Sony HDR-HC1 HDV Camcorder - Product Preview

High Definition Format Video Recording for the Consumer

Sony's HDR-HC1 camcorder incorporates the new HDV (High Definition Video) format developed for consumer and prosumer applications. The HC1 is capable of recording in both the 16x9 1080i HDV and standard 4x3 (or 16x9) DV (Digital Video) formats, and uses miniDV tape for recording both formats. The HC1 has both HD-component and iLink outputs for full 1080i playback, but has a downconversion function for HDV playback on standard resolution televisions or when copying to standard DVD or VHS tape.

Image Sensor

While most camcorders employ a CCD (Charged Coupled Device) to capture video, the HC1 uses a single 1/3-inch diameter CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) chip, which consumes less power than a traditional CCD, and, as applied in the HC1, provides the needed resolution and color performance for both high-definition HDV and standard definition DV video recording. The effective pixels of the CMOS chip in the HC1 is 1.9 megapixels in HDV mode and 1.46 megapixels in standard DV mode.

Lens Characteristics

The lens assembly consists of Sony a Carl Zeiss® Vario-Sonnar® T* Lens, with a 37mm filter diameter. The lens features a 10x optical zoom with a focal length of 41-480mm in 16x9 mode, and 50-590mm in 4x3 mode. The lens can be focused manually or automatically, and focus ring is provided just behind the lens assembly on the camcorder exterior. The focus ring can also be switched and used as a zoom ring as well, although there is a standard finger-style zoom control at the rear of the camcorder.

Image Stabilization and Night Shot

The Sony HC1 utilizes Sony's Super SteadyShot system which employs motion sensors to detect camera movement. Video quality is maintained as a result.

The HC1 also continues in the Sony tradition of providing Night Shot capability. In the Night Shot and Super Night Shot modes, the image has a "greenish" tint, but real-time motion is retained. By activating the Color Slow Shutter function, in addition to Night Shot, low-light images will appear in Color, but motion becomes jerky and blurred.

Auto and Manual Controls

In addition to auto and manual focus, the Sony HC1 has both auto and manual controls for exposure, white balance, shutter speed, color shift, and sharpness. However, the HC1 does not have a manual video gain control, which would be desirable in difficult lighting situations.

Additional controls: Picture Effects, Fader Control, Shot Transition Mode, and Cinematic Effect, which tries to approximate a 24fps film look, but is not as good as the 24p feature available on some higher-end camcorders.

LCD Screen and Viewfinder

The Sony HC1 employs two viewing monitor options. The first is 16x9 high resolution color viewfinder, and the second is a 16x9 2.7 inch flip-out LCD screen. The flip-out LCD screen also serves as menu touch screen from which the user can access many of the manual shooting functions, as well as the units playback functions. This feature eliminates "button clutter" on the camcorder exterior, however, it can also mean less efficiency in accessing desired adjustment functions quickly.

Video Output Options

HDV recordings can be output at full resolution through either it component video and iLink connections, while downconverted HDV and DV recordings can be output through composite, S-video, and iLink connections. It must be noted that when playing back HDV format video recordings, the video will always output in the 16x9 format, while standard DV video recordings can be output in either 16x9 or 4x3, depending what setting was chosen during the recording process.

Audio Options

Along with the extensive video recording options of the HC1, this unit also has desirable audio options. The unit is equipped with an on-board stereo microphone, but can accept an external microphone as well. In addition, the audio input levels can be adjusted manually via the LCD touch screen menu. You can also monitor the audio level of your recording via the onboard headphone jack. The audio is recorded in either 16bit (CD quality) in HDV, or either 16bit or 12bit when using the DV format.

Additional Features

The HC1 packs in more than just HDV and DV video recording, it can also capture still shots ranging from 1920x1080 (16x9) to 1920x1440 (4x3) down to standard 640x480. Still shots are recorded to a Sony Memory Stick Duo card. To add additional flexibility, the HC1 has a built-in pop-up flash.

Other useful features: A Direct-to-DVD function, which enables either DV or downconverted HDV video to be recorded onto a DVD directly using a PC-DVD burner and a USB port for still image download.

High Definition Home Video Production in the Palm of Your Hand

The advent of Home Theater and HDTV has certainly changed the way many consumers experience home entertainment. With HDTV programs available over-the-air, through cable, and satellite, the addition of up-scaling DVD players, and the coming of Blu-ray and HD-DVD, the last vestige of standard resolution, is the home video camcorder. Currently, playing standard resolution camcorder video on a large screen TV does not give a great result.

However, this about to change. Sony has introduced the HDR-HC1 HDV (High Definition Video) Camcorder. Sony's HDR-HC1 puts access to high definition video in the palm of your hand. Capable of recording in both the 16x9 1080i HDV and standard 4x3 (or 16x9) DV formats; which are recorded using miniDV tape. The HC1 delivers video quality in HDV mode that is worthy to be viewed on a large screen HDTV or video projector. You can view HDV recordings on any HDTV or video projector that is equipped with HD-component or iLink inputs.

You can take advantage of shooting your precious memories in Hi-Def, even if you don't have an HDTV. The HC1's downconversion function allows HDV video to be viewed in standard definition and recorded on a standard VCR or DVD recorder.

In addition, HDV files can be edited in a PC with HDV compatible software, downconverted, and then burned to DVD. When high definition recordable DVD becomes available, you will be able to copy and play them back in full Hi-Def resolution without having to plug in the camcorder.

The HC1 can also record in the standard DV format, and will play back most tapes previously recorded in other miniDV camcorders.

Priced below $2,000, the picture quality, compact size, and extensive features gives the consumer the ability to preserve memories in the highest quality as well as giving novice "steven spielbergs" some basic tools to make that landmark independent film.

If you are looking for better video quality and flexibility in a camcorder, then you might check out the Sony HDR-HC1.