Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
- HD 1080i recording, great battery life and feature set
- Expensive, colour representation lacking in some areas
The HDR-HC5E is a quality product, but it comes at a price. Despite a few flaws with colours, this camera performs very well in comparison to most camcorders. For those who can afford it, it's a great unit.
Price$ 1,799.00 (AUD)
Sony's HDR-HC5E MiniDV handycam is labelled as a "hi-def" camera, and while it certainly does deliver video in impressive 1080i resolution, it's important to note that this doesn't necessarily guarantee that your movies will look like true high definition video. The HC5E handycam is slightly let down by some of its features, and its colour representation at times, but overall it is a great choice for anyone looking for high resolution video capture. The HC5E doesn't come cheap, but users prepared to pay will find that it delivers excellent video recording performance.
The big selling point of the HC5E is its ability to record High Definition, 1080i video, and in this aspect it definitely doesn't disappoint. Footage is sharp and well defined, even when displayed on large LCD and plasma screens through the camera's HDMI output. While there are still notable issues with quality, it's superior to the vast majority of what's available on the camcorder market. We did notice image noise in several shots, especially in darker areas, although this wasn't too pronounced. Colour representation is definitely one of the weaker points; despite using the new x.v.Colour international standard for space, designed to increase colour range, we still found that the camera was unable to accurately reproduce several colours, especially yellows. Reds and greens, by contrast, were slightly overemphasised. This isn't necessarily a bad point, as it makes a lot of scenery seem brighter and more vivid, but users looking for true-to-life colour might have a few issues. Night time or low light shooting produces much lower image quality, however the Nightshot filter does manage to combat a lot of this, delivering good quality video at the cost of colour reproduction (which is almost non-existent).
Although the handycam supports up to 80x optical zoom, digital zoom is limited to 10x, which may be a little short for some viewers. This is fairly standard with MiniDV cameras. Video quality dropped noticeably at high zoom levels, which is of course to be expected, however the high resolution of the camera made this less critical, and footage shot in full, 80x zoom was still watchable. Unfortunately the shake at this level of zoom makes getting a steady picture difficult without a tripod. Audio quality was good, and the camera's inbuilt microphone was powerful enough to pick up sound at over ten metres quite easily.
The HC5E is a little more bulky than several other models, due to its MiniDV format, but nevertheless rests comfortably in the hand, and at approximately 1kg with tape and battery, it isn't too heavy. Button layout is standard and the on-screen menu is very well laid out, with customisation options allowing users to set up their own "quick menu". The touch screen works well, with big buttons and words; we didn't find ourselves having to squint too much to see what we were selecting.
The camera comes with a full range of manual controls available, as well as automatic settings, which we found to be perfectly good in the majority of cases. The menus themselves are jam packed with dozens of functions, including picture effects, camera settings (such as turning beeps on and off), recording quality settings and digital zoom.
As usual with Sony, battery life is incredible at over an hour and a half, a lot longer than the recording time of a standard MiniDV tape. Recharging is quick and easy, and to top it off, Sony provides a great range of optional accessories capable of boosting battery life and recording time to even more impressive levels.
Overall, the biggest disadvantage of the HC5E is its price. While it outperforms the vast majority of the handheld camcorder market, it also carries a much heftier price tag. Regardless, for those who enjoy the idea of a camcorder and are willing to pay for the extra quality, it's a highly worthwhile product.
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