Sony HDR-SR11

he Sony HDR-SR11 is a solid, beefy charcoal-gray and black-bodied camcorder. Pick it up and you know it’s sturdy without the lighter-than-air feel of inexpensive Mini DV and DVD camcorders or even expensive flash-only models such as the Canon Vixia HF10 . It weighs 20.4 ounces without the battery, 23.4 with and measures 3.37 x 3 x 5.5 (WHD, in inches). By comparison the HF10 with 16GB of on-board capacity weighs around 15 ounces but it holds only two hours of Full HD video versus over seven for the Sony. Even with the extra weight it fits nicely in the palm of your hand once you adjust the Velcro wrist strap. The front of the -SR12 is dominated by a 12x Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* (T star) lens which equals 40-480mm in 35mm terms. This is a solid range but like the HF10, I wish the opening focal length was a bit wider for shooting landscapes. The lens has a built-in cover that opens and shuts when you power on/off. Also here is a built-in auto flash to help your stills. This camcorder is one of the first featuring a 5.7-megapixel CMOS imaging device which not only helps deliver the Full HD video but improves photos as well. Sony uses a bit of digital legerdemain (interpolation) to give the 10MP images touted on the spec sheet (more on these in the Performance and Use section). Still this 5.7MP sensor is one of the most potent ever used in a consumer camcorder. The $1,099 Vixia HF10 uses a 3.2MP CMOS sensor, by comparison. Other front features include a small backlight compensation button—a nice option to have quickly on hand--the remote sensor/infrared port and the CAM CTRL dial. The latter lets you quickly move into manual focus and fine-tune adjustments. This is the default setting but you can change it to exposure, AE or WB shift, if that’s more to your liking. And if you decide to shoot in total darkness using the NightShot mode, keep your hands off the infrared port since that’s the illumination for the video. Remember NightShot videos are lovely shades of green and an acquired taste. Sleeping babies still look cute, no matter what the color! Along with the strap, on the right you’ll find the HDD safely tucked away with a few unobtrusive embossed logos. Unlike almost every other camcorder, the HDR-SR11 has quality doors covering the outputs rather than flimsy pieces of plastic. Nicely done, Sony. The far left compartment has the USB and A/V outs while near the front are mic and headphone jacks along with a mini HDMI output. As an added bonus, the –SR11 is supplied with a Handycam Station that repeats several of the ports found on the camcorder itself (DC-in, USB and A/V out) along with a Disc-Burn button that lets you copy material to DVD on your PC. Realize these DVDs will have AVCHD-encoded video if you’re shooting in HD and only work on Blu-ray players; you won’t see anything on a legacy DVD machine. The left side has a piano black finish and features a swing-out 3.2-inch 16:9 touchscreen LCD. This high-quality display is rated 921K pixels, far greater than the typical 230K dots found on most screens. You use the LCD not only to frame your subjects but to walk through the various menu options. Simply tap on an icon on the bottom right with your fingertip and you have access to five screens worth off camcorder options ranging from type of focus, spot metering, scene modes, white balance, fades as well adjusting the mic and video quality. Move into camera mode and there are four screens with various options. Conversely you can just press the Easy button on opposite the LCD and the –SR11 is in full-on Auto mode where you simply aim-and-forget. For the most part, I liked the menu system; it’s very easy to follow and operate. Some may complain there are no options for shutter speed, aperture and so on but I really didn’t miss them. I did have some issues with the system as I’ll point out in the Performance section. To the left of the LCD on the bezel and controls to start/stop recording, adjust the zoom and quickly reach the main home page that offers more options depending on your mode

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