So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
- Small and attractive design, 30GB hard drive, very user-friendly, external microphone jack
- Only 1 megapixel, zoom is less powerful than cheaper HDD models, a bit too light
The DCR-SR62E is a much better option than some other HDD models on the market; especially if you're a first time user. It strikes the right balance between picture quality, useful features and price.
Price$ 999.00 (AUD)
The recent explosion in digital video sales has caused a staggering number of cameras to enter the marketplace. Even after you've narrowed down the format you want (Mini DV, DVD or HDD), the decision can still be overwhelming, with a huge range of competing models vying for your wallet's attention. The trick is to weigh a camera's useful features against its asking price - there's no point spending extra cash on modes and settings you're unlikely to use, yet at the same time, you need something that is capable of capturing decent footage. Sony's DCR-SR62E manages to strike a reasonable balance between these two yardsticks, offering fair picture quality and some nice user-friendly features for under $1000.
The DCR-SR62E is a HDD-based model, which means you don't need to muck about with discs or tapes when recording. Instead, all footage is stored on the camera's built-in 30GB hard drive, which can hold up to twenty-one hours of data (though only seven at the highest quality). Transferring your videos to a PC is a simple process thanks to the included docking station, which also doubles as a battery charger. This device is particularly handy when it comes to burning DVDs, with the dedicated Disc Burn button making for a simple one-step procedure. (An optional DVD Burner called DVDIRECT can be purchased separately, which allows you to perform the same function without a computer.) If you're not the most technically proficient person in the world or prefer to make movies with a minimum of fuss, this feature is sure to be appreciated.
One minor issue with the docking station is that the camera tends to 'sit' on top of the base, rather than sinking snugly inside - a result of Sony using the same exact unit for its variously shaped HDD cameras. This can occasionally prove frustrating during battery charges or data transfers, when an unintended bump can interrupt the process.
In terms of design, the DCR-SR62E is virtually identical to Sony's cheaper DCR-SR42 model, and subsequently suffers from many of the same flaws. Its diminutive size (73mm x 72mm x 109mm) can be quite a hindrance for inexperienced users - at less than half a kilogram, the unit is difficult to hold steady, especially when shooting at higher zoom magnifications. On the other hand, it does make the camera a lot easier to carry around, and your arms are unlikely to tire during lengthy shoots. Bear in mind however, that your footage will probably look a little shaky and amateurish until you get used to its flimsy design.
Another questionable design feature that the DCR-SR62E shares with its cheaper cousin is the lack of a viewfinder. The only way to monitor your footage is via the LCD touch screen display. This can often prove frustrating in sunny conditions when the screen is difficult to see, or when you are running low on battery life (LCD screens drain power a lot quicker than viewfinders.) Naturally, if you rarely use the viewfinder on a camera, its absence will mean nothing to you, but it nevertheless remains something to be mindful of.
On the plus side, the identical touch screen interface is very easy to get to grips with, allowing first-time users to cycle through different modes and functions without needing to consult the manual. The inclusion of a prominently marked 'easy' button is especially handy for amateur users who would prefer to avoid the menu screen entirely.
So what exactly does the DCR-SR62E offer over the DCR-SR42E to justify the steeper price tag? At first glance, it seems as if Sony accidentally got the two models mixed up. Both cameras include 30GB of storage space and most of the same features, yet the pricier DCR-SR62E has a significantly less powerful optical zoom (25x, instead of 40x). Presumably this was a marketing decision on Sony's part, as higher zooms tend to appeal to the entry-level buyer.
Thankfully, the DCR-SR62E makes up for its smaller zoom magnifications with higher picture resolution, thus justifying its place on top. The 1MP CCD sensor does an admirable job of capturing sharp, colourful images; especially in comparison to the DCR-SR42E, which has a resolution of just 680,000 pixels. While it can't compete with pricier models such as the HDR-SR5E, most users should be satisfied with the majority of this camera's video output.
Naturally, it fares less well in poorly lit environments, producing grainy, ill-defined results which the camera has difficulties focusing on. The included nightshot mode alleviates this to a certain degree, though the flat, monochrome palette is off-putting and unevenly lit. However, these are all problems that you would expect from a camera in this price range, and as such, are not worth marking the camera down over.
When you consider that the DCR-SR62E is only $100 more expensive than the DCR-SR42E, the choice over which model to buy is pretty obvious, despite the less powerful zoom. Plus, the DCR-SR62E shoots in a native aspect ratio of 16:9 (as opposed to 4:3), making it ideal for people with widescreen TVs. An external microphone jack and accessory shoe are also included - an essential component for anyone who hopes to capture crystal clear audio. All up, this is a pretty good camera for the asking price, offering the convenience of HDD technology at a very attractive price.
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