Fantastic video, great pictures
Great HD, docking station, remote control & software included
No mini-HDMI, lack of AVHCD software at this time
The Bottom Line:
For the options available and for the quality of the videos and pictures this camcorder brings, I haven't seen anything better.
Making the decision to purchase a high-definition camcorder today can be very difficult considering the great number of choice to we consumers today. I had narrowed my search to three manufacturers, Canon, JVC and Sony, mainly because I had prior camcorder experience with all three. Preparing to part with $1,000 on a want and not a need is very difficult. Even at the store I found it difficult making a final decision after extensive research.
I settled on the Sony HDR-SR11 because of the features and, primarily, the 60GB hard drive, as well as having the option to use Memory Stick DUO Media cards. Having those options makes the camcorder flexible. I can hook the camera into my computer through the USB slot, or I can remove the media card and pop it into the card reader on my computer, or the memory card reader on my TV, as it is a Sony product that accepts the Memory Stick.
Another area where the Sony has allowed added flexibility is in the number of quality settings from which one can choose. The highest quality records in full 1920 x 1080i. This permits you to save up to 7 hours & 10 minutes worth of video on the hard drive. Plenty of time for me, but for those who need more, standard definition settings are available to allow up to 41 hours of recording time.
The high-definition movies are stunning! Very rich in detail and bold in color. It truly is a case where watching the movies are almost better than being there. For fun, I connected the SR11 to the TV via the included composite cable, and connected a JVC GR-D22U MiniDV through the firewire port. I put the TV on split-screen, and there was absolutely no comparison in the quality. The Sony blew this SD camera away. With the Sony, I could see every bubble in our swimming pool, every drop of water on the kids faces. With the JVC, I could tell the water was blue and that the kids were wet.
Not only are the videos great, the photos are just as rich. Sony claims 10.2 megapixel resolution. Considering that 10MP cameras can cost $400-$500 on their own, it is a feature that adds even more value to this camcorder. You can take take photos and records at the same time. Other nice touches are the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround recording. There isn't a windscreen on the microphone, so a slight breeze can become annoying, but beyond that, the sound is quite good.
The LCD screen is a 3.2" touchpanel with widescreen format. As it has 921k pixels, it's looking at a mini 720p HDTV. I like the touchscreen, but I have to wipe it down after each use. Looking through the regular viewfinder is kind of dull, small, and not very clear. Kind of a disappointment.
A docking station and remote control are included. You can attach the camera to the station to charge the battery, and it also contains the high definition component connection as well as a USB output. Surprisingly, there is no firewire output considering Sony has been a champion of the i.Link interface.
On the camcorder there is a mini-HDMI output, though Sony does not include the cable. S-Video and composite outputs are available also, and Sony does include that cable. For inputs, you can attach a separate microphone and there is a "shoe" available for adding lighting equipment.
There are a host of additional features and specifications I could include in my review, but you can read about those on Sony's website. I will mention one final cool thing. The night vision setting is great in a pitch black area. Yes, the images are green, but the infrared capabilities are really good. It's like watching an episode of "Ghosthunters".
Now that I've written of all the good things, I have to write of the mediocre. This camera records in the AVCHD format. This makes it great for transferring video to your computer in no time, but there isn't much available in the way of software. Also, as with any high definition media, unless you have a Blue-ray player, you can not view your finished video in high-def format on a DVD player. They will be in high-def from the camera to the TV, and you can transfer AVCHD to DVD, but it will not be high definition. I have to say though, it's still great.
I have not had the opportunity to see videos from what would be considered prosumer HD camera, costing $2,000 - $5,000, but based on what I see from this camcorder, they can't be much better.
UPDATE - After more than 4 years of ownership, this camcorder is still amazing!! Beautiful video, not a camera thought. Every video still amazes me!