We've complained before about Sony's touch-screen interface--that it's simply annoying on a large LCD and close to unusable on a small one such as the DCR-SR100's. It's full of tiny buttons and the touch screen itself is prone to smudges and fingerprints. Tweak-happy users will find themselves either cursing this camera or praying for a stylus. If you like the touch screen, however, then you can kick the SR100's design rating up by a point. The left bezel sports duplicate zoom and record buttons, though they're neither responsive nor very useful.
As befitting its price class, Sony put some nice finishing touching on the DCR-SR100, including an automatic lens cover and a snug accessory shoe protector. Although it might sound trivial, that lens cover eliminates a significant speed bump when you're shooting. Like JVC's Everio models, the Sony Handycam DCR-SR100 records directly to a hard drive. Its 30GB drive can store as much as 440 minutes of high-quality video, 1,250 minutes of low-quality video, or 10,000 3-megapixel still images. You can play the video directly on a TV via the bundled composite cable or copy the files to your PC; the camcorder mounts as a hard drive via a USB 2.0 connection. Like DVD camcorders, hard drive camcorders record using MPEG-2, and Sony saves the files as media-player-readable MPG files; your system--Mac or PC--may require a codec update in order to play or edit them, however.
For the DCR-SR100, Sony couples its 3-megapixel HAD CCD with one of the better Zeiss T* lenses. It uses 2 megapixels to capture video before downsampling to 720x480 (16:9) or 640x480 (4:3), and snaps 3-megapixel still photos in both 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratios.
You'll find the typical array of Sony premium-priced features in the DCR-SR100, such as Super SteadyShot hybrid image stabilization, NightShot and Super NightShot infrared modes, and a four-channel microphone for Dolby 5.1 Surround audio recording. With an optional mic, you can capture center-channel sound. The hotshoe can also accept a flash/video light, to replace the SR100's built-in lamp.