Sony HDR-SR10 high-definition camcorder

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Sony HDR-SR10
  • Sony HDR-SR10
  • Sony HDR-SR10
  • Sony HDR-SR10

Pros

  • 1920x1080i high-definition video, additional memory stick slot for hybrid recording, performed above average in low light conditions, shares most of the same features as its premium-priced siblings

Cons

  • Its rivals in the entry-level HD space are significantly cheaper

Bottom Line

While slightly overpriced for an entry-level HD camcorder, the HDR-SR10 offers a variety of innovative features for the asking price. Those with beefier wallets, however, would probably be better off with one of its deluxe stable mates.

Would you buy this?

  • Buy now (Selling at 1 store)

Most camcorder buyers treat the phrase 'high definition' like some high-tech gospel to be fanatically revered. After all, if it has 'HD' slapped on the box, it must be the cream-of-the-crop, right? While this is true to some extent, the video quality of high-def camcorders can deviate considerably, depending on the model at hand. While they all offer higher resolutions than their standard-def counterparts, this is only part of the video imaging puzzle, with sensor size, lens arrangement and video codecs all playing their part as well. In other words, some HD camcorders are definitely 'more equal' than others.

With an RRP of $1499, the 40GB HDR-SR10 isn't the cheapest high-def model on the block, yet it falls under the 'entry-level' umbrella all the same. As the underdog of Sony's latest HD litter, it lacks some of the unique selling points found on the Sony HDR-SR11 and HDR-SR12 E; two of its bigger siblings. First and foremost amongst these is Sony's redesigned 1/3.15in CMOS sensor. Instead, the SR10 sports an inferior 1/5in sensor, which has reduced its effective pixel count from 3810k to just 1490k. Consequently, its still image capabilities have fallen from 10.2 megapixels to a less impressive 4 megapixels. It has also been stripped of the SR11/SR12's microphone and headphone jacks, and comes with a downsized 2.7in LCD display. (The viewfinder is also absent.)

Otherwise, most of the features found on the SR11 and SR12 are present on this cheaper model; including a memory stick slot for hybrid recording, a new Bionz processor for reduced image noise, Sony's user-friendly touch screen interface, plus smooth slow recording mode and Face Detection technology. This makes the SR10 an ideal choice for casual videographers who require great looking video at a relatively affordable price.

Like the rest of Sony's high-def range, the HDR-SR10 records video in the AVCHD format, as opposed to HDV. AVCHD is an MPEG-4 based video codec which is considered ideal for hard disk-based handycams due to its higher levels of compression efficiency. In the 40GB SR10's case, this works out to a maximum recording time of between 4.8 and 27 hours, depending on the video mode selected (there are seven variable qualities). Naturally, this can be boosted via a memory stick media card, which currently come in capacities of up to 16GB. One of these cards will cost you a cool $400 though.

When the 40GB hard drive has filled up, you'll need to dump your data onto a PC, where it can be edited with compatible software (Sony includes a 30-day trial of Vegas Movie Maker in the sales package), or transferred directly to DVD. This is made handy via a convenient Disc Burn button on the camcorder, though you'll need a recordable Blu-ray drive for high-def footage. Basically, if you want to do more than plug your camcorder into a TV, you're going to need some supporting technology; one of the cons of AVCHD.

When it came to video quality, the HDR-SR10 performed solidly without quite blowing our socks off. While not as sharp as the SR11 and SR12, its output compared favourably to entry-level HD camcorders from competing vendors (which admittedly, do retail for slightly less money). We were particularly impressed by its showing in moderate lighting conditions, where noise levels were kept to a minimum. When compared to Sony's previous high-def models, such as the HDR-SR5E, the improvement in this area was really quite marked.

With its curiously mixed colour scheme, the HDR10 resembles the illegitimate love-child between a HD and SD handycam. Along its sides, it sports the glossy black aesthetic found on Sony's high-def camcorder range, yet its top and lens barrel are finished in standard silver. (We can only assume Sony wanted to differentiate this model from its premium-priced siblings.) It's a rather unusual combination that nevertheless remains quite striking. Otherwise, the HDR10 retains the same ergonomic shape as the SR12; albeit in a slightly smaller guise.

Once again, Sony has opted to minimise the presence of buttons on the HDR-SR10 in favour of a touch screen menu. This seems to have had a polarising effect on consumers, with as many people hating the touch screen LCD as loving it. Personally, we fall into the latter camp, and much prefer this unique interface to the usual fiddly joystick.

One of the touted new features on the HDR-SR10 is Face Detection; a special technology that allows the handycam to 'see' human faces. When a face is detected, the camera makes automatic adjustments to the focus, colour control and exposure settings to present your subject in the best possible light. If you've used a current compact camera lately, you'll probably have a good idea of how it works – the technology is basically the same. Up to eight faces can be tracked at the same time, with a visual indicator framing each targeted face.

Another neat feature offered by the HDR-SR10 is its smooth slow record mode, which captures high-def footage at a quarter of its usual speed; ideal for perfecting those tennis serves and golf swings. Otherwise, all the modes and settings you'd expect from a sub $1500 camcorder are accounted for; including adjustable white balance, focus and exposure, 10 programmable scene modes and a handful of digital/picture effects.

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