Sony HDR-HC1: A Quantum Leap For Video Buffs

Usage And Handling

A look at the connections on the HC1. From left to right: FireWire for transferring HD and DV to the PC; USB 2.0 for photos; component outputs for linking up to an HDTV set; normal AV for a conventional TV set; and a power port for the battery charger.

In our couple of weeks of using the HC1, we found that the pop-up viewfinder was seldom needed, and the same goes for the digital camera function with built-in flash. We think that a digital camera function is completely unnecessary in a camcorder in this price range. Most users ambitious enough to buy the HC1 will reach for a higher-resolution digital camera when they want to take still images anyway.

As in many other Sony products already on the market, built-in functions may be accessed using the swing out monitor/touch screen on this camera - the record control buttons on the monitor are pretty helpful. For PC access and data transfer, you'll find connectors for both USB and FireWire, but USB works for transferring only still photos.

The Nightshot switch strikes us as a kind of party gag; the modest reach of the infrared lights on the camera just doesn't cut it for serious night vision recording.

At a weight of nearly 25 ounces (700 grams), the HC1 is barely heavier than conventional compact DV camcorders. Sony includes a standard 37 mm Carl Zeiss lens on this camera, which features a 10x optical zoom for focal lengths from 50mm up to 490mm. You can't remove this lens and replace it with another one just yet, as compatible macro and telephoto lenses for this camera aren't available.

Note that we can't recommend activation of the camera's digital zoom function. And although the integrated Nightshot function supposedly enables recording in complete darkness, the infrared lamps on the camera illuminate objects only up to 5 feet (1.5 m) away. This has novelty appeal for use at parties, but little practical use. On the plus side, the Zebra lighting control is helpful, because it provides an on-screen indicator for overexposed objects in the viewfinder or on the built-in LCD monitor during recording.

The sound quality from the stereo microphone built into the camera lens is good. Better yet, Sony also includes a 1/8" external microphone jack under the lens barrel on the right side, with a manual audio level control on the touch screen. There's even a headphone jack for those who want to listen while they're shooting.

Look at the buttons on the left side of the lens barrel. There's a special button for telephoto and macro ranges, while the "Backlight" button is designed for use when recording against a light source.