As you would hope in a camcorder this expensive, in bright conditions the FX7E totally excels. However, the default settings produce vibrant colour saturation rather than naturalistic fidelity. It's a matter of taste which you prefer, with the FX7E's colours being very eye-catching, but some professionals prefer more realistic video which can then be treated as required when editing. The image is also extremely sharp, thanks to the ClearVID CMOS, although there is a certain amount of grain visible.
The excellent performance continues into lower light, as well. In reasonably well lit indoor conditions, the FX7E manages almost the same colour saturation as it does in broad, bright daylight. The only loss is a slightly duller look, but mostly in keeping with the duller lighting. Unfortunately, the downsides of the smaller CMOS sensors do start to show themselves as the amount of light reduces, however. Compared to our experiences with the FX1E, the FX7E provides a sharper, more saturated image in good daylight conditions. But in low light it is a step backwards.
Being HDV, footage from the FX7E will be very easy to edit, as the format is now almost universally supported, even including the Vista version of Windows Movie Maker. And for watching the footage on a screen, the FX7E is bang up to date, with HDMI alongside the more usual component, s-video and composite analogue connectivity - although all of these are output only. Firewire is of course available for PC connectivity, as is USB for use with the built-in MemoryStick card slot.
The HDR-FX7E is a beast of a camcorder, and its price will be well beyond most people's budgets. However, if you're serious about your videomaking it could make a wise investment. Note that the price for this camcorder varies widely depending on the vendor, from around £1,500 including VAT to nearly £2,000 plus VAT. At £1,500 inc VAT, despite our caveats about its performance in low light, the HDR-FX7E is an absolute bargain. If you can live without XLR audio, it's an ideal camcorder for anyone looking to do professional video work with a limited budget.