The Handycam DCR-SR47 is Sony's entry-level hard-drive-based standard-definition camcorder. The main attractions are its small size, large storage capacity and megazoom lens. It's also fairly easy to use, partly because of the touchscreen-based menu navigation and partly because of its dearth of shooting options. As with most camcorders in its class, the video results are mediocre, especially if you're watching them full screen on a large high-definition TV or are used to the detail of high-definition content.
If you're not terribly concerned with video quality and want a reasonably priced camcorder that's easy to use, has a megazoom lens and can fit in a large coat pocket, the DCR-SR47, available for around £230, is worth checking out.
Available in blue, black or red, the DCR-SR47 is a cute little camcorder. Its physical controls are typical, with a start/stop button at the back and zoom rocker up top, in front of a shutter release for snapshots in photo mode. The whole package is roughly the size of a can of fizzy pop. The hand strap is comfortable, if a little low, and, because hard drives have become so small and light, the body is mostly lens.
The battery juts out from the back. Below it is the Memory Stick Pro Duo card slot and power input. Up front, below the lens, is a small door hiding an AV output. Flip open the touchscreen display -- there's no viewfinder -- and you'll find a row of buttons in the body cavity for power; turning off and on display information; direct-to-DVD recording using Sony's £150 VRD-P1 DVDirect DVD burner; and changing over to playback mode. There's also an 'easy' button that locks down the camcorder's few advanced features, and a button that instantly adjusts exposure for backlit subjects. The last of the input/output ports is in this cavity, too: an uncovered mini-USB port.
The touchscreen is responsive, but can get slightly confusing for those unfamiliar with Sony's menu and home buttons. Pressing the menu button gives you access to context-sensitive shooting options, while the home button gives you access to everything else. The main problem with this set-up is remembering which functions rest where. Fortunately, Sony has put the menu tree in print in the manual that comes with the DCR-SR47. With some practice, the system makes sense and even full operation -- not just point and record -- becomes simple.
This camcorder has been designed for hassle-free recording and, as such, doesn't have many extra shooting options. A majority of our field testing was done with the DCR-SR47 set to 'auto' for white balance, scene selection and focus, and it performed satisfactorily. There are more scene options if you choose to get specific, and the same goes for white balance. Also, should you want to be more hands-on with focus and exposure, you can control both by touching the spot on-screen that you'd like the camcorder to draw its information from.
Despite its low-end status, the DCR-SR47 performs reasonably well. It has an instant-on option that's activated by opening the LCD display, getting the camcorder powered up and ready to record very quickly. The autofocus is responsive, but, when zoomed out, it does hunt around trying to focus, particularly in low-light conditions.
The rated battery life for the included pack is 90 minutes of continuous shooting. Expect less if you're frequently turning the DCR-SR47 on and off and reviewing clips. Extended-life batteries are available, one of which Sony claims has a life of up to 11 hours of continuous shooting.