Pros Easy to use menus, clear and sharp touch screen a plus. The fine tune focus knob up front can help in some situations where the camera focuses on what you dont want it to. Objects not moving (or very little) are very sharp and clear.
Cons Despite changing settings through all of the 4 HD modes, and 3 SD modes, objects that are in motion show clear signs of interlace blurring when viewing videos on a computer. The 6mp sensor can take 12mp images??
Summary I'm an engineer, and I set up a small test to see how well the HD would perform. I took 14 sequences of video shots of the same area, a busy sidewalk with two streets. The first 4 were in HD mode, and 5.1 ch surround. For each set, I went through each mode HD/SP (7m), HD/LP (5m), HD/HQ (9m), and HD/FH (16m). The next 4 were in HD mode, and 2ch stereo. The final 4 were a re-do of the first set, all in HD with 5.1 ch surround on. I also took two longer videos of the same scene on HD/HQ (9m) one with 5.1 ch audio, the other with 2 ch.
For HD/LP the default is 1440 x 1080 / h264 / 29.97fps / ~ 6.2mbps
For HD/SP the default is 1440 x 1080 / h264 / 29.97fps / ~ 7.9mbps
For HD/HQ the default is 1440 x 1080 / h264 / 29.97fps / ~ 11.2mbps
For HD/FH the default is 1920 x 1080 / h264 / 29.97fps / ~17mbps
I used Xilisoft HD to get the information on each of the files and put together averages. I'm sure that if I did more sequences I could get a better average for each of the HD formats.
Since all the videos are stored on either the HD or Memorystick PRO Duo, it *should* be easy to work with a computer for post processing. HD files are saved with an .MTS extension for AVCHD video files. Not every video program can handle AVCHD formatted videos, so make sure you have something that can handle them.
The first thing that I noticed when pulling up the videos on the computer was very unexpected was the amount of blurring on moving objects (cars, people walking) that were crossing (left to right or vice versa) in front of the camera. People walking directly towards (or away) seemed less blurry, and static objects were very clear. Static objects looked great, incredible even. But the blurring of moving objects, was distracting. The issue of playing interlaced video (from the camcorder) on a computer (who is progressive scan) is likely the cause of being able to see the jagged lines.
I took more time to look at the videos on my computer, and in *ALL* HD modes, if objects are moving across the front (or worse when the camera starts to pan across a scene) the images show clear signs of interlacing/de-interlacing. People walking have a 'wavy' outline, while cars moving at 15 mph (or less, it was a stop light...) looked like a comb on the edges...like someone had pulled parts of the images in the direction of travel, but left the other part behind. I know what interlacing is, but I never expected it to be so clearly evident in this camera and on a computer. Since I intended to play/edit/reformat video on my computer first, this was a pretty unexpected downer. Doing more research on the internet and reading Wikipedia (as a start) for *interlace* and *deinterlace* will cover exactly what the issues are (the blurring that I'm seeing).
All video playbacks were performed on a computer with a Viewsonic VG2230wm monitor, and an EVGA GTX 280 HC at both 1400x1050 and 1680x1050, 32 bit, max quality. Next I played the videos on a Samsung LN52A860 52" 1080p LCD HDTV. The issues with seeing the interlaced/de-interlaced reduced considerably, but now seemed to show up with an odd coloring halo (green/red) around moving objects.
Since I wanted to find a way (any way) to see if this camcorder could play videos on a computer monitor, I switched to SD mode (aka non HD). I took a series of videos similar to the first tests in HD.
For SD/LP the default is 720 x 480 / Mpeg2 / 29.97fps / ~3.9mbps
For SD/SP the default is 720 x 480 / Mpeg2 / 29.97fps / ~5.6mbps
For SD/HQ the default is 720 x 480 / Mpeg2 / 29.97fps / ~9mbps
In the videos it appeared that the same interlace/de-interlace issue was present with SD videos, which leads me to guess (I couldn't confirm) that the 720 x 480 is also interlaced. The manual states Video Signal : HD: 1920x1080/60i; SD: NTSC color, EIA standards. Since NTSC = 486 interlaced scan lines, I'm calling SD mode interlaced as well.
The good things with this camcorder, the GPS feature is nice. I thought the steady shot/image stabilization system was very good. The ability to take pictures while taking a video...a sort of snapshot mid video...seems smart but I don't know if its a key item to purchase this camcorder alone for. I'm also a bit confused as to how a 6mp sensor can deliver a 12mp image without interpolating (ie filling in) by a factor of 2x. An unfortunate oversight is that the camera doesn't include a mini HDMI cable.
The bottom line is that this is probably a good camcorder for folks that want to take videos and watch them on a tv only, a tv that can display interlaced images. But I would *NOT* recommend this camcorder for folks that want to watch/edit/process these videos on computer monitors, or 1080p or any progressive scan only device. The edges will be very blurry, and distorted and the HD will only stand for HighDollar not HighDef. Even trying to process out the interlacing with post processing left artifacts that made the picture look distorted and low quality.
Pros Very light and compact. Very easy to hold. Nice touch screen menu navigation. Basic features are easy to understand for getting started. Comes with many advanced features. Takes great video. Hard drive based system so much easier than tapes
Cons No mini-HDMI cable out of the box. For the price of this camera you would think they could include it. Stupid Sony proprietary memory cards and cable connectivity. Sound pickup is not at the same quality as the video.
Summary I researched extensively. There are so many camera's on the market to choose from. All have their pros and cons. Overall this unit does very well. Sony is not my preferred brand (infact I typically try and stay away from Sony) but you can't beat the fact they make good camcorders. Definitly recommended if you got the $$
Pros This camcorder is great for the entry and intermediate user. Perfect for the Mac user. Very clear LCD touch screen. Contains GPS. Takes good 12.0 mpixel pics for a camcorder. Can take pics while videoing. Has a manual focus control switch.
Cons Wife says that it is a little difficult to hold, not for me. Does not include mini HDMI cable. Due to HD quality videos the load time does seem to take a while, almost double the time of the recording.
Summary This camcorder replaces Sony's HDR-SR11 & SR12's. A little more expensive than it's counterparts, but has added GPS, a 120GB HDD, and still images at 12.0 mpixels. I bought mine for $1099 at a local retailer. This is a hybrid so you can insert a Memory Stick Pro Duo, but most will have no need for that with the already large HDD. It does very well in low light situations and the its ability to stabilize videos while you are moving or even running is very good. The touch screen is great, it is not too sensitive or not sensitive enough. At first a touch screen sounded bad to me, now I don't want a camcorder without one. You will need a large backup hard drive to store these files or you need to purchase a Blu-ray burner to backup the videos, if you burn the videos onto a regular DVD then you lose the HD quality. I have an 5 month old iMac (fall '08) and this camcorder works very well with it. I had read that the SR11 & SR12 worked well with Macs and so does this one.
You really can't get much easier than this camcorder. It has great quality in it's video and pictures while allowing for some adv. settings to be manually changed. If you are looking for a camera on a more professional level or with a lot of advanced features that you can play around with then this is not your camcorder, but for the rest that want a good investment for their families home memories this is great.
Pros good low light and night performance
works on a Mac
nice user interface/touchscreen
Can't quite utilize the HD video with my non-pro computer
Summary I've read the other reviews. I've tried both HD and SD modes on this camcorder. The quality on my 32" LCD TV is quite nice. Really looks like high definition in HD mode.
The camera works with my 3 year old MacBook and iMovie '09. Downloading the videos is just like they show on the iMovie '09 tutorial. I've used both HD and SD modes in iMovie '09. SD video upload work the most smothly with some quality reduction from what you see when watching this straight from the camera to the TV. I think some of this is expected. Backgrounds and objects in motions appear to be crystalline in form. But the quality for me is still acceptable. Exporting the video using the best settings to iTunes creates a video that is pleasing to watch and better than 90% of videos you see on the internet or digitized. I've seen some videos on Vimeo.com that are better.
I've tried using the HD mode with iMovie. The software actually warns me that this option may result in poor playback on my computer. Once in iMovie the HD files are more crisp but have some trouble playing smoothly. I suspect this is a problem of software and computer power. I intend to get a better computer and possibly Final Cut in the next year so that I can edit in HD. For now I am using SD and am basically satisfied.
One of the key reasons I chose this camera was for the low light performance. It blew away the Canon in its class in this metric. I could see the Canon start to grain up even in the stores lighting. I have taken video in very low light that were great quality. There is also a night mode that uses infrared to capture video. This is a neat feature.
Pros Optical Viewfinder
Low Light just Rocks
Optical SteadyShot does a great job
Color reproduction accurate
5.1 is amazing on a 5.1 system.
LCD is big and looks great
Camera has a solid, well-built feel
GPS integration with Google Earth
Cons Interal GPS map is pretty worthless
LCD Viewfinder can be hard to see in sunlight
Should have inlcuded a mini HDMI cable
AVCHD files take a lot of PC Horsepower to edit
No 24Mbps recording
Manual controls lacking for more pro-level users
Summary This is a great camera and a great buy. Sony's new flagship camera uses it's new back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor for increased low-light sensitivity without the extra noise.
I am not shill for Sony and I actually have owned my XR500v for over a month now and have recorded many hours of high-def. No camera is perfect and no camera does it all, but the Sony is worth a detailed look.