Sony HDR-SR8E review

£766
Price when reviewed

Sony’s been pioneering the consumer market for high-definition camcorders in the UK, and it’s adding further momentum with the second-generation HDR-SR8E – its new flagship hard disk AVCHD camcorder.

The SR8E uses Sony’s latest high-resolution CMOS. This large 1/2.9in sensor offers 3.2 megapixels, although this is aimed at improving digital still image capabilities. Sony now boasts 6.1-megapixel stills, derived from the top 4:3 resolution of 2,304 x 1,728. The SR8E also sports a 100GB hard disk to store over 13 hours of video at the top high-definition XP setting (15Mb/sec).

Although the SR8E isn’t a semi-pro camcorder, there’s plenty for the more serious consumer. A separate roller controls manual focus – not as good as a lens ring, but close. Most other functions are accessed through the touchscreen LCD, including spot focus and metering with a single touch of the video preview, and even AE and white balance shift. The Smooth Slow Record function records up to 12 seconds of video at four times the usual speed for frame-perfect 25% slo-mo.

Built-in connections include proprietary (at one end) HDMI, analogue AV and component. There are even mini-jacks for headphone and microphone. However, the accessory shoe is of the Sony proprietary variety, so you can’t fit a third-party camcorder microphone/light.

In bright sunlight, the SR8E produces excellent image quality, although more compression artefacts are noticeable than with HDV. Colours are well saturated in less clement indoor illumination, too, but in low light the noise levels are high and the image virtually grey.

A USB port resides on the docking station when it’s time for editing. Now that AVCHD support is starting to appear in mainstream editing apps, the major flaw with the format is starting to recede, strengthening AVCHD as the consumer HD camcorder format of choice.

The HDR-SR8E isn’t perfect, but it’s very good in lots of areas. If you’ve been waiting for the do-it-all camcorder for the HD age, the SR8E is the first model we feel comfortable recommending. It may still be pricey, but with oodles of storage, good overall performance and decent still image capabilities, it’s an AV tour de force.

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