Sony HDR-FX1: High Definition Video Has Arrived!

Conclusion: To Buy Or Not To Buy

The Sony HDR-FX1 impressed us greatly. It's perfect in terms of image quality, has good sensitivity, and features professional-level ergonomics. Its innovations are such that it will remain a benchmark in the market for years. But does that mean you should make the move to high definition?

You must remember that buying an FX1 implies investing not only in a pricy camera, but in a whole series of other expensive products. To appreciate its quality you need a flat-screen television set or HD-compatible video projector, and to edit the HDV video you need a powerful video-editing computer - these can add several thousand dollars to the total bill.

Many people will wonder if it makes sense to invest in a Panasonic AG-DVX100A or a Sony DCR-VX2100 when the Sony HDR-FX1 can shoot both in DV and HDV for $3,990. It's a legitimate question, but it's not a simple one to answer. One reason is that the Panasonic AG-DVX100A has dropped to $3,400 and also has an XLR port for a professional microphone, which the FX1 lacks. Another is that regular DV is compatible with all editing software, and even an entry-level computer costing $600 is enough for dealing with it, unlike HDV. Finally, we must point out that image quality isn't just a matter of the number of pixels on the screen; color rendering and sensitivity are also important, and in these areas, the AG-DVX100A and DCR-VX2100 don't take a back seat to the HDR-FX1.

To help you make this difficult choice, here are four good reasons to buy and not to buy this video camera:

Buy it if:

  • You want to show your video on an HD flat-screen TV or a home cinema setup
  • You have a computer powerful enough to do editing
  • You want a camcorder that can shoot both in DV and HD
  • You want to shoot in native 16:9

Don't buy it if:

  • You want a camcorder with an XLR port
  • You don't have a powerful enough computer to edit HD
  • You don't have an HD-compatible TV
  • You feel a DV camcorder can already produce images that are of acceptably high quality
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Sony HDR-FX1
Recording mediumMiniDV cassette
Video compressionHDV (MPEG-2) / DV
Audio compressionPCM
Vertical scan lines1080i / 576i
Definition1440x1080 pixels
ImagersCCD 16:9, 3x1.12 megapixels
Filter diameter72 mm
Optical zoom12x
35 mm equiv. focal length32.5 mm - 390 mm
Sensitivity3 lux
Shutter1/4 - 1/10,000 sec
ViewfinderColor, 180,000 pixels
LCD display16:9, 9 cm, 250,880 pixels
16:9 modeyes (native)
24p modeYes
InputsDV, composite, RCA audio, S-Video, microphone mini-jack
OutputsDV, composite, RCA audio, component, S-Video, headphone mini-jack, LANC
AccessoriesComposite cable, component cable, charger, power cord, remote control
Weight with battery4.6 lb (2.1 kg)
Dimensions5.9" x 14.2" x 7.1" (15.1 x 36.5 x 18.1 cm)
Quality/price ratio****
Overall score*****