The SR100 records in the AVCHD format at 1,920x1,080/60i. At its highest quality, the 16Mbps mode, you can record a little over 7 minutes of video per gigabyte of storage. That's about 9 hours and 40 minutes on the hard drive. If you drop to 9Mbps mode, that increases to about 15 minutes per gigabyte.
|Key comparative specs||Sony Handycam HDR-XR100||Canon Vixia HG20|
|Sensor||2.4-megapixel Exmor ClearVid CMOS||3.3-megapixel CMOS|
|1/5 inch||1/3.2 inch|
|Lens||10x f1.8-2.2 42 - 497mm (16:9)||12x f1.8-3.0 42.9 - 514.8mm (16:9)|
|LCD||2.7-inch touch screen||2.7-inch|
|Media||80GB hard disk, Memory Stick Pro Duo||60GB hard disk, SDHC|
|Maximum bit rate||16Mbps||24Mbps|
|Manual shutter speed and iris||No||Yes|
|Audio||5.1 channels||2 channels|
|Body dimensions (WHD, inches)||2.8 x 2.8 x 5.1||2.9 x 2.5 x 5.4|
|Operating weight (ounces)||14.5||17.6|
It seems like the autofocus system has more trouble than usual distinguishing subject from background, which slows it down a tad. And the LCD simply isn't very sharp; it's nearly impossible to tell if something's in focus or not. Furthermore, the battery doesn't last very long; it's rated for less than an hour under typical usage, which jibes with my experience. On the other hand, the XR100 starts up surprisingly quickly for a hard-disk-based unit.
Despite using the same sensor and lens as the CX100, I find the video quality less impressive. Overall, it's slightly soft, even when not scaled up on a large TV; as you'd expect, even more so in dim light and less so in closeups. Outdoor shots look a bit low contrast with blown-out highlights, though most colors--except for some blues, which is not uncommon--are relatively accurate. Video in living-room level light is acceptable if somewhat desaturated. On the upside, the XR100 doesn't have the CX100's lens flare problems, but it does frequently display fringing on high-contrast edges. The 4-megapixel interpolated stills look somewhat overprocessed, as you'd expect, and the native-resolution shots have edge artifacts like fringing and halos.
If you're looking to spend $600 on an HD camcorder, there are a lot of decent alternatives you might want to consider before shelling out for the just-OK Sony Handycam HDR-XR100.