Mid-range handycam with 40GB hard drive
- 40GB hard drive, Memory Stick slot, intuitive touch-screen controls, effective night shot mode
- Single CCD struggles in low light, uninspired design
The DCR-SR65 is up to the usual standards we have come to expect from Sony, offering exceptional ease-of-use and reasonable video quality at a semi-affordable price. It will provide satisfactory performance for those who aren't ready to make the leap to high definition.
Price$ 999.00 (AUD)
The DCR-SR65 is one of the mid-range models in Sony's extensive hard-disk-based handycam range. Equipped with a 40GB hard drive, 1-megapixel CCD sensor, 25x optical zoom and a Memory Stick slot for hybrid recording, it provides reasonable value for a standard-definition camera. With that being said, novice users will probably prefer the beginner-friendly DCR-SR85, while sticklers for quality will be better off with the advanced DCR-SR220. We're subsequently a little unsure who the SR65 is supposed to be aimed at, but if you're looking for a sub-$1000 camcorder that doesn't skimp on features, this model won't disappoint.
The SR65 is almost indistinguishable from its HDD stable mate, the DCR-SR85. Both models come equipped with the same Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens and 1/6in CCD sensor, as well as identical modes and feature sets. The only difference is in hard drive capacity, with the SR85 receiving an additional 20GB. If you already own a few memory sticks, the extra HDD space is largely irrelevant, which makes the SR65 camera the better buy.
Naturally, the main benefit of hard-disk-based camcorders is that you don't need to muck around with discs or tapes — all footage is stored on the camera's built-in hard drive (which, in the case of the SR65, can hold up to 27 hours of data). This is boosted by an additional 5.5 hours when combined with an 8GB memory stick. Conveniently, you can transfer your hard drive files to and from the memory stick, which is a great way to backup your data. Playback is also made easier by the SR65's hard drive — separate scenes are conveniently displayed as miniature thumbnails, with the included Face Index mode displaying your subjects' respective noggins.
Unlike Sony's premium HDD cameras, the DCR-SR65 uses CCD technology (as opposed to a CMOS sensor). The technical difference between CCD and CMOS has largely blurred over the years, though the latter does occasionally struggle in low light. We found this to be the case with the SR65, with noise levels swiftly enveloping the frame when shooting in dim environments (as expected, blacks were particularly grainy). As with the DCR-SR85, you're going to need plenty of sun or bright florescent lighting to get the most out of this camera's video performance.
On the plus side, Sony's excellent Nightshot Plus mode has made a triumphant return. This allows you to shoot crystal-clear footage in almost complete darkness; albeit with washed out, nearly indistinguishable colours. While the monotone palette may put some off, we think it's far preferable to the blurry 'strobe effect' most camcorders employ. Otherwise, the SR65's video performance was on par with other HDD models in this price range, offering sharp and reasonably vibrant images when used in sunny environments.
When it comes to design, the SR65 isn't exactly bursting with style. Once again, Sony has stuck with its tired black-and-silver aesthetic, which has been a camcorder mainstay since the 1990s. By contrast, JVC has spruced up its Everio range with sleek ergonomic designs and glossy black finishes — we feel it's time Sony followed suit. Otherwise, the camera handles very well, with a sturdy build quality and intuitive controls.
As always, we found the touch-screen interface to be a joy to use, though large-fingered individuals may struggle with the smaller icons. (Of course, the same thing could be said about the miniature joysticks and buttons that clutter many of this camera's rivals).
Weighing in at a barely-there 360g and with overall dimensions of 76x77x113mm, the DCR-SR65 is very portable. This can occasionally prove problematic if you have trouble holding a camera steady, though a little practice should swiftly eliminate this problem.
For audio, the DCR-SR65 comes equipped with a top-mounted stereo microphone and accessory shoe (unfortunately no 3.5mm jack is included). The built in mic also utilises Zoom Microphone technology — this works in conjunction with the optical zoom, allowing you to focus audio on a distant subject by zooming towards them.
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