We’ve come to expect league-topping image quality from Sony, and the SR12E carries on the tradition. In optimal lighting, colours are faithful, with Sony’s characteristic vividness, but not oversaturated. The SR12E is another camcorder which at last shows AVCHD can outperform HDV. Thanks to the 1,920 x 1,080 shooting, 16Mbits/sec data rate and new image processor, the SR12E’s picture is also noticeably sharper than Sony’s top HDV camcorder, the HDR-HC9E. On really close inspection, the SR12E’s video is slightly less sharp than Canon’s HF10, but only very slightly and most people wouldn’t notice the difference.
In lower light, we were expecting the SR12E’s smaller, higher resolution CMOS sensor to be a disadvantage, but the Exmor and Bionz technologies more than make up for this. The SR12E managed a brighter image in even lower light than Canon’s HF10, although the latter’s picture was less grainy. Switching the Canon to progressive mode gives it back the edge – but only just. Panasonic’s HDC-SD9, in comparison, has a much fuzzier image in similar conditions.
The SR12E offers a comprehensive array of ports. USB 2.0 is the main option for pulling footage off for editing, and as this is an AVCHD model most editing software will support the format. HDMI is of the mini variety, so an adapter will be required for hooking up to a regular TV. Alternatively, the proprietary A/V plug fits either a composite or a component analogue video cable, both with stereo RCA audio. All ports are behind clever sliding panels, which are much more convenient than rubberised flaps or little plastic covers which dangle annoyingly. A docking station is also provided which incorporates power, A/V and USB 2.0.
The HDR-SR12E exudes quality. It has Sony’s characteristically solid build and is packed with clever design features. We still love Canon’s HF10 for its smaller size, lower price and use of convenient flash memory. It also has a few more manual settings to play with, in particular shutter priority. But if you prefer the huge storage afforded by hard disk-based camcorders, the Sony HDR-SR12E offers similar video quality and features, making it a highly commendable alternative.
Score in detail
Image Quality 9