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No manual focus ring is available, but a discrete button and control wheel provide similar functionality almost as well. There's a separate button for toggling backlight compensation, and a switch for nightshot mode (using a built-in infrared lamp), but the remaining manual features are only accessible through the touchscreen. This offers yet another method of manually focusing, plus the spot focus system where you simply touch the point on the LCD preview you want in focus. Similarly, exposure can be configured manually or via spot metering using the touchscreen. Unlike Sony's cheaper models, the SR8E also offers AE shift, which keeps autoexposure on but biases it in the direction you dictate.
Ten Scene modes are available, including Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Candle, Sunrise & Sunset, Fireworks, Landscape, Portrait, Spotlight, Beach and Snow. White balancing options include indoor and outdoor presets plus manual. You can also use White Balance Shift to subtly create warmer or colder tones. There are a couple more low-light modes available via the touchscreen as well. Colour Slow Shutter simply reduces the shutter speed, and Super Nightshot combines a slow shutter with the infrared Nightshot mode. There is a selection of digital effects, including old movie, but conspicuous by its absence is any fully manual control over shutter speed.
One feature not found in the standard configuration menu is Smooth Slow Record. This records at four times the frame rate, so when the video is played back at the usual speed you get extremely smooth slow motion. However, whilst the results can be very impressive, we found its use seriously affected light sensitivity, presumably because of the shutter speed required - so it's practically unusable unless you have really bright illumination.
Connectivity options are comprehensive, too, including HDMI and component for attaching to HDTVs, plus A/V with composite and S-Video plus RCA audio for regular TVs. All of these are output only, however, so you won't be able to dub analogue sources to AVCHD. The HDMI connection is also a proprietary small socket, and no adapter is supplied. The requisite Sony cable accessory is £29 inc VAT.
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