Weighing some 960 grams sans camera and measuring 159x220x148mm, the SPK-HCE is certainly not what one would call small. But, then again, there's a price to be paid for keeping water and dust away from your precious Handycam. It comes supplied with a plethora — seven, to be precise — of mounting plates, so that almost any conventionally shaped Sony camcorder from the last few generations can be snuggled up inside the Sports pack's clear plastic casing.
There's no need to align the camcorder with a set of mechanical pushers because, unlike some underwater housings we've looked at in the past, the Sports pack controls the camcorder via a digital cable that plugs into the AV socket. The case itself is pretty spartan, there's a wrist grip, a single latch locking mechanism, a swing out mirror for viewing the camcorder's LCD screen and a bunch of camcorder controls up top.
In order from top to bottom, the case's chrome-plated controls allow you to control power, mode (movie, photo, playback), zoom, photo shutter and recording. With the exception of playback, all the controls worked fine on the two Handycams we had on, umm, hand — a CX520 and an SR12.
Be warned though, most Handycam features are controlled via a touchscreen and there's no way of pushing and prodding at the screen once it's inside the Sport pack. If you've set manual focus, the incorrect exposure or white balance correction, it's tough luck — everything must be configured to your liking before jumping in the drink.
As it's only rated to five metres depth, the SPK-HCE is clearly aimed at those planning a seaside holiday or a spot of snorkelling rather than the next epic BBC documentary. Sony has included a stereo microphone module, at the front, just underneath the lens opening, that allows you to record sound underwater.
What else is in the box?
The most difficult part of the whole set-up process is finding the right instruction booklet, with one seemingly for every language except Klingon. Also supplied with the case are a tube of gel for the o-ring seal, a neck strap, a set of lens rings to minimise reflection from stray light within the case and anti-fogging solution, as well as three satchels of anti-fogging desiccant.
At just shy of half-a-grand, the Sports pack SPK-HCE isn't for everyone, but if you're planning a not too Cousteau-esque Barrier Reef adventure, then it just may be the ticket. Although we wish it would go deeper than five metres, we're impressed with its fit-almost-any-Handycam ability.