The SR72E's 1/6in CCD is at the bottom of the scale when it comes to size, though, putting it in the same league as DV camcorders costing £200. The camcorder's abilities in low light bear this out. In our test scenarios, the colours remained reasonably saturated in good artificial illumination (like a room lit by a single bright ceiling light), but the level of visible grain started to obscure fine detail. In less clement lighting, even the good saturation disappeared. So whilst the SR72E offers acceptable quality in sunlight, it's not well suited to indoor shooting - something you may want to do a fair amount of with a camcorder intended for capturing general family memories.
However, the SR72E is convenient when it comes to working with the footage you've shot. Sony supplies a docking station in the box with power, A/V and USB connectivity built in. So you can leave this hooked up to your TV or computer and rapidly plop the camcorder on top when you want to watch or edit your recordings. The on-board hard disk shows up as an ordinary removable hard disk in Windows XP or Vista, and the video files are stored in MPG format, so will be readily editable by most popular apps - including the Vista version of Windows Movie Maker. We certainly had no problems with the software we tried, Premiere Elements 3 and Ulead VideoStudio 10 Plus.
If it weren't for the rapidly decreasing price of high definition hard disk camcorders, the DCR-SR72E would still look like a bit of a bargain, despite its poor low light abilities. No other hard disk-based camcorders in this price range offer so much storage. However, now that AVCHD models are pushing well into the sub-£1,000 category, there's less and less reason to opt for standard definition if you want a hard disk-based camcorder. The SR72E does store many minutes of video, but the level of video noise evident in virtually all lighting conditions would only be acceptable in a bargain-basement MiniDV camcorder, not in one where you're paying a £200 premium for hard disk recording as well.