Sony HDR-SR1 AVCHD 2.1 MP 30GB High Definition Hard Disk Drive with 10x Optical Zoom Camcorder Review
Sony gradually shifted from tape-based media to hard disk drive storage producing the HDR-SR1 only seven months after Sony’s first hard disk camcorder, the HDR-SR100. Not only that, the HDR-SR1 offers high definition in AVCHD format, which is a derivative of MPEG-4 H.264 codec jointly developed by Sony and Panasonic.
The HDR-SR1 uses a 1/3” ClearVID CMOS sensor, which is also present in the DCR-DVD505 as well as the HDR-UX1. The HDR-SR1’s chip has a gross resolution of 2.1 megapixels with 1.07 effective megapixels in 4:3 and 1.43 effective megapixels in 16:9. Unlike the DCR-SR100 that uses a traditional CCD, the HDR-SR1 claims multiple benefits of using CMOS chip. Among its benefits are lower power consumption, visual superiority and clear resolutions. With the HDR-SR1’s 1/3” CMOS sensor, the camcorder boosts a decent low light performance. This characteristic is evident in camcorders that use the same chip.
High definition already exists in the camcorder market as well as the HDV format. However, the HDV format is tape-based and tape-based camcorders are not very popular nowadays. Moreover, consumers want an HDV format in portable media storage.
In turn, MPEG-4 is making a huge stride with a codec called Advanced Video Coding or H.264, which allows large files of high definition video to fit in a small space. Sony and Panasonic created AVCHD from H.264 to store video to 8cm DVDs, hard disk camcorders and flash media cards.
The maximum bit rate for HDR-SR1 is 15Mbps compared to standard definition DVD and hard disk camcorders with bit rates of 8.5 to 9Mbps. AVCHD is a very different format from MPEG-2 that the DVD camcorders use. The HDR-SR1 uses high definition settings like XP, HQ, SP and LP. It also employs standard definition settings such as HQ, SP and LP.
Hard disk drive camcorders have gained popularity presently due to their convenience. You can capture video into the HDR-SR1’s 30GB internal non-removable hard drive without worrying for scratches on DVDs or defective tapes or missing flash memory card. The hard disk in this camcorder uses a shock absorbing system for protection that will keep your data safe in the event the camcorder falls or hits something accidentally.
It’s challenging to find simple ways to edit AVCHD footage. Even the standard definition MPEG-2 formats from DVDs are difficult to work with due to complex file structures. Some lists of editing software that supports AVCHD are Nero, Ulead, Sony Vegas and CyberLink.
Aside from the HDR-SR1’s 30GB internal hard drive, it can also capture still photos onto Memory Stick Duo or Pro Duo cards inserted in its memory slot. Unfortunately, you have to purchase the card separately. Options for still modes include 2304 x 1728 (4MP), 1600 x 1200 (1.9MP) and 640 x 480 (0.3MP) for 4:3 resolution. For 16:9, it has 2304 x 1296 (3MP). Shooting high-resolution stills while in video mode is also possible. The camcorder also features a built-in flash that is adjustable to on/off, auto or red-eye reduction settings.
The HDR-SR1 includes a multi-function ring with a textured surface making the camcorder easy to grip. The tension on it is just moderate. You can grip the body like the DCR-SR100. The strap sits in the proper place to help distribute the weight. All the needed buttons are easy to navigate. In general, the LCD’s touch screen feature may not be a good choice as it easily accumulates fingerprints and smudges while users manage its complex menus. There’s also the need to keep the LCD open all the time, consuming more power.
On the brighter side, the larger 3.5-inch LCD screen is HDR-SR1’s strongest feature. The LCD gives more room for manual control interface since the touch buttons become larger on this screen. Despite the screen’s increased size, it doesn’t add up to the camcorder’s overall weight.
Another plus for HDR-SR1 is its viewfinder, which is better than the viewfinder on the DCR-SR100 and HDR-HC3. The viewfinder is 0.27-inch in size and has an effective resolution of 0.123 megapixels. It can also pivot upwards up to 45 degrees. However, it can’t telescope out and it tends to stick out much farther than the included battery.
The HDR-SR1 records audio through the built-in mic and then encodes it as Dolby Digital 5.1 channel. You can get more audio features in this camcorder with its dedicated mic jack and headphone jack. Because of this, it can compete with Panasonic’s PV-GS400. Together with the HDR-SR1’s basic ports, Sony cleverly placed the additional ports in their proper positions. This array of ports allows you to have plenty of interface options.
In comparison to tape-based camcorders, the playback mode is one of the strongest features of HDD camcorders. They can present clips as thumbnail images in a menu. It shortens your time to find a single clip. You can browse at either six or twelve clips per page. By pressing the tabs at the bottom of the LCD screen, you can toggle between video, still and playlist display screens. What’s more? While viewing clips or images, you can zoom into the display up to 5x using the zoom toggle. It truly makes camcorder browsing more proficient.
For the DCR-SR100, you have a few choices to edit clips and stills on the camcorder while on Review Mode. These options are delete, delete all, delete date and protect. On the HDR-SR1, you can burn footages directly to DVD discs using a Sony Vaio computer. It is also possible to playback to an external monitor with the camcorder’s AV, HDMI, USB and S-Video jacks.
Within the HDR-SR1, various features increase its advantage over other camcorders. It houses a hard disk drive and offers a new video standard, the AVCHD. It’s great with a big LCD screen, a control a ring, mic inputs and headphone inputs. High definition also matches its vast features and reasonable price.
One of the HDR-SR1’s top competitors in its hard-drive category is the JVC Everio series camcorders. However, the HDR-SR1 outshines the Everio in overall video quality. Since the HDR-SR1 is a sizeable investment at about $1500 and there’s a wide range of choices out there, always take a good look at the camcorder before you buy.
- Light/Flash : Yes; Flash
- Docking Station : N/A
- Recording Format : Dolby® Digital 5.1
- Microphone : Yes (Built-in 5.1 Channel)
- Dolby® Digital Output : N/A
- Multiple Language Display : Yes
- Remote Control : Yes
- Tilting : N/A
Inputs and Outputs
- Analog Audio/Video Output(s) : Yes (Multi A/V)
- Analog Audio/Video Input(s) : N/A
- Digital Audio/Video Output(s) : Yes (via USB)
- Digital Audio/Video Input(s) : Yes (via USB)
- USB Port(s) : Yes; 2.0 High Speed Compliant4
- Component Video (Y/Pb/Pr) Output(s) : Yes
- HDMI™ Connection Output(s) : Yes
- Headphone Jack : Yes (Stereo Mini)
- Microphone Input : Yes (Stereo Mini)
- S-Video Input(s) : N/A
- S-Video Output(s) : Yes (via optional accessory)
- Remote Jack : Yes (Stereo Mini)
- Active Interface Shoe : Yes
- Analog-to-Digital Converter : N/A
- Format : AVCHD (HD), MPEG2-PS (SD) and JPEG
- Video Recording System : AVCHD (HD) and MPEG2-PS (SD)
- Video Signal : NTSC color, EIA standards
- Imaging Device : 1/3″ 2100K Gross Pixels ClearVID™ CMOS Sensor
- Pixel Gross : 2100K
- Video Actual : 1076K Pixels (4:3), 1434K Pixles (16:9)
- Still Actual : 1991K Pixels (4:3), 1493K Pixels (16:9)
- Recording Media : 30GB2 Non-Removeable Hard Disk Drive (sold separately)
- Recording and Playback Times : TBD
Service and Warranty Information
- Limited Warranty Term : 90 Day Limited Warranty
- Lens Type : Carl Zeiss® Vario-Sonnar® T
- 35mm Equivalent : 41.3-485mm (16:9 Camera Mode), 50.5-594mm (4:3 Camera Mode), 40.4-404mm (16:9 Memory Mode), 37-370mm (4:3 Memory Mode)
- Aperture : f1.8-2.9
- Digital Zoom : 80X
- Filter Diameter : 30mm
- Focal Distance : 5.1-51mm
- Focus : Full Range Auto/Manual (Ring)/One Touch
- Progressive Shutter Mode : Yes
- Shutter Speed : Auto, 1/60-1/500 (AE Mode)
- Minimum Illumination : 5 Lux (0 lux with Super NightShot® Infrared System)
- Optical Zoom : 10X
- Resolution : 4MP; (2304 x 1728) – 4:3
- Supplied Software : Picture Motion Browser ver. 1.0
- Operating System Compatibility : Microsoft® Windows® 2000 Professional, XP Home, XP Professional
Weights and Measurements
- Weight (Approx.) : 1 lb 9 oz (720g) with supplied battery and media
- Dimensions (Approx.) : 3 1/14″ x 3 4/13″ x 6 1/2″ (78 x 84 x 165mm)
- Battery Type : InfoLITHIUM® with AccuPower™ Meter System (NP-FM50)
- Power Requirements : 7.2V Battery Pack/8.4V AC Adaptor
- Power Consumption (in Operation) : 4.9W/5.1W (VF/LCD)
- Image Stabilization : Yes (Electronic)
- Low Light Capability : Super NightShot®
- Removable Flash Media Compatibility : Tested to support up to 2GB media capacity; does not support high speed transfer function; does not support Access Control security function
- Still Image Mode(s) : JPEG
- Digital Picture Effect(s) : Luminance Key and Old Movie
- Fader Effect(s) : Black and White
- Picture Effect(s) : Monotone, Pastel and Sepia
- Movie Mode(s) : N/A
- Exposure : Touch Panel/Ring
- Scene Mode(s) : Beach and Ski, Landscape, Portrait, Sports Lesson, Spotlight and Sunset & Moon
- USB Streaming : N/A
- PictBridge Compatible : Yes
- Easy Operation : N/A
- Slide Show Mode : Yes (Menu)
- Accessory Shoe : Yes (Active Interface Shoe)
- White Balance : Auto, Indoor, One-Push, Outdoor
- LCD Screen : 3.5″ (211K Pixels) Wide (16:9) Hybrid Touch Panel Clear Photo™ LCD plus Display7
- Viewfinder : Color, 123K Pixels (16:9)