In good lighting, such as bright sunlight, the SR8E’s x.v.Color technology accentuates Sony’s already excellent colour saturation. However, quite a bit of noise is evident compared to HDV, since AVCHD’s MPEG-4 H.264 AVC compression is more aggressive than the HDV’s MPEG-2. The image quality is still excellent, but the same footage from a similarly specified HDV camcorder would be superior.
Sadly, although the higher pixel count of the SR8E’s 3.2 Mpixel CMOS pays dividends for still images, it does have a slight drawback for video. The pixels themselves will be smaller than a similarly sized sensor with fewer pixels – such as that used by the HDR-HC3 or HC1. We expected this to have a detrimental effect on low-light performance, and our expectations proved correct. We noticed a similar problem with the DCR-SR72E, although in this case a small Megapixel sensor is the culprit.
With fairly standard indoor lighting, colour remains well saturated, with plenty of detail. But in gloomier conditions, quite a bit of noise is evident and the colour is very washed out. Compared to footage from the HC3E, the SR8E fares slightly worse in these conditions. Few single-chip camcorders excel, but Canon’s HV20, for example, is in a different league.
When it’s time to edit, the Handycam Station is required, as no USB connection is available on the camcorder body itself. The SR8E then shows up on a PC as a removable hard disk. The Handycam Station also provides additional component and A/V connectivity, so you can leave the station hooked up and simply slot the SR8E on to watch and edit your video. Since AVCHD is now supported by more editing apps, editing the files is less of an issue, although Premiere Elements still hasn’t joined the club. We tried Ulead VideoStudio 10 Plus, though, and found now problems.
When AVCHD first arrived, it was hard to recommend the format to anyone but incurable gadget lovers. Even though it is now more widely compatible with editing software, AVCHD’s inferior image quality to HDV precludes it from being the right choice for anyone with more serious intentions than merely capturing a few family moments. But assuming AVCHD is the nascent consumer video format for the high definition era – and it’s fast becoming so – then Sony’s HDR-SR8E provides the most accomplished implementation of it we’ve seen. The low light abilities are a disappointment, but with its 100GB storage, decent still images and comprehensive feature set, the SR8E is the best hard-disk AVCHD camcorder yet, and the high price seems fairly reasonable for such a capable piece of kit.
Score in detail
Image Quality 8