Sony's top line "prosumer" camcorder will amaze you with it's true high definition clarity. The HDR-SR12/11 is Sonys top line consumer camcorder displayed for the Computer Electronics Show for 2008. I purchased this after doing research on hard drive based camcorders. I wanted a camcorder that would allow me to continuously film and not have to worry about exchanging tapes every hour like traditional Mini DV cameras.
Sony's HDR-SR12 Hybrid (120GB) is the big brother to the SR11 (60GB storage). The only difference of the two models is the hard drive space. It is a true high definition video camera that records in full 1920x1080i (i for interlaced) at 60 hertz. What does that mean?? It means that you will get unbelievably clear and true to life video. Most consumer camcorders only record in 1440x 1080 and stretch the image to 1920x1080. To really see a difference youll need to combine a good high definition television with the video that you can take with this camera. Recording in standard definition (regular TVs 4:3 ratios) is also stunning in clarity. The colors produced from the camera are true to life in my epinion. Its almost what you see is what you get in clarity and color representation. I have had someone tell me that the video was actually clearer than real life! I think that only trained professionals will be able to tell a difference. I have read other reviews about this camera. You will hear people talk about technical specs and details about bit rates and compare it with other camcorders. Let your eyes be the judge. This is a camera that you will have to see to believe.
The style and design of the camcorder is sleek, sexy and sophisticated. Gone is the silver design of early 2000 for black. The camera looks professional and not to mention expensive. The camera weighs approximately 1 pound 6 ounces with the supplied battery. It has nice heft and is a tad wider than I thought it would be from seeing pictures of it online, but still very small and portable. An amazing feature of the camera is its 3.2 inch LCD touch screen display. It is like watching video on a high definition TV. The SR12 features Dolby 5.1 surround sound. So sounds from the rear, right/left, front sides of the camera are recorded. Also included is an electronic viewfinder. That was a feature that I thought was necessary for camcorders. A trend has been to eliminate it from the cameras because so many people use the LCD screen. I like having a choice. Plus it can save on battery life and allow you to frame better shots when necessary. Cameras without the viewfinder can be distracting when recording at a concert/recital etc. The 12x Carl Zeiss lens of the camera produces true to life colors and allows up to 12x magnification and up to 150 times digital zoom. You can purchase Sony filters for use on the camera to filter out unwanted reflections from glass/water or to enhance colors on those extremely bright days. The controls are very simple and are mostly located on the rear right side body of the camera. Rotate the control dial to turn on the camera and press record. You can switch to picture mode by toggling the dial again for the different mode. Photos can be grabbed from the video at 7.6MB and taken at resolutions up to 10MBs from the picture mode by pressing the photo button located near the zoom lever on the camcorder. A flash is included and located on the right side of the cameras lens. It will fire automatically when light conditions dictate. And finally
a silver knob is located to the left of the lens and allows you to customize whether it controls focus, white balance etc.
The SR12 has 120GB of hard drive storage and allows you to use up to an 8GB Pro Duo memory stick for easy transfer of video/pictures to your computer. You can record video in high definition or standard definition (the MPEG2 standard used for movie DVDs) at different quality settings. High definition is recorded in Sony's AVCHD (Advanced Video Codec High Definition) which is MPEG4. You are also able to choose in quality settings for video such as Full High Definition, High Definition Standard, High Definition Long Play etc. This will affect the maximum recording times available for the internal hard drive. You can also choose the same quality settings for Standard Definition video (MPEG2). The maximum recording time is 48 hours (Standard Definition Long Play). You will get 14 hours of recording time at its highest setting of Full High Definition 1920x1080i. One thing to note... The maximum continuous recording time is 13 hours. So you wont be able to press record and come back 48 hours later to review your video. Video recorded can be divided into scenes and are automatically divided when the video reaches 2GB of data. The division of video is seamless when played back on the camera. Video and pictures can be transferred from the Hard Drive to the memory stick or via the supplied USB cable or docking station. My preferred method is by using Sonys memory stick duo since I have a slot for it on my laptop. You shouldnt need the docking station if you have USB ports. I just stored it away in the box and never used it. Included with the camera is software that will allow you to simply edit AVCHD video and convert High Definition video to MPEG2 format if you want. I found the software a little bothersome in that it will catalogue your images/videos to make it easier for you to find. It works. Its basic and allows you to view your high def video on your computer, but there are no thrills in the software. I use Vegas Movie Studio Platinum to edit my video.
The SR12/11 features basic controls for quick hassle free recording. There is also a quick on button which allows you to put the camcorder in a low power state (sleep mode). Once activated, the camera will be ready to record in one second. The cameras buttons/controls are located on three of the four sides of the camera. There is a knob on the front of the camera near the lens which is customizable for focus, white balance etc. There is also a back light button underneath the lens for subjects are lit from behind. Open the LCD screen to reveal more buttons which include play, easy mode, night shot, reset button burn to disc and the memory stick slot. Most advanced functions can be accessed via the touch screen interface of the LCD screen. The touch menu system is very easy to understand. Place the camera in easy mode and the touch menu buttons become larger and advance functions are turned off. There are even menu, zoom and record buttons on the side of the LCD screen. The functions are very logical and well organized.
The techies will love the face detection feature of the camera. The SR12/11 will recognize up to eight faces in a scene. You will see squares surround the faces of the people you are recording to let you know that their face has been detected. The camera will allocate more bits (information) to the detected faces and adjust exposure so that you always get a picture perfect image. I havent had eight people stand in one place so that I could test the limit of the camera. The most that Ive had was five. The feature works so well that it detects faces of people in pictures and on television. This feature is also great at a party. As you pan around the room and allow the camera to detect faces it will index the head shots on the hard drive. You can jump to a particular person of a scene later by touching the indexed face of the person that was recorded. Its great for finding that party crasher that no one invited. When you pan over the same face twice it will be recorded as a separate entry in the index.
Another neat feature is Nightshot mode. It seems that mostly Sony consumer cameras come equipped with the feature of being able to record in total darkness. Sonys camera uses an infrared beam to illuminate objects up to 10 feet. The view is like that of night vision goggles or the Blair Witch effect. You can also switch to Super Nightshot mode which raises the sensitivity of the camera, but it slows the shutter speed which results in jerky motion. There is an option to turn off the infrared illuminator so that you can use available lighting for those night shots. There is even a color slow shutter mode so that you can capture video with natural colors in low light.
Different scene modes are available for recording at the beach, on bright snow days, fireworks, portrait, spotlight, candle lit settings etc. All of these modes are accomplished through the touch menu system on the LCD screen and work as advertised. You can also chose a spot focus setting which allows you to keep your subject in focus while making the background blurry. It's a nice cinematic effect.
Up to 10MP pictures can be taken with this camcorder in picture mode. Picture mode is activated by toggling the function dial. Frame your shot and press the photo button located above the function dial. A flash is activated when lighting conditions are not right. Pictures can also be taken during video mode, but at a lower resolution. I find that the pictures in both modes were far better than I expected, just not on exactly on par with a dedicated digital camera. Different flash modes like red eye reduction and forced flash are available.
The SR 12/11s supplied battery will last approximately 1 ½ hours. Thats from turning the camera on and off; zooming, recording, playing back videos etc. Sonys Infolithum batteries recharge quick. A 10 minute charge will give you approximately 50-60 minutes. Definitely get another battery when you purchase this camera. I purchased the NPH-100 battery that is states (on package) up to 14 hours battery life. Each battery has different run times based on the camera used. The SR 12 combined with the NPH-100 battery yields approximately 6 hours of run time. A mid line and possibly better choice would be to get two NPH-70 batteries. The size will not stick out far from the camcorder in comparison to the NPH-100.
Overall I am very happy with this camera. It is a small and very powerful camcorder. The video taken with this camera is what you see is what you get when there is proper lighting. In darker settings some noise becomes apparent and the camcorder takes longer to focus. This seems to be typical for most if not all camcorders. The noise can be reduced by playing with the camera settings. You may want to buy a video editing program like Sony Vegas Movie Studio that will allow you to edit AVCHD. Be sure that the software supports the relatively new codec and at the maximum resolution of 1920x1080. Sony Vegas Pro fully supports the resolution, but Vegas Movie Studio Platinum only supports up to 1440x1080. Video recorded in AVCHD only works on HD players such as Sonys Playstation 3 or dedicated Blu-Ray players. High definition video can also be recorded on standard DVDs for use in a Blu-Ray player or PS3. Since Blu-Ray is still an emerging market, your high definition video can be converted to MPEG2 via supplied software and played on most computers/DVD players. Video transferred to a memory stick can be played in Sonys PS3 80gig version without conversion. This camera combined with a High Definition TV will bring the best results for video. Cables are supplied ,with the exception of HDMI cables, that allow you to view your videos from the camera on standard or a high definition TV. Headphone, microphone jacks and USB HDMI out ports are located behind separate covers on the right side of the camera.
Final note: The camera is very easy to use and combines a lot of fun features that techies love. I chose the SR 12 because I am simply a tech guy. Plus the fact that since I was spending so much for this camcorder I might as well spend a little more for the top model. I have not come anywhere close to using the storage capacity of either camera (SR11/SR12). The video is excellent and the pictures are of good usable quality. The camera is constructed well and feels solid. You may want insurance on this camera. Its certainly a keeper.
Update! Sony Vegas Pro software will allow you to burn video onto Blu-Ray drives. It will also let you save video in it's native AVCHD. There will be updates for the software that will allow you to create professional Blu-Ray menus for your media.
Be sure what ever software you use supports the new video codec, runs on Windows' 32 bit or 64 bit version. Apple's iMovie HD and 08 will import AVCHD. In short: Thoroughly check reviews on software that support video editing for AVCHD. Excellent camera. It's just that the software needs to catch up for those that want advanced editing capabilities. Still loving it. :-)
Read all 1 Reviews
Write a Review