The is more pronounced as the illumination decreases. Sony has actually increased the HDR-HC9E’s lux rating (a measure of lowlight sensitivity) to 5, where the HDR-HC5E and HDR-HC7E were rated at a more sensitive 2. In the equivalent of a living room lit by a 100W ceiling light (quite a common shooting situation for home video makers), the Sony still maintains a good colour balance, with plenty of saturation and just a hint of the duller conditions. However, if you compare this to what the Canon HV20 can achieve with gain on maximum and 25p shooting mode enabled, the HDR-HC9E’s image is not as clean and detailed. A bluish grain is visible, which reduces clarity. With the light reduced still further (to the equivalent of a nearby candle), most of the colour information is lost, although dropping the shutter speed to 1/25th improves this considerably. However, the bluish grain also increases, further reducing detail.
Although AVCHD is fast becoming the standard for high definition camcorders, pushing the older tape-based HDV models out the way, the earlier format still has its strengths when it comes to editing. Now that virtually all editing software supports it, including the Windows Vista version of Windows Movie Maker, you will have no issues with the HDR-HC9E’s footage. Aside from the requisite 4-pin FireWire jack, it also sports proprietary connections for component and composite video, plus RCA audio, although the breakout cable for S/video is an optional extra. A full-sized HDMI port is available, and the venerable LANC microjack is still included.
Sony has consistently been dumbing down its high-end consumer HD camcorders. Where the HDR-HC1E was an enthusiast’s dream come true, its successors have increasingly focused on ease of use over semi-professional features. Although the HDR-HDC9E offers great image quality in all but the worst illumination, Canon’s HV20 beats it in this respect, and the very similar HV30 is likely to as well. The Canons also have more features for the budding professional, as well. So the HDR-HC9E is a great high-end choice for point-and-shoot HD video, but not one for more serious usage.
Score in detail
Image Quality 8