Well, I hope folks waited if you want an high definition hard disk camcorder. Sony just announced the HDR-SR7 that seems to deliver according to “Camcorderinfo.com”:http://www.camcorderinfo.com/content/Sony-HDR-SR7-First-Impressions-Review-29388.htm. It is an AVCHD camcorder so you need to update your video editing software to the latest version to edit it, but it does have a 60GB hard drive.
It has a 1/3″ ClearVid CMOS sensor that does OK in bright light. It still has trouble like all current generation AVCHD cameras with motion artifacts (things blur because the codec is still new) and more noise. All AVCHD camcorders have trouble. From all previous Sonys like the HDR-SR1 as well as the Panasonic HDC-SD1 (it has three 1/4″ CCDs, so it is not an imager problem). Basically, if you care about quality, you still have to stick with the HDV format of the Canon HV20 (“Pricegrabber”:http://camcorderinfo.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php?masterid=32868415&mode=cci_mlink_FPA000000070 $1040) . The biggest issue will be low light performance since the imager is smaller and the AVCHD format is itself noiser. Again from a performance standpoint, the miniDV tape using HDV is higher quality if less convenient.
As an aside Panasonic HDC-SD1 and the Sony HDR-CX7 both use memory cards (HDSD and Memory Stick Pro) respectively instead of a hard drive. I don’t quite see why you’d want this as currently a 4GB memory card only has 30 minutes of high definition footage on it. The hard drive idea seems way better at least until flash cards get into the 60GB range.
Technically what is happening is that HDV is based on MPEG-2 and AVCHD is based on MPEG-4 (which is the same as H.264 if you like acronyms). MPEG-4 is about twice as efficient in terms of compression, but the current hardware isn’t mature enough to really take advantage. Thus, HDV runs at 24Mbps while AVCHD runs at 15Mbps but the new codecs aren’t as good. If you can hang on, wait for the next generation AVCHD camcorders (I’m sure they’ll get better), otherwise, get the tape-based miniDV HDV based on MPEG-2 (or for the simple minded, buy a Canon HV-20).
The one good news is that at last editing programs support HDV, you need to buy Sony Vegas 7.0e (this by way is a great program).
In another sad aside, for standard definition, it looks like the Sony “DCR-SR300”:http://www.camcorderinfo.com/content/Sony-DCR-SR300-Camcorder-Review/Performance.htm actually has worse low light performance than the SR100 we have. Has to do with a new imager, so beware.
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