With so many competing formats in the world of digital video recording, it becomes difficult for most consumers to decide what it is exactly that they're looking for. Each format has different advantages and disadvantages, and the lines aren't exactly as clear cut as we'd sometimes like. So, when yet another format comes to the party, the results aren't always pretty. It adds another option to research and consider for potential buyers. Nevertheless, we're being presented with new options increasingly frequently, one of the most recent being the HDV MiniDV format. Similar to the standard MiniDV format, it delivers HD video recording at a 1080i, the resolution at which most HDTV is broadcast at. Sony's HDR-HC7E is just such a model, and although it delivers great image quality, its price may put it out of the range of casual users, whilst its limited zoom makes it slightly unsuitable for a lot of high level amateur use.
- Great image quality, extensive manual controls, fantastic still image functionality
- Limited zoom, expensive
The HDR-HC7E is pricey, but its impressive image quality makes it an attractive choice for those who can afford it.
Price$ 2,299.00 (AUD)
Image quality is definitely the HC7's strong point. Delivering full HD video at 1080i resolution through a 6 megapixel CMOS sensor, we found images to be incredibly clear and well defined. Even in lowlight or dark environments, images retain a relatively good quality, thanks largely to Sony's "Nightshot" mode. Colour reproduction is very good, especially considering that the HC7 uses a single CMOS sensor only; we did notice some slight over-saturation however, something fairly common with most digital video cameras. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it tends to deliver brighter and more colourful images, but if you're looking for accurate colours then you might need to do a little tweaking.
Aiming their camera at higher level users, Sony has included a large range of manual options, something we were very pleased to see. White balance, ISO, shutter speed and focus are all manually adjustable, although pleasingly the automatic settings performed very well during out testing, especially the auto focus, which responded well to rapid changes in the environment and motion. Limited zoom options are probably the only drawback to the HC7's feature set, with only 10x optical and 20x digital zoom available.
One of Sony's most impressive additions to this camcorder is the still image functionality. Capable of capturing 6 megapixel images (or 4.6 megapixel if taken whilst filming), it's actually at the point where it's competing with some digital still cameras, giving it some impressive versatility. Despite being a peripheral feature, it's nevertheless a great addition which really helps to flesh out the camera's functionality and justify its somewhat high price.
With battery life and recording time to a single MiniDV both coming in at over an hour, combined with the ease of editing MiniDV tapes on the fly, the HC7 is perfectly suited to users looking for a great combination of versatility and reusability. Although its price might put it out of range for entry level buyers, amateurs looking for some high quality video equipment will find it to be exceptionally useful.
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