Sony HDR-SR1 Camcorder Review



Video Performance*(8.1)*The Sony HDR-SR1 features a 1/3" ClearVID CMOS sensor, the same imager found in most of Sony’s current top models, including the HDR-UX1, the HDR-HC3, and the DCR-DVD505. This chip offers a gross pixel count of 2.1 MP. In effective pixel counts, this number dips to 1.43 MP in 16:9 and1.07 MP in 4:3.  The ClearVID CMOS has been a strong performer, in general, though our review of the UX1 showed that the AVCHD compression can have an undercutting effect on overall performance when compared HDV. The HDR-SR1 has a higher maximum data rate than the UX1 (15Mbps versus 12Mbps). Let’s see how that advantage played out.  

 *High Definition*At 3000 lux, the HDR-SR1 produced an image very similar to the HDR-UX1. Of course, this is no real surprise; both camcorders share so much in common. But where did that 3Mbps difference come into play? We were hoping that it might reduce some of the image noise, which we found in abundance on the UX1. But noise did not seem to change between them. Once again, we found that the picture to be noisy – certainly more so than the HDR-HC3. Blown up on a big screen, this noise becomes quite noticeable. Will it ruin the memory of your baby son being born? Unless you’re George Lucas, no. But HDV still looks better.  That slim margin of data speed did make for a slim increase in apparent sharpness, though. We don’t exaggerate when we tell you that we deliberated for hours on the subtle difference between these pictures. In the end, we found the SR1 to have the superior image, but it’s truly a marginal difference.   
 The cropped images above and below illustrate our findings. Looking at the labels in this 100%-sized crop, you can see that the HDR-SR1 produced less fuzz around the high-contrast areas of the letters. In the second set of crops, blown up 200%, you can see similar findings. The contrast on the SR1 is higher, making for a cleaner looking image. What does this mean for most users? In short, if you’re not looking for the difference, you probably won’t see it.  
A 200% crop of the SR1 (above), and the UX1 (below)
  Compared to HDV, it underperforms just like the UX1. The Sony HDR-HC3 had less noise and a slightly brighter color pallet. The Canon HV10 remains the best picture in bright light of any consumer HD camcorder so far – bold, beautiful colors and hardly a hint of noise.  *Standard Definition*Again, like the UX1, SR1’s the standard definition video looked very similar to its HD video in terms of color, but lacked the crispness and clean lines that define HD. It looked similar to DCR-SR100, which also has a 1/3" sensor, but not the ClearVID. The SR100 uses the Advanced HAD CCD, the same chip found on the top MiniDV model, the DCR-HC96.   
 The JVC GZ-MG505 is also an HDD camcorder, JVC’s top-of-the-line, though a strictly standard definition model. In this sense, the MG505 could not hope to the compete to the HDR-SR1’s resolution in HD. JVC does however, produce impressive standard definition video. The colors are more saturated, which is often appealing to non-professionals who equate stronger with better. Unfortunately, this color processing choice by JVC also tended to blow out the white areas of the image. Even in this resolution, the picture is not quite as sharp as the HDR-SR1. Overall, the Sony comes out ahead.  {column='Video Performance' models='Sony HDR-SR1,Sony HDR-UX1,Sony HDR-HC3,Sony DCR-SR100,Canon HV10,JVC GZ-MG505'}  **Video Resolution *(31.1)*We tested the Sony HDR-SR1 for the resolution of its video by shooting a standard ISO 12233 resolution chart, then running stills from that footage through Imatest imaging software. In AVCHD shooting, the camcorder produced 625.0 liines of horizontal resolution and 497.6 lines of vertical resolution, yielding an approximate resolution of 311000.0. This is a statistically identical number to the resolution we measured in the HDR-UX1, indicating that if the 3Mbps increase in data rate has any effect on resolution, we couldn't find it.  In standard definition, the HDR-SR1 produced 447.0 lines of horizontal resolution and 397.3 lines of vertical resolution, yielding an approximate resolution of 177593.1.  The chart belows shows how the HDR-SR1 fared against the UX1 and other camcorders in its class. Numbers reflect the best possible resolution of each model.  {column='Video Resolution' models='Sony HDR-SR1,Sony HDR-UX1,Sony HDR-HC3,Sony DCR-SR100,Canon HV10,JVC GZ-MG505'} Low Light Performance*** (6.5)*The HDR-SR1’s 1/3" ClearVID CMOS sensor is large enough and well designed enough to provide the camcorder with acceptable low light performance, more than can be said for other camcorders in its price range. Other camcorders that use this chip, including the HDR-UX1 and HDR-HC3, shared the same benefits.   
 At 60 lux, the HDR-SR1 did just fine. The colors remained strong without showing signs of over-processing (over-saturated colors). The noise definitely picked up, and it wasn’t starting from an exceptionally low level anyway. In laymen’s terms, projected on a large screen, you’re going to see a lot of little, dancing specks in darker areas.  The low light performance of the HDR-SR1 gave us no surprises, after familiarizing ourselves so well with the HDR-UX1. As in bright light, the 3Mbps bit rate difference gave the HDR-SR1 a slight edge, with cleaner lines along high contrast areas. The Sony HDR-HC3 produced a more even color saturation all around. The most promising contender in bright light took a nose dive in low light, however, much to our disappointment. The Canon HV10 lost a great deal of color and luminance.   
 In standard definition at 60 lux, the color and brightness levels remained unchanged. Comparatively, the DCR-SR100 had a very similar image to the HDR-SR1. The JVC GZ-MG505, as in bright light, had a much more saturated image, which helped give the appearance of more luminance. This may be what a lot of consumers are looking for, but these colors are not accurate.    
 At 15 lux, the HDR-SR1’s performance dipped into the "problematic" area. This should come as no surprise to frequent readers. Most camcorders fall apart here. Those that maintain image quality here go on to the halls of Valhalla and all its agnate glory – true story. With the SR1, basic shades could be made out, but accurately assessing color was difficult. Text could still be made out on contrasting backgrounds, but that is more likely a result of the increased definition in HD rather than great light gathering abilities in the chip; it was definitely not the same case in standard definition.   
 The differences between the SR1 and the UX1 at 15 lux were virtually nil. The 3Mbps speed gap seemed to have no measurable impact on video quality. Noise was a huge issue with both camcorders, and may well cause you to discard 15 lux footage to the cutting room floor. They both prevailed over the Canon HV10, however. So if you insist on an HD camcorder in this price range, and if you’ll be doing a lot of shooting in low light, we have to hand it over to Sony.  The standard definition footage of the SR1 at 15 lux was a different story. Though we tried on more than one occasion, the camcorder could not achieve a proper focus at any time. At best, it managed some "breathing" (steady, rapid intervals of the image going in and out of focus) close to the intended focus mark. Few camcorders have this problem, and even fewer in the $800 and above range. We’re not sure what this issue was, as no other Sony camcorder using the same chip or compression method has had this problem. We’re willing to give them the benefit of a doubt that this was a dud model. The DCR-SR100 had the same brightness, but no focus problems. The JVC GZ-MG505 once again had stronger colors, though they were oversaturated ; at 15 lux, we’re more inclined to take what we can get. {column='Low Light Performance' models='Sony HDR-SR1,Sony HDR-UX1,Sony HDR-HC3,Sony DCR-SR100,Canon HV10,JVC GZ-MG505'} **Wide Angle***(10.4)*The HDR-SR1 produced a wide angle of 52 degrees in 16:9 and 41 degrees in 4:3, for an 11 degree difference in frame width between widescreen and standard definition mode. To record video in 4:3, the camcorder crops the sides of the image, but there is no loss in vertical picture information, while the difference in width indicates that this camcorder's CMOS sensor is a native 16:9 imager. This score is very good.**


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  1. Performance
  2. Format
  3. Tour
  4. Auto / Manual Controls
  5. Still Features
  6. Handling and Use
  7. Audio / Playback / Connectivity
  8. Other Features
  9. Comparisons / Conclusion
  10. Specs/Ratings