Sony DCR-HC48 First Impressions Review
The Sony DCR-HC48 utilizes a 1/6" Advanced HAD CCD Imager featuring 1070K gross pixels, 670K effective pixels 16:9 video mode, and 690K effective pixels in 4:3 video mode. While the pixel count is identical to last year’s DCR-HC46, that camcorder’s CCD was slightly larger, at 1/5.5". The effect that a reduced sensor size will have on video performance is unknown; however, the size of individual pixels on the new chip will be smaller. Smaller pixels have a lesser light gathering ability than larger pixels. If the CCD or processor has been improved, however, the new 1/6" CCD may perform as well or better than the 1/5.5" CCD from 2006, at least in bright or adequate light.
In our tests, the HC46 was a strong performer, producing video that was near the top of its class. We found the camcorder to suffer from blue noise randomly scattered throughout the image, evidenced by numerically higher blue channel readings than expected. This is an unfortunate deficiency found in many Sony camcorders. Resolution scores for the HC46 were very good and only the Elura 100 among similarly priced MiniDV camcorders outclassed it. Sony’s top-of-the-line MiniDV DCR-HC96 is the only camcorder to carry over unchanged from last year, and we found it to be a stellar performer with superb color reproduction and sharpness. The HC96 has a significantly larger sensor measuring 1/3" and boasts 2048K effective pixels, but the added imaging power comes with a steep $800 price tag. The HC36, last year’s step-down model from the HC46, turned in lower scores for both performance and resolution. It came equipped with a lower-resolution 1/6" CCD that has been carried over to its next generation model, the 2007 DCR-HC38.
Low Light Performance
The DCR-HC46 underperformed in low light, relative to the good quality video we saw in our 3000 lux tests. Surprisingly, the HC36 showed a brighter image with truer color in low light than its step-up counterpart despite its smaller and lower resolution sensor. With a new CCD, the DCR-HC48’s low light performance remains an unknown quantity. The fact that its predecessor’s scores were unexpectedly weak despite its 1/5.5" chip underscore the difficulty in predicting low light performance based strictly on sensor size.
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