And then there were four: quadruplet Sony HD camcorders, that is. When they ship on June 27, the $1,200 Memory Stick Duo-based Handycam HDR-CX7 and $1,400 hard-disk-based HDR-SR7 will join the tape-based HDR-HC7 and DVD-based HDR-UX7 to provide consumers with an almost bewildering array of HD options.
They differ primarily by storage media. All use the same 1/2.9-inch, 3.2-megapixel ClearVid CMOS sensor, recording video at 2.3-megapixel (HD) or 1.7-megapixel (SD) resolution before downsampling and encoding to 1080i HD (1,920x540) or SD (720x480), respectively. They also shoot photos at native 2.3-megapixel (16:9) or 3-megapixel (4:3) resolutions, despite the 6-megapixel claim on the body, which refers to maximum interpolated resolution. They also use the same 10x zoom Zeiss T*-coated lenses, 5.1 Dolby surround-sound recording, and support the as-yet unviewable xvYCC color space and are rated at a minimum illumination of 2 Lux.
In some ways, though, the CX7 is the odd man out. The other three provide a manual focus dial on the side of the lens and an eye-level viewfinder, while the CX7 appears stripped of the external power-user trappings of its siblings. I'm guessing that's to save space: Sony claims that it's the smallest and lightest AVCHD camcorder available.
In fact, both the CX7 and SR7 look remarkably small, especially given their recording capacities. In best-quality HD mode, the CX7 requires 133MB per minute of video, for a total of 30 minutes on a 4GB card or 60 minutes on an 8GB card. The SR7 seems to compress a bit more, managing 125MB per minute of best-quality HD video, or 8 hours on its 60GB hard drive. Both also ship with a Handycam Station for ease of transferring video.
The HDR 5 series--HDR-HC5 and HDR-UX5--gets another member this spring as well, the $1,100 hard-disk-based HDR-SR5. It shares the specs of its line mates, including Sony's 1/3-inch 2-megapixel ClearVid CMOS. The SR5's 40GB hard disk will hold up to five hours of best-quality HD video, or the same 133MB per minute as the CX7. Sony makes no mention of an HDR 5 series Memory Stick Duo-based model.