While high-definition camcorders continue to be the most exciting for camcorder enthusiasts, Sony continues to develop its standard-definition hard-drive camcorders. The company's four new models for 2008 include changes to core features, such as sensors and lenses, smaller overall size compared to last year's models, and some technologies from Sony's digital cameras in the top SD HDD model. All of the models also include built-in zoom microphones and a Quick On feature, which basically puts the camcorder in standby mode, so it consumes significantly less power than in regular mode and lets you start recording faster than if you had to power up from scratch.
The most interesting of the bunch is the $850 60GB DCR-SR220, which includes a 2.3MP, 1/5-inch ClearVid CMOS sensor with Sony's new Exmor on-chip noise reduction. That's just a slight bump up in pixels from last year's 2.1MP DCR-SR200, though that sensor was a larger 1.3-inch chip. It'll be fun to see if the new Exmor noise reduction, which works in conjunction with a Bionz processor (another tech borrowed from Sony's still cameras) can yield a better image than last year's model. Face detection finds its way into this line in the SR220, which can find up to eight faces and use them to set color balance, exposure, and focus. In photo mode, face detection also sets the flash output. Speaking of photos, as usual, Sony interpolates the still images captured, so the SR220 outputs 4MP stills from its 2.3MP sensor. The SR220 also sports a 15X (up from 10X) T* optical zoom lens with Sony's Super Steady Shot optical image stabilization, a 2.7-inch widescreen LCD, 5.1 channel surround sound recording, and a dual record mode that lets you capture 3MP stills while recording video. One more note on face detection-- Sony says that it will allocate more bits for the face when capturing footage. This initially gave me visions of sharp faces on top of slightly blurry bodies, but if done subtly, it might add an almost subconsciously pleasing effect. We'll have to wait for the review to see.
Just below the SR220 is the $700 60GB DCR-SR85, which replaces last year's SR82. Other than the smaller body design, the camcorders are essentially the same. Te SR85 has a 1/6-inch 1MP CCD sensor, 25X optical zoom lens with Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization, 2.7-inch widescreen LCD, and like the SR220 can record video or still images to a MemoryStick Duo card as well as the hard drive. Sony says that almost 11 hours of video can be recorded onto a 16GB MemoryStick Duo card, while the 60GB hard drive can store up to 41 hours of footage.
Sony has added a new tier to its HDD line with the $600 40GB DCR-SR65. It also has a 1MP 1/6-inch CCD sensor and 25X optical zoom with Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization, and a 2.7-inch widescreen LCD. Like its more expensive brethren, it includes Sony's Active Interface Shoe, so you can add accessories, such as video lights and long zoom mics. According to Sony, the SR65 can store up to 27 ours of LP-mode footage on its 40GB hard drive.
At the bottom of the HDD line we find the $500 30GB DCR-SR45, which replaces last year's SR42. It can store up to 20 hours of LP-mode footage o its hard drive and sports a newly designed 1/8-inch 680,000-pixel CCD, a 40X optical zoom lens, and 2.7-inc widescreen LCD.
Sony expects the DCR-SR45, DCR-SR65, and DCR-SR85 to be in stores at the end of January (this month), while the DCR-SR220 is expected to start shipping in February.