Three PC World readers will be in the running to take home a pair of MOMENTUM True Wireless which are meticulously crafted with every fine listening detail considered. *T&C's Apply
- 40x optical zoom, affordable price, surprisingly decent audio
- Unhelpful menu layout, no stills mode, sub par visuals, boxy design
The Sony DCR-HC38 is a low-end, standard-definition handycam with an assortment of design glitches. Nevertheless, if you're after a cheap camera that can capture adequate looking footage, you'll probably be able to live with its faults.
Price$ 529.00 (AUD)
With all the hullabaloo surrounding high-definition video, it's easy to overlook the abundance of 'regular' Mini DV cameras still on the market - many of which remain perfectly adequate for today's consumer. While they are unable to capture video at a resolution of 1080i, there is still plenty to like about yesterday's generation; not the least of which is its plummeting price range.
At an RRP of just $529, the Sony DCR-HC38 certainly won't break the bank, yet it falls down in a number of key areas, including the holy grail of entry-level camcorders -- ease of use. Simply put, it has one of the most unwieldy and needlessly complicated menu systems we have ever encountered, which is bound to alienate its target audience of novice users. This is especially baffling when you consider how light on features the camera is. We have reviewed other Sony models with twice the functionality, yet their menus remained intuitive and simple to use.
For example, the main menu is hidden inside the Function menu, as opposed to receiving a dedicated button of its own. This is plainly bizarre, and makes even the simplest task an intimidating process for beginners. Similarly, certain functions, such as white balance, are located in completely separate menus, causing needless headaches as you hunt about and backtrack fruitlessly. There seems to be little rhyme or reason for this schizophrenic interface - even experienced users will initially find the layout confusing. On the plus side, those who prefer to simply point-and-shoot with a minimum of fuss will be pleased by a prominently marked Easy button, which takes care of most of the hard stuff for you.
Another area where the DCR-HC38 fails to impress is its stills image mode - there isn't one. This is practically unheard of in today's range of camcorders; including entry-level units such as this. To be fair, it is unlikely the images produced would have been suitable for anything other than an occasional happy snap, yet this fails to justify the omission.
We were also left cold by the build of this camera. While we appreciate the inclusion of a view finder in addition to an LCD screen, it cannot be tilted up or down, which makes shooting at low angles incredibly difficult. The overall design is also boxy and unattractive, exhibiting none of the sleek curves found on its more expensive cousins. Furthermore, Sony's celebrated touch screen interface seemed a little less responsive than previous units we've reviewed, a fact which isn't helped by the tiny icons. If you're afflicted by large and unwieldy man-hands, this camera probably isn't for you.
When it came to audio and image quality, the DCR-HC38 performed about as well as can be expected at this price point. With a single 1/6" CCD sensor at a resolution of just 0.68 megapixels, this is at the lower end of the Mini DV spectrum. Noise was evident in all but the sunniest of shooting conditions, while colour reproduction was slightly dull and muted. Meanwhile, the lack of an external mic jack means you're stuck with the camera's front-mounted microphone. Thankfully, sound quality was slightly above average in our test shots, and there is even a handy mix function for those who want to dub additional audio.
For all its faults, this is still a decent unit for the asking price, especially if you're not too fussed by complicated menus. Plus, the inclusion of a massive 40x optical zoom helps to take the sting out of its assorted shortcomings.
Join the newsletter!
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Google Pixel 3a review: Less is more
- 2 Huawei P30 Pro review: A photography powerhouse that leans into and elevates its natural strengths
- 3 Panasonic Lumix S1 review: Pushing your limits
- 4 Dell G7 review: Growing pains
- 5 HP Envy x360 13 (Ryzen): Full, in-depth review
Latest News Articles
- Jabra try to reinvent the modern meeting room with new PanaCast plug-and-play solution
- Panasonic's powerhouse Lumix S1H can shoot in 6K at 24 frames-per-second
- D-Link locally launches Omna home surveillance hardware
- Ring expand local offering with new Stick Up Cam
- CES 2019: Arlo expand into the smart home, confirm Arlo Ultra pricing
PCW Evaluation Team
As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.
The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.
This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.
Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications
I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)
It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!
- Everything you need to know before you buy a 5G phone in Australia
- Google Pixel 3a review: Less is more
- Panasonic Lumix S1 review: Hands-On Australian review
- Which flagship TV is best? Sony 4K HDR Bravia 2016 versus LG 4K HDR OLED 2016
- 10 Blu-ray movies / Best looking Blu-ray movies