Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
- Impressive video performance, decent stills camera, highly user-friendly
- Limited selection of manual controls, performs poorly in low light levels
The Sony DCR-SR200E manages to stand out from the crowd thanks to its impressive image quality and exceptional ease-of-use. One of the better HDD handycams on the market.
Price$ 1,599.00 (AUD)
When it comes to purchasing a digital video camera, modern consumers are spoiled for choice. With HD, mini-DV, and DVD all vying for your attention, making an informed decision has never been tougher. A relatively recent addition to this array of competing formats is HDD, which negates the need for tapes by recording directly to a hard disk drive. Naturally, the format's primary strength lies in its ease of use, which is exactly what Sony's latest handycam, the DCR-SR200E, excels at most.
The DCR-SR200E features a 40GB HDD that can store between 28 and 9.5 hours of footage, depending on the quality of video selected. Preserving your video is then a simple matter of saving it to your PC, VCR or DVD recorder. Thankfully, the included software allows you to create and edit DVDs with ease, with no previous experience necessary.
User-friendliness is an area in which the DCR-SR200E truly shines, and this is a fact that is noticeable in every facet of its design. Capturing quality footage and cycling though settings is instantly achievable straight out of the box, even if you're a manual-addicted novice. This is helped along by the intuitive touch screen panel, from where the majority of settings and modes can be selected.
In our test shots, the camera's 2.1-megapixel ClearVID CMOS sensor captured vibrant yet unsaturated colours in bright settings. With the obvious exception of High-Definition cameras, it offered some of the sharpest clarity we've seen. Naturally, the camera performed a lot worse in our low light tests, with indistinct colours and extremely high noise levels. The included night mode alleviated this problem at the expense of colour, offering impressive clarity in a universal shade of green. The mode continued to work perfectly in almost complete darkness, making it the ideal choice for night time video.
In addition to the night mode, Sony's DCR-SR200E includes the usual array of handycam features, along with a few intriguing additions of its own. An example of this is the Smooth Slow Recording function, which records objects moving too fast for the human eye to perceive. At 10X optical and 80X digital, the camera's zoom functions are less than stellar, though they should satisfy the needs of most users. We were also left unimpressed by the restricted manual options, which lacked separate adjustments for shutter speed, gain or aperture. Thankfully, the assorted auto modes are fast and intelligent, especially in the focus department. Those who prefer a 'hands-on' approach though will be better off looking elsewhere.
As has become customary for digital video cameras, the DCR-SR200E also includes a still camera, capable of capturing images at 4 megapixels. Like most camera-equipped handycams, the results are fairly impressive, yet fall short of a dedicated digital camera. Nevertheless, it will serve the purpose of the occasional happy snap, and can capture still frames to Memory Stick while simultaneously filming to the hard drive.
The DCR-SR200E has a compact and functional design, retaining the familiar silver finish and traditional handycam shape of Sony's recent output. Because the touch screen takes care of the majority of commands, the buttons are easy to locate and pleasingly spaced apart, despite the camera's diminutive size. We were also impressed with the unit's overall weight, which remains relatively light, yet heavy enough to keep your shots smooth and steady. In addition, the specially designed Smart Protection System casing will help ensure your hard drive's data will survive the occasional rough treatment.
One minor gripe surrounds the battery placement, which protrudes from the back of the camera in an ungainly manner. While it doesn't affect the camera's functionality, it makes for a strange and unattractive look.
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