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The quality of high definition video recorded with this machine is quite outstanding. When held steady you can see the smallest detail even at a fair distance, the blades of grass, the wisp of hair, feathers of a bird etc etc in staggering detail when viewed on a full HD television using an HDMI cable, quite remarkable.
You will never want to go back to a non-HD camcorder and certainly not back to good old VHS tapes. What a shame such a machine wasn't invented when my kids were small. Please save up your pennies and enjoy this machine to record life around you.
The Handycam is compact and easy to hold, despite being 660gm with a FH70 battery. You can view your picture with the electronic viewfinder to your eye or hold it away from you and use the amazingly clear, sharp 2.75 x 1.75in touch-screen. So easy to use just point and press the red button at your thumb or more awkwardly the record button to the bottom left of the screen and away you go. Do hold it steady though, there is a reasonable anti-shake, but rock steady shots, pans and zooms make for far more pleasurable viewing, nothing worse than being sea-sick watching home video.
The on-off button is a bit fiddly, you have to press and turn it once for video and again for still photos. Above this switch, a green light indicates to the left or right whether in video mode or still shots mode. Two further indicators above are for battery life, which starts green, goes orange and then flashes before it pegs out. The other light illuminates red when connected to a computer.
The zoom, moved with the rocker switch left or right with your first finger, is amazingly smooth, very gentle and focus holds perfectly. The screen tilts from to-the-floor to right round so you can see yourself. Press record and the green STBY Standby indicator turns to a red REC record symbol. Just have to practice holding it steady, panning and zooming.
As with all video photography you need to stand with your feet slightly apart on firm ground, face where you want your shot to finish and then start your filming swinging gently round as you gently breathe out. Tripods are too fiddly for me and you'll miss the immediacy of your shots, learn to hold the camera steady.
There is a huge 120GB hard drive so you can set it up to always record everything on the auto default settings, the only one I adjusted was to always record on HD HQ for High Definition High Quality - you will still be able to record seemingly endless hours - haven't actually worked out for how long with above setting, but a busy two week touring holiday with far too many hours of video recording hardly made a dent on the disc capacity.
The one slightly useful setting is night-mode, which if you don't mind the scary eyes and black & white image might be of use; otherwise everything else is on default settings. Can't improve on an already fabulous quality.
The indicators through the viewfinder and on the screen are, clockwise from top left:
Home icon to take you to movie or photo settings, Battery life, STBY or REC, video setting eg HD HQ, remaining disc capacity icon, disc capacity as minutes remaining, icon to take you to all settings, play button icon.
To play back your video just touch the play icon and you choose where to start and it just goes.
Battery life is ok, turning my fully charged FH-70 on and it'll say 155 odd minutes, but the life is affected by how often you turn it on or off, if you use the screen or the viewfinder, how much you zoom and re-focus, outside temperature etc. In reality I would expect max 100 minutes of playing around. So a spare battery is essential, they come I believe in three capacities. Do buy genuine ActiFORCE ones, they look as though they are cheaper on ebay etc but they are not compatible with the battery pins, and they actually work by using a lead via the charging base unit, which is a waste of time.
You can play back your video on the camera though it will eat up the battery and there is some basic but fiddly editing functions, split and delete etc plus lots of fancy features you'll probably never use.
The batteries charge up on the camera in two or three hours, you know when they are cooked when the camera indicator goes off. If abroad remember the current can be lower than at home, even though it may be allegedly 220-250v, so allow for up to three times for the battery to charge in some countries.
I'm hardly going to mention the stills mode. Whilst this gadget is a 10.2 mega pixel camera it should be amazingly good. Maybe it is just me but I think it's pretty useless, only good if your regular camera is out of action, or you are restricted to carrying around just one toy. I say this because I think the auto-focus is too slow, and it takes too long to record the shots, and being a heavy camera it is too un-wieldy. It does however have a flash and you can take stills whilst you are video-ing. This can be done but you risk jolting your video shot whilst deciding what and when to do it. In theory I could take over 10,000 photos on the hard disk - why one wonders.
There is a slot for a memory stick pro-duo, which are now available over 8GB, but I can't see much point in using it. Short bits of HD video could be copied back onto it for playback I suppose.
Slots and connections - without the base unit there is continuous DC power in; mini-usb in/out; audio-visual out; external microphone; headphone and mini HDMI out. There is a standard tripod screw in the base. The battery is fairly easily taken on and off with a firm release slider.
The base unit, like a laptop docking station, feels a bit too light and plasticky, but works fine. You can place the camera on this and have the same DC in, av out and usb in/out.
When you are ready to playback your masterpiece, just use the HDMI lead, not usually supplied, plug into your TV and using the touch screen, touch where you want to start playback and all the video sequences will be played seamlessly one after the other. So easy.
Colours are amazingly true and images sharp down to the finest detail.
Bad points - it's pretty useless indoors in dingy rooms in artificial light, no doubt you can try and adjust for this by playing with the settings, but I'd rather avoid filming in such conditions. The other huge problem is video editing high definition footage.
The format AVCHD is a bit odd and the files are massive so unless you have some mega-fast state of the art as yet un-released pc with massive processing power and unlimited RAM you will pull your hair out trying to edit the video. The answer is don't try, instead video short pieces and use the supplied software to delete the ones you don't want, sort the sequence of shots and let the software join them up and write them to DVD or Blu Ray disc if you have a player to play them on. One thing you can do is extract stills from video sequence, which is a bit tedious but possible and very useful. Use this instead of using it as stills camera.
Standard DVD's are limited to 4.7GB so the amount of video you can fit on one is limited, but again, be warned the conversion and writing process from AVCHD to ending up with a DVD is interminable so set it running at night and go to bed. The standard of your original HD video converted to a standard video on a DVD is very good but obviously not as good as the original.
Invest in a TB, tera-byte, external drive to store your edited HD video as your pc's own hard disc will be swallowed up in no time, it is a safer more secure backup and you'll have space to keep the data as HD until such time as the cost of blue ray recorders and players comes down to earth.
When you want to astound your family with your new-found film-making skills, copy your original edited HD video on the computer, or external drive, back onto the camera, or a big memory stick, and play it back from there.
Those of you with new families please buy this toy; you'll just love it to, in the future, cherish memories of their childhood.
After much research we decided to go with this Sony HDR-SR12 in order to complete some basic video and then to edit it.
The camcorder cost around £800 when we bought it which is not cheap but when you understand some of the features this cam corder has it starts to seem a little more realistic.
The Sony has an inbuilt 120Gb Hard drive as well as the option to add an SD card which we have found more handy for holding the stills that this cam corder is also capable of taking. The 120Gb is claimed to store around 48 hours of video all though we found that after about 30 it was getting close to being full.
The battery life is okay but we have noticed that even if the battery indicator stated 70 minutes remaining it is only about half of that but with a good run it will probably give you at least an hour of continous recording.
One downside to using the Sony is that you require there software to view the files as they are in a AVHC format unless you convert them first and use 3rd party software to edit which can take quite a long while.
The Camcorder itself is a nice size and fits well into your hand, the buttons are easily located and it is nice and leight which makes it easy to carry round.
Overall, i would say that this is a little on the pricey side and the battery would benefit from lasting longer but that said it is a nice camera to use and easy to get around.
This digital video camera was probably the most expensive photographic purchase I have ever made, but I have never regretted it. I paid about £900 for it at the time (over a year ago).
For starters it has a massive 120GB hard drive built-in. Now I've heard lots of people fret and worry about hard drive camcorders, but let me tell you, the one in here is robust. Very robust. It uses the same cushioning that laptop computers use, plus a bit, and it's survived all the bad treatment I've accidentally dished out. The capacity is superb - it means even on the ultra-highest quality at full high definition, you can still get 12 hours of video, continuous. And with a high capacity battery, readily available online, you get 4-6 hours there too.
Secondly, it has a 'has-to-be-seen-to-be-believed' TFT monitoring screen, which blew me away the first time I used it, crisp, sharp, colourful, and it's a touch-screen too. Only downside is, it gets a bit smudgy and messy from touching it. You can of course buy screen protectors quite easily from various online retailers.
Thirdly, it feels great in the hands, and is not all that heavy at all. I use the side strap to put my hand through, and I can reach the power switch with my thumb (and the REC start/stop button) and the zoom with my finger, easily. The 'instant photo' button is just to the back of the zoom, so I've found no problem in using that while videoing.
Fourthly, the monitor (LCD) is optional, if you want to save battery life, you have the choice of just using the small but still colourful viewfinder monitor, for a more discreet videoing look. By not using the TFT monitor you do of course lose the ability to enter commands and customise things via the touchscreen.
Fifthly, it picks up sounds brilliantly. It officially uses several directions on its top microphone to give a Dolby Digital 5.1 illusion on playback, and actually it works very well.
Sixthly, it turns on and off pretty quickly, and if you really want fast access, there is a facility to put it on Standby, or 'Quick On' as Sony call it.
Seventhly, you can stick a Memory Stick Pro Duo into it to save all your photos to, freeing up hard drive space for video and enabling much easier transferring to the computer. You can choose whether to save pictures, video, or both to the Memory Stick. I'd recommend just staying with still pictures as video files are enormous.
Eighthly, nightshot mode - enables night time shooting of video with a nifty infra-red kind of look (in green). This has limited usefulness but it's nice to have the feature available.
Ninthly, the Optical Image Stabilisation is absolutely incredible, I just still cannot believe how well it works, and with no loss of image quality either. You really can get away without a tripod for this camera, and I very often have.
Lastly, the menu system and screen layout is really very simple to use and well laid out, so much so that the instruction book I have mislaid but don't really care too much!
After all that, any negatives? Well yes, just a couple:
First, the high capacity battery is great for extending video time, but it gets horribly in the way if you do want to use the built-in viewfinder and not the swivelling TFT screen, you would need eyes on stalks to be able to overcome that situation.
Secondly, because the video it produces is High Definition and BIG files, the format it saves in (M2TS) is uneditable unless you have something like a Quad-Core Processor PC, and the right software which is hard to find. You can watch them easily enough, but editing is still rather a problem.
Overall though, once my bank account had recovered, I was absolutely delighted with this camcorder, and still am. Being a Sony product, it should be reliable and work well, and mine certainly does.