony's hard-disk high-def camcorder, the HDR-SR1. There's also a MemoryStick DUO slot for storing photos, which is inconvenient for those of us who don't have an all Sony household.

Outlook
A few desirable features have been lost to bring the HDR-UX5 in at its attractive price. If you can spare a few hundred dollars more, try the AU$2,099 HDR-UX7 on for size. For that you get a few more megapixels, a larger LCD screen, optical image stabilisation, the assignable dial, and headphone and microphone jacks.

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