Sony Handycam HDR-SR8

Sony breaks through the 100GB barrier with this range-topping high-def camcorder. Like its SR7 twin, it is highly recommended.

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Derek loves nothing more than punching a remote location into a GPS, queuing up some music and heading out on a long drive, so it's a good thing he's in charge of CNET Australia's Car Tech channel.

This review is for the Sony Handycam HDR-SR7, however, it is also applicable to the Sony Handycam HDR-SR8 which differs only in price, the capacity of its hard-disk and in a cosmetic detail or two. The Sony Handycam HDR-SR8 is the top dog in the family of three hard drive models replacing the highly regarded SR1. It should be kept in mind that the SR8 is only available through Sony Central and SonyStyle outlets.

Model Capacity Price Sensor
HDR-SR5 40GB AU$1,899 4 megapixels*
HDR-SR7 60GB AU$2,349 6.2 megapixels*
HDR-SR8 100GB AU$2,499 6.2 megapixels*
* interpolated

In a retrograde step from the SR1 it replaces, the SR7 sports a smaller 2.7-inch flip out, touch-screen LCD -- the old model had a 3.5-inch unit. This is probably because the new model is some 20mm shorter in length and, incidentally, 110g lighter. The SR7's 83 by 138 by 82mm body is also within a few millimetres of the tape-based HC7 we tested earlier this year. And although the glossy jet-black body is not without its charms -- especially the sprinkling of metallic dust in its paint -- we're disappointed to see the disappearance of the ribbed metal barrel. To many it might not matter but, for us, the metal barrel made the HC7 feel like a AU$2,000-plus device.

Otherwise the design is much the same as before. Obviously the tape-drive is no longer present and a few of the input jacks have been relocated, but the main controls -- on/off, record and zoom -- are in the same easily accessed thumb and index finger positions. Sony still has the minimalist approach to buttons, which is both bad and good. Good in that it frees the body from unncessary clutter; bad in that users are forced to flick through touch-screen menus to configure manual settings, like white balance and manual focus. The SR7's menus, like that of all Sony's recently announced high-def cameras, have been updated with slicker graphics -- it's no longer a riot of blocky text and rectangles recalling the time when CGA monitors roamed the earth. The menus still aren't perfect, however, because there's no one button for exiting out of the menu system and, rather inconsistently, some settings drop you out of the menu system after they've been changed, while others do not.

As with the HC7, there's a scroll wheel and button combo near the lens which can be assigned to a manual control, like manual focus. We still found the button too fiddly and awkward to use regularly, and quickly ignored it. The SR7 now has an electronic viewfinder which can be tilted up to about 70 degrees, which is good for those out there who prefer the viewfinder over the LCD.

2007 Sony high-def Handycams

The SR7 boasts a more capacious 60GB hard-disk compared to its forebear's 30GB. According to Sony's claim, this should be sufficient, depending on recording quality, for between eight and 23 hours of AVCHD format high-def footage. As with previous HD Handycams there's a good selection of outputs, including composite, component and HDMI, and inputs too, like microphone and hotshoe. Composite and component cables are provided with the SR7, so it's a shame -- especially on an item ticketed at over AU$2,000 -- that you have to pay an extra AU$99 for the optional mini-HDMI cable.

A dock, however, is supplied with the SR7 which allows you to charge the camera, transfer photos and videos, review your footage on a TV screen and, via the "one touch record" button, burn your masterpieces onto DVD. Although all of this possible without the dock (except one touch recording), it does serve as a nice way of keeping cable clutter to a minimum. If you are one of the enthusiastic few to have shelled out big bikkies for a PS3, you can hook up your SR7 via USB and either view videos directly or transfer them to the PS3's hard-disk.

Other features include an optical image stabilisation, infrared shooting mode, a night light which doubles as a camera flash and smooth slow-mo recording mode -- which records three seconds of low-resolution footage and plays it back over 12 seconds. On the SR7 are two new methods for reviewing footage on the camera. With Face Index, the camera uses its face recognition smarts to produce an index of the people in each video. While with Film Roll Index, each video is previewed with a series of thumbnail snapshots taken at user-specified intervals, for example every three seconds for short clips and every few minutes for epics.

A clutch of software is included with the SR7, allowing you to transfer, burn and play back your high-def footage. This is invaluable because there still aren't many third-party media players which support the AVCHD format. However, video editing suites, like Pinnacle's latest version of Studio, are beginning to embrace the format. When burning DVDs using Sony's software -- whether in standard-def or AVCHD format -- we recommend that you do it on a nice sunny day, with a copy of the weekend newspaper in one hand and a hot cup of coffee in the other, because it's a rather slow process.

Footage we shot on the SR7 -- in passable to good light -- was impressively crisp and had excellent colour response. To be fair we expected this, as the SR7 shares its 10x zoom lens and interpolated 6.2 megapixel sensor with the HC7 we tested earlier this year. Low light performance was noticeably grainy, although still acceptable, and consequently lacked the same jump-out-of-the-screen-look-at-me sharpness. The SR7 was about the right size -- for our hands anyway -- to ensure handheld footage didn't suffer a case of the jitterbug. Casual videographers will be satisfied with the in-built 5.1-channel microphone, although those with a more serious bent should invest in an external unit.

Although the quality in standard definition is good, you really need an HD television to get the best out of the SR7. Viewing our standard busy street screen back-to-back in standard-def and then in high-def, we could fully appreciate the difference. In high definition, we could see details that were pixelated and grainy in SD, like branch and leaf detail on distant trees, as well as the writing on small street signs across the road.

There are a number of quality modes in both high-def and standard-def. With a keen eye and a few viewings, we could just spot the difference between the high-def modes; in higher compression video, there's some detail lost to artifacts and slightly more pixelation around areas of movement. The difference between recording modes in SD, though, was far more distinct with a sharp drop off in quality beyond the highest setting.

The SR7 starts up in about five seconds and has shooting priority -- so, no matter what you're doing on the camera, a press of the record button will start it recording. Photos can be taken either in the camera's photo mode or during video recording, although neither are anything spectacular -- probably equivalent to a decent point-and-shoot still camera.

Compared to the tape and mini-DVD based high-def camcorders Sony launched earlier this year, there are only a few minor detail improvements. But we feel that the addition of a high capacity hard-disk to the existing combination of high-def recording, outstanding picture quality and affordable pricing, makes the SR7 worthy of an Editors' Choice award. We'd be equally tempted by the AU$150 more expensive SR8, which sports a 100GB drive but is otherwise mechanically identical. The one caveat we'd make is that you must have a high-def home theatre set up, namely an HD TV and a AVCHD-capable DVD player or Playstation 3/Bluray player, to fully exploit either camera.

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davidfastolfe posted a review   

The Good:image quality, 100GB hard disk, 38 hours on HD LP and about 14 hours of recording on the highest format. You can browse video from the camera, watch it on your computer to choose what you will transfer.

The Bad:AVCHD is not yet supported. I'm using Adobe premiere pro CS3.

Amazing ! Very easy to operate, huge hard disk. I agree with most reviewers. I got one on ebay for 1400$ USD and it's not the HDR-SR8E but the HDR-SR8


PomiGit posted a review   

The Good:Outdoor daylight video stunning
Easy to import to computer
Touch screen LCD very easy to use (would recommend getting a LCD protector though)

The Bad:Low light filming
AVCHD Support limited
Manual functions abit anoying (manual dial can only perform one function at a time

Fantastic Camera, despite my reservations about getting a Hard Drive camera over my preferred tape i've been very impressed with the images ive produced. As stated by others recording in low light does result in grainy images but you'll struggle to find a camcorder that doesn't do this. Its at its best when filming outdoors in good light. AVCHD isnt widely supported yet however all Sony Vegas editing products do so there is an option despite what others here have said. I personally prefer to use Premiere Pro so I import my footage into Vegas and output it as HDV for editing in Premiere, not ideal but it does the job until Adobe add support.


ChaiChai posted a review   

The Good:1. Excellent video quality 2. Excellent picture quality 3. Light 4. Docking station are excellent to help keep your cables tidy 5.

The Bad:1. HDR SR8 is exclusive to Sony Central 2. Price is expensive due to Cons #1 3. AVCHD is not widely supported at this moment

HDR SR8 = Australia & HDR SR8E = Euro. Both are identical from inside and out. Overall this is an excellent camera, movies are captured at 1440x1080i so don't get your self confused with 1920x1080p. Videos taken in a dark areas are not as good but most cameras at this range are the same. Videos on the outdoor are great. For best video quality it will have to be captured in AVCHD format which mean you can't use your favorite video application or mediaplayer to view these videos on your PC because AVCHD is not widely supported. I would like to edit the videos I've recorded but failed to find any major video editing application that actually support this format as yet. Your only solution at this point of time is to use the software that came with the camera to view the AVCHD format. Be aware 64bit operating system user, the software come with this camera doesn't support your OS. Still pictures are taken at 4:3 max resolution is 2848x2136 and the wideshots 16:9 are 2848x1602. I suggest you forget about the wideshots as you can pretty much photoshop your 4:3 and turn it into 16:9. The flash on this camera are quite impressive for taking photos at night. Battery last aproximately 100 minutes. You can get the HDR SR8 from Sony Central for approximately $2499.00 without bargaining. Could shave off $100-$200 if you use abit of your negotiation skills. If you want to shave off more, then simply start hunting on the internet or on Ebay. You could save your self aproximately $600-$800 but the model will be the HDR SR8E instead. Please be aware of purchasing this camera on Ebay as most sellers are oversea and majorities are HK sellers which can offer it for much cheaper but however, you could be caught with Custom Duty Tax if the price is over $1000.00 and that they're sending it to you from over sea. I suggest you find a local seller and make sure to ask about warranty as well. Apart from that, I still love my camera, I'm very happy with it but sad that I can't really edit my videos with professional software as yet :(


shaily posted a review   

Its a great equipment to have. I have been using it for a month and it has performed beautifully under all circumstances. Love It!

Suresh Moktan

Suresh Moktan posted a review   

The Good:perfect look, convenient, high quality video, plenty of hard disk space, !

The Bad:price

perfect camera in the world!satisfaction guaranteed.

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User Reviews / Comments  Sony Handycam HDR-SR8

  • davidfastolfe



    "Amazing ! Very easy to operate, huge hard disk. I agree with most reviewers. I got one on ebay for 1400$ USD and it's not the HDR-SR8E but the HDR-SR8"

  • PomiGit



    "Fantastic Camera, despite my reservations about getting a Hard Drive camera over my preferred tape i've been very impressed with the images ive produced. As stated by others recording in low light ..."

  • ChaiChai



    "HDR SR8 = Australia & HDR SR8E = Euro. Both are identical from inside and out. Overall this is an excellent camera, movies are captured at 1440x1080i so don't get your self confused with 1920x1080..."

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