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I use this product for my everyday work over at Geekanoids. Before I purchased this I tried various camcorders, even the recording function on a compact digital camera. The camera I had before this was a Sanyo Xacti, which I bought because it supposedly recorded in a computer friendly format... but that is another story.
The Sony HDR-HC7E is a very solidly built camera. When you get one of these in your hand it just feels like you have purchased a quality product. Sony are known for doing this very well, giving the consumer loads of features, but for me, the pro-consumer use was very important, ease of use, and high quality results. One more reason for me choosing this model, was trying one of Canon's equivalents and finding that tape noise was actually recorded in the audio... not so with the Sony, the tape motor on this product is very quiet.
It uses MiniDV tapes, of which I have bought a few and the High Definition rated versions are definitely worth paying for. The controls are very intuitive. The start/stop, power switch (which also toggles between modes) and the zoom rocker, all within easy reach of the right hand as it holds the camcorder.
Weight is really not an issue, at 660g for the camera, battery and my own tiny lens cap, the Sony is comfortable to hold, though for long periods of use I would recommend a tripod.
The flip out screen is a bit different on this one. It is widescreen in shape and has the zoom functions and start/stop record button repeated along the left edge. I didn't find this very useful. What is useful is that the screen is touch sensitive, so you gain access to the camcorder menus by touching the on-screen icons. I thought this would be a gadget, but it actually works quite well. Although I mainly use this camcorder when plugged into a mains source, on the two or three occasions I have used it with the battery it has lasted just over an hour, this is acceptable as a regular length MiniDV cassette only allows for an hour of footage anyway.
I transfer my footage onto a Mac, either using iMovie 08 or Final Cut Express and it works superbly. The video clarity is very clear indeed and I have not experienced a single problem with it. I should also mention that this records in full 1080i HD, fantastic. Audio is also top notch and if you want to expand it, you CAN plug in an external microphone. When I got the HDR-HC7E it was a penny under £750 which I think (although expensive) represents great value for money for what it does.
If you buy this camcorder, three recommendations. Buy a screen protector for the touch screen, to keep those greasy prints off it. Also, buy a UV filter for the front of the lens (which is 37mm and threaded), this will help protect your investment. The last is to buy a bigger hard drive, something like 500GB or 1TB (if you can afford it), as the HD content takes up a lot of storage space.