The HDR-HC7 continues the tradition of Sony's excellent series of consumer HDV camcorders. Incorporating Sony's 1/2.9-inch 3-megapixel ClearVid CMOS sensor, the HC7 outspecs its 2-megapixel predecessors and the HC5 to rise to the top of Sony's single-chip consumer HDV camcorder line.
It's not alone up there. With the exception of recording media type and the resultant design issues, the HC7 is essentially a twin of the DVD-based HDR-UX7. And we wouldn't be surprised if the eventual follow-up to the hard-disk-based HDR-SR1 made them triplets.
Weighing around 680g with battery and tape, we found the HC7 quite comfortable to hold and shoot -- only using the touchscreen required an awkward two-handed balancing act.
Though inconvenient for menu navigation, the LCD otherwise works well, and remains visible in harsh lighting. We generally prefer shooting with an eye-level viewfinder, though, and wish Sony had padded the hard plastic eyecup.
The sensor and a few random features differentiate the HC7 from the HC5. They share the same Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 10x zoom lens, though the tiny difference in sensor sizes results in a relatively insignificant disparity in focal lengths.
In contrast to the HC5, a dial on the HC7 lets you assign one shooting adjustment setting -- manual focus, exposure compensation/exposure shift, white balance shift (toward red or blue) and shutter speed -- to control via the rather slippery dial. And the HC7 supplies a microphone input and headphone jack.
For shooting convenience, Sony provides its excellent SuperSteadyShot optical image stabiliser and Active Interface Shoe, plus Super NightShot infrared mode for when you need to tape in the dark. A nice selection of jacks populates the HC7, including HDMI 1.3 and component outputs. And while most camcorders have a FireWire port -- i.Link, if you're Sony -- Sony actually bundles a cable with the unit. Other niceties include a built-in electronic lens cover, a LANC connector and a flash for still photos.