Cutting-Edge Camcorders Page 5
The Short Form
|SONYSTYLE.COM / 877-865-7669 / $2,000 / 2.875 x 3.75 x 7.5 IN / 1.75 LBS WITH BATTERY, TAPE, AND LENS CAP|
|•Superb high-definition image quality. •Records on standard DV tape. •Easy-to-use menus on LCD touchpanel. •Reasonably priced for an HD camcorder.|
|•No bundled capture/editing software. •Some problems with bright, saturated highlights. •Bass-shy recordings from internal mike.|
|•$2,000 •Records 1,440 x 1,080-pixel high-def video •LCD viewscreen/control panel •Captures 1,920 x 1,440-pixel still images to Memory Stick Pro •10x optical zoom •Pop-up flash for still-camera function •Stereo microphone •input/output i.Link for digital A/V; LANC jack for control of compatible devices; Active Interface Shoe for video light or external microphone •input external mike •outputs multiconductor component video (1080i/480i); composite video and stereo audio; S-video; USB 2.0; headphone|
The only other notable performance weakness was limited bass in the pickup from the built-in mike, which is intended to reduce the noises produced by wind and camera handling. But you also miss the body-shaking rumble of a passing subway train - a switchable wind filter would have been a better solution.
EDITING Unless you're really good at in-camera editing - setting up, starting and stopping your shots precisely - you'll eventually want to "capture" (transfer) your footage on a computer for editing. Alas, neither the HDR-HC1 nor the big HDR-FX1 comes bundled with capture/editing software. Both cams connect to any computer with an i.Link (FireWire, IEEE 1394) connection, but you'll need a video editing program like Sony's Vegas that specifically enables HD capture (Mac users will need at least iMovieHD). The typical standard-definition video capture/editing software you may already have - including Windows Moviemaker - will not be able to transfer the HDR-HC1's high-def footage. However, if you use the camcorder's internal convert-to-standard-definition function when dubbing, you'll end up with standard-def computer files that are great for making your own widescreen DVD productions.
Computer capture of HD material is doubly important given my experience with tape/machine compatibility problems when playing an HD tape in a camcorder it was not recorded in. I don't want to be alarmist, but all my tapes made in the three-chip HDR-FX1 - recorded on blanks from several manufacturers, Sony among them - played with intermittent stuttering (frozen frames, audio dropping out every few seconds) in the HDR-HC1. Both cams were review samples, and I don't know what kind of abuse they may have suffered before I received them. But each played its own tapes without problems. The solution, if this is a real problem, is to play your HD footage in the camcorder it was recorded in, capture it in HD to a computer hard drive, and then burn unedited DVD-ROMs for future editing on any computer.
BOTTOM LINE Given the HDR-HC1's striking image quality, filmmaking friends I've shown it to seemed quite willing to put up with hassles like buying a new HDTV able to display native 1080i signals or archiving their footage to DVD-ROM (a good practice in any case). If you want to capture scenic vistas in full high-def glory or if any of your (very) deserving gift recipients has any aspirations to filmmaking, the HDR-HC1 is the camcorder for you and for them. I've used all the consumer HD camcorders on the market, and the HDR-HC1, despite its minor limitations, has a winning combination of performance, features, usability, compactness, and price. It is by far my favorite.