The writing may be on the wall for tape, but its successor is far from certain just yet. Hard disk camcorders still have the upper hand in terms of storage capacity, but you can't beat Flash Memory for enabling the smallest, most desirable form factors. Sony, of course, has gone its own way in this respect and incorporated its proprietary MemoryStick format into camcorders, rather than Secure Digital. Latest in this line is the HDR-CX6EK. Weighing in at 450g including a battery, it's a little larger than Panasonic's miniscule HDC-SD9. It's noticeably heftier, too, and far less pocket-friendly. But the HDR-CX6EK is still enticingly tiny, and feels reassuringly solid. Has Sony created its own perfect pocket video companion?
The HDR-CX6EK is another of Sony's high definition camcorders to use its 1/2.9in CMOS with 3.2-megapixels. The HDR-HC9E is built around the same sensor. Only 2.3-megapixels are employed for video, though, with the full resolution only called upon for still images, which can be captured at up to 2,848 x 2,136 pixels (using a fair amount interpolation). However, where the HC9E records MPEG-2-based HDV to tape, the HDR-CX6EK relies upon the AVCHD format.
There are four AVCHD recording modes available, ranging from LP at 5Mbits/sec to XP at 15Mbits/sec, with SP and HQ modes in between. Standard definition can be recorded in MPEG-2 format from 3Mbits/sec to 9Mbits/sec. At least Sony includes a 4GB piece of MemoryStick media in the box, but that will only be enough for about half an hour of video in the top XP mode. So a larger MemoryStick module will be a must.
Sony clearly sees the HDR-CX6EK appealing to gadget-lovers and home users, as there are few concessions to the more serious videomaker. An accessory shoe is available, but it's Sony's proprietary AI version rather than a standard-sized one. No microphone minijack nor headphone socket are incorporated, although the Sony has three microphones built in from which it blends 5.1 surround sound, recorded in Dolby Digital format. Image stabilisation comes courtesy of Sony's Super SteadyShot optical system, rather than the resolution-reducing digital version.