Sony HDD cam joins HDV cam

Sony has launched a hard drive (HDD) camcorder to partner its high-definition (HDV) camcorder. Some people had hoped for a high-definition hard drive

Sony has launched a hard drive (HDD) camcorder to partner its high-definition (HDV) camcorder.

Some people had hoped for a high-definition hard drive (HDVHDD) camcorder but, while Sony’s engineers are confident they can combine the technologies, marketing bods are struggling to think how to sell HDV-HDD to consumers without confusing the socks off them.

The HDD-equipped DCR-SR90 (pictured above) has a 3megapixel CCD, VarioSonnar T* lens and a 30GB hard drive – good for just over seven hours of footage in HQ mode.

Sound is encoded real-time into 5.1-channel surround. Given the size of a hard drive compared to MiniDV tape, we were a bit disappointed with the chunky size of the camcorder. In its defence, it feels solidly built and fits snugly into a medium-sized gadget hand.

Amazingly, Sony has resisted the opportunity to create yet another proprietary format – the images are stored in MPEG-2 format, with an easily recognisable ‘.avi’ extension. Good news for Mac users, who lose the supplied PC-only Sony software but can simply drag the video files off the camcorder and into iMovie or Final Cut or any app that supports MPEG-2.

You needn’t even wade that deeply into video editing. The SR90 lets you edit and re-order movie clips on the camera, using its touch screen and thumbnail view. Or, you can pipe your images straight through your PC on to DVD using the One Touch DVD Burn button.

Surely, there can’t be more good news? There is: Sony’s Stamina boffins have given the SR90 sufficient legs to last up to 235 minutes of recording time. That’s with the screen off, of course, so a more realistic figure is half that. Nevertheless, two hours footage per battery puts the squeeze on other hard drive or solid state camcorders.

Worries about stockpiling hours of footage on an easily dropped camcorder are allayed somewhat by the 3G Sensor, which protects the hard drive before an impact.

The SR90 costs £850 in Sony’s online store, but less from other e-tailers, and is available now. Could be that, if you were waiting for a HDD camcorder, this is it. We’ll have a proper review once we’ve taken one into battle, returned and studied the resulting footage on a 90inch LCD, using an electron microscope.