First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
- Good quality video and still pictures, easy to use software, lots of features
- Large frame, slightly awkward to hold, clunky interface
The Sony DCR-SR100 is one of the first hard disk based camcorders on the market, and demonstrates why the technology is here to stay.
Price$ 1,799.00 (AUD)
Sony's DCR-SR100 is one of the few Hard Disk Drive based camcorders on the market at present. One of the problems using DVD camcorders is the limited recording times. Most can manage only 20 to 30 minutes on their highest quality settings, a constraint caused by the diminutive sized DVDs they employ. The DCR-SR100 blows away all concerns over recording time, with its 30GB hard drive allowing an extended seven hours of recording. Naturally, the battery won't last anywhere near this long, but if you purchase some backups the DCR-SR100 makes the ideal camcorder for a family vacation.
Video and Image quality
Thankfully the image quality is also fairly good. Colour reproduction is vivid and sharp, with great definition between differing shades. There is also little sign of image degradation in fine details. Where the image does dissolve a little is when filming rapidly moving objects - on a couple of occasions we noticed a few tell tale blocks of compression creeping into the footage. On the whole though, the DCR-SR100 competes favourably with many DVD and Mini DV camcorders we have tested. Sony's standard special effects are once again present with Sepia mode, colour fading and other features included. Night shot also makes a welcome return, with an infrared LED providing short range illumination, even in total darkness.
Still images are reproduced well with a 3 megapixel sensor. While 3 megapixels may seem mediocre these days, the DCR-S100 has one of the most impressive still image performances we have seen on a video camera. We were especially impressed with outdoor shots, with bright colours and sharp lines coming across beautifully. Shots taken in unnatural light or using the built in flash were less impressive, with the camera struggling to reflect lifelike shades. Also included are a couple of nice extras such as a special mode that rapidly takes three photos at varying exposure levels, allowing for the user to select the best settings.
Unlike many camcorders, the DCR-SR100 has no external media slot for Memory sticks or SD cards - there's simply no need with the 30GB hard drive providing storage for 10,000 photos at high quality, more than enough for even the most ambitious photographer.
There are two primary advantages of using HDD technology: the lengthy recording times and ease of editing. These advantages do come at a cost, namely the size of the camera. Though the DCR-SR100 is finished attractively, it is far heavier and bulkier than many of Sony's other models, and this is compounded by an awkward control layout. For this model Sony has opted to place the battery horizontally rather than vertically which limits the amount of room available for fingers and thumbs. This, together with the bulky frame, makes the DCR-SR100 uncomfortable to hold and the controls difficult to use.
There is another disadvantage to HDD technology, in that disk drives are notoriously sensitive to movement. To prevent damage to the disk mechanism when the camera is dropped Sony has included a motion sensor which freezes the hard disk in place when it detects a drop. Sony has helpfully included a manual override, which they suggest using when you wish to take the camera on roller coasters. Taking a video camera on a rollercoaster seems a little unwise, but at least the option is there!
As with all recent Sony camcorders, the inclusion of a 2.7 inch widescreen LCD is an excellent addition. This means that most features can be accessed by using the LCD's on screen menu. Of course, this makes things difficult when using the viewfinder, but this is a minor complaint. A greater complaint is Sony's interface - with their new range of camcorders Sony has gone for a confusing menu system complete with gaudy animations and rotating 3D barrels. While this would undoubtedly cause adoration on a Playstation title, its usefulness in a functional role is slim. Finding a specific feature can be a confusing process. Thankfully, most of the more useful functions such as night shot and taking still images are accessible from outside this menu.
Editing and Video Transfer
It's not much use having videos stuck on your camcorder, so at some point it becomes necessary to transfer them to alternate media. The DCR-SR100 provides several options for this, the foremost of these being transfer to a PC. Using the included USB cable and software it's very easy to copy video onto a computer at the touch of a button. Editing is equally simplistic, though the only options available are cut and merge. Unlike some prior offerings, with clunky software and complicated settings, Sony has finally nailed file transfer and editing. Should you wish for some more advanced editing in a third party program, this can easily be accomplished as all files are encoded in basic MPEG format. In addition, Sony also includes the option of one touch DVD burning.
Overall, the DCR-S100 makes an excellent buy. It circumvents Mini-DV's awkward file access and DVD's lack of storage in one easy to use and reasonably priced package.
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