Sony HDR-SR11

An excellent handycam

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Sony HDR-SR11
  • Sony HDR-SR11
  • Sony HDR-SR11
  • Sony HDR-SR11

Pros

  • Suburb high-definition video quality, good low-light performance, 10.1Mp stills mode, tonnes of advanced modes and features

Cons

  • A little on the chunky side

Bottom Line

The HDR-SR11 is a slightly cheaper alternative to Sony's top-of-the-range HDR-SR12E. With the exception of a smaller hard drive, it offers identical performance to its award-winning sibling.

Would you buy this?

Like the deformed marionettes from the TV show Thunderbirds, all systems are 'GO!' at Sony's hard disk–based handycam division. The company currently offers 17 camcorder models across its consumer range, with the HDD format making up the lion's share. The HDR-SR11 is currently the best of the bunch (with the possible exception of the near-identical HDR-SR12 E).

This high-definition, 60GB camera sports all the bells-and-whistles that a top-tier Sony handycam should, including external microphone and headphone jacks, a camera control dial for precise manual adjustments, a Memory Stick slot for hybrid recording, and a 10.2-megapixel (Mp) still image mode. It also comes packed with the latest camcorder fads and trends, including Smooth Slow Recording mode, a zoom microphone and Face Detection technology. With the exception of its slightly underpowered 12x optical zoom (a common fault in high-end cameras), there is next to nothing we can find fault with.

As one of the flagship models in Sony's new handycam range, the HDR-SR11 doesn't pull any punches when it comes to image quality. Like its higher-capacity sibling, the HDR-SDR12E, it sports a completely redesigned CMOS sensor and processing chip for the cleanest image yet. Capable of recording at a maximum resolution of 1920x1080i, its video performance easily stacks up against the majority of competitors. While it lacks a 1080p 'full HD' mode, it nevertheless delivers some of the sharpest and most vibrant footage we've seen from a unit in this price range.

Another great thing about this handycam is its performance in low lightning. This is usually the bane of consumer-level camcorders, yet the SR11 managed to surpass our expectations. While noise did feature in our test footage, it was considerably less prevalent than most high-def units we've looked at in the past, including the SR11's predecessor (the HDR-SR7E). The colourless night mode, meanwhile, allows you to obtain usable footage in almost complete darkness. If you're after a video camera to chronicle your nightlife, then the SR11 definitely fits the bill — unless you object to carrying around a brick, that is.

Weighing in at 530g and with dimensions of 83x76x138mm, the HDR-SR11 isn't the most portable high-definition camcorder on the block (the Panasonic HDC-SD9, for example, weighs in at under 300g.) Unless you happen to sell stolen goods while wearing an oversized trench coat, it probably won't fit in your jacket pocket. On the plus side, the extra weight does make it easy to hold the camcorder steady, ensuring your shots will remain relatively smooth.

The SDR11's hefty size also hints at its high-end capabilities. Needless to say, this is much more than a point-and-shoot model (although novices are still well catered for via a dedicated Easy button). The ample assortment of manual settings includes adjustable white balance, shutter speed, focus and exposure, 10 scene modes, Tele Macro options, a Spot Focus screen and a handful of digital/picture effects. A camera control dial is also included. This allows you to quickly adjust focus and brightness levels on the fly while maintaining pinpoint accuracy.

Special mention must also go to the HDR-SR11's superb photographic capabilities. With a maximum resolution of 10.2Mp, this is one of the few camcorders on the market that can compete with a dedicated compact camera. You can capture photos directly to a Memory Stick for easy storage and transfer.

The SDR11 records video in the AVCHD format, with the 60GB hard drive offering up to 35 hours of recording time at the lowest quality setting. Naturally, you can also elect to record footage to a Memory Stick, which can store up to 16GB of data. With all that being said, if you're the type of person who likes to shoot everything that crosses their path, it might be worth considering the HDR-SD12E instead. With its 120GB hard drive, this camera offers double the storage space for a $200 premium. Nevertheless, the SR11 remains a highly versatile and functional camcorder for the asking price.

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