Sony’s entry-level HD video camera makes good in its promise of high definition footage but lacked some key features I thought should have been included. Let me share some of the footage and shots I got with the Sony HDR-XR100 Handycam.
The XR100 packs an 80GB HDD which contributed to the weight of the handycam (0.41kg) despite its small size. Fits just right with a clasp of the palm but since the grip-handle is beside the HDD enclosure, you’d always feel the whizzing sound of the drive’s spindle. That somestimes give an impression that the handycam is so fragile and you get worried you might bang it against something or drop it off your hands.
The built-in 80GB HDD is the main storage option that can record up to 580 minutes of full HD videos or up to 32 hours on LP but you can augment it with aÂ Memory Stick PRO Duo (memory card sold separately).
The lens Â is a Â Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar powered byÂ 1/5″ Exmor CMOS sensor with ClearVid array and has an effective resolution ofÂ 4-megapixel (this is the biggest resolution yet I’ve seen in a videocam). Â The 35 equivalent isÂ 42 – 497mm with an aspect ratio of 16:9. The aperture size is between F1.8 – 2.2 so you can really get some nice depth in the videos and photos.
I tested it out and took videos and still pictures. The zooming (10x optical zoom, 120x digital) and panning capabilities are both smooth and well-focused. Depending on lighting conditions, the autofocus function can be almost instantatenous to a few seconds. That being said, the shutter speed is good as long as you have enough light and is comparable to regular P&S cameras out there.Â
Unfortunately, this model doesn’t have any built-in flash so taking photos at night without a good light source is close to impossible (the XR200 model has one though and there are external flash lights for this but that’s an extra expense already). However, the video recording easily adapts to whatever ambient light is available. Here’s a sample raw photoÂ (1.1MB) and a sample MPEG2 exported clipÂ (19MB, also available in HQ at YouTube). The exported clip has already degraded because the Sony software that came with it only allows for exporting into WMV or MPEG2 format.
Maximum video resolution is 1920×1080 pixels (Â 1080/60i) and the quality is very good. The photo capture quality is impressive at 4MP and if you looked at the raw file, you will find very little graining or pixelation although edges are a bit smoothed out and not very crisp. The Carl-Zeiss optics did not disappoint.
There’s not a lot of physical buttons on the videocam because the controls are on the screen. At first, I thought it will be a little hard to navigate the 2.7″ wide panel but it turns out the capacitive touchscreen works just fine. Of course, that goes without saying it’s a smudge/fingerprint magnet. The lens cover is manually opened/closed so much of the split-second missed/uncaptured moments are due to that (they have it automatic for the XR200) oversight. Â
The handycam automatically turns on once you open the LCD and just turns off when it’s closed. That basically helps save power of the 1,000mAh Li-Ion battery pack. The battery size is kind of odd though for the rated capacity and protrudes at the back. On normal use, it takes about a whole day of use before it’s totally depleted.Â
The Sony HDR-XR100 is a pretty solid videocam. The biggest turn-off I think is the list price (Php52,995 at Ansons) but HD quality handycams are still on the upper end of the spectrum although the 4MP CMOS sensor (biggest I’ve seen in most video cameras), Carl-Zeiss lens and 80GB HDD might justify the cost.