Sharing a perch at the top of Sony's HD prosumer camcorder line, the Handycam HDR-SR7E manages to combine a raft of cutting-edge capabilities without forgetting that its primary function is capturing high-quality HD video.
This facility still doesn't come cheap or easy, but if you've got the money and the patience, the SR7E delivers the bang you've been wanting, for around £800.
Along with its trio of siblings -- the tape-based , the flash-based , and the DVD-based -- the SR7E uses Sony's 1/2.9-inch, 3.2-megapixel ClearVid CMOS sensor, recording video at 2.3-megapixel (HD) or 1.7-megapixel (SD) resolution before downsampling and encoding to 1080i HD -- 1,440x1,080 pixels -- or SD -- 720x480 pixels, respectively.
It also shoots photos at native 2.3-megapixel (16:9) or 3-megapixel (4:3) resolutions, despite the grandiose 6-megapixel claim on the body, which refers to a maximum interpolated resolution. It sports a 10x zoom Zeiss T*-coated lens and 5.1 Dolby surround-sound recording.
If all you plan to do is play the video back on an HDTV, the SR7E is a great fit. For editing, though, there are still some hurdles to jump. Most important, the AVCHD format used by Sony, Panasonic and Canon for file-based HD recording faces some .
In Sony's case, it really should drop the feeble Picture Motion Browser software bundle and include the more functional Vegas Video Movie Studio Platinum Edition, at least for the folks who drop nearly £1,000 on the HD Handycams. Other cutting-edge pitfalls include a mini-HDMI connector -- Type C, which requires a cable that's not yet ubiquitous and support for the mostly still unviewable x.v.Colour -- xvYCC -- colour space.
That's all unfortunate, because the SR7E otherwise delivers a very good HD experience. From a design and operation perspective, it has everything we liked about the HC7. It weighs a bit less -- 530g without battery -- but feels similarly comfortable to hold and shoot. Only using the touchscreen requires 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. Like most of Sony's consumer models, the SR7E incorporates the love-it-or-hate-it touchscreen interface. We fall more into the hate-it camp, especially on the SR7E's smaller 16:9, 69mm (2.7-inch) LCD.