Having parented a delightful new video format called AVCHD with Panasonic, Sony is now it off with several new hi-def camcorders. The latest is the UX7, which records straight onto mini DVDs and sports a huge 3.5in LCD.

Purists may snub the AVCHD format, but Panasonic’s HDC-SD1 has proven that it’s the bright young thing of hi-def video recording. But can Sony’s baby live up to this early promise and help take the AVCHD fight to JVC’s Everios?

Hard cam

The first thing we noticed about the UX7 is its excellent build quality – give it a pavement sandwich and we think it could come out fighting.

Sony's chosen mini DVD discs as its format of choice, which rather handily playback perfectly on the PS3. Getting the footage to a PC is as simple as plonking it in the DVD drive but there are the usual AVCHD editing hurdles to overcome, including lack of Mac support.

The DVD drive has the effect of bulking the body out, making it considerably larger than its AVCHD rival, the Panasonic SD1. One-handed control of anything but the basics is out too because all the advanced options require a dip into the touchscreen menu. It's well laid out but not as accessible as the thumb controllers found elsewhere.

The UX7’s protruding dial can be set in the menu to control focus, exposure or, for finer tweaks, AE shift. Sadly for pros, though, that’s about as far as the Sony’s manual controls go.

Slick slow-mo

Video performance was impressive, on a par with Panasonic’s SD1. Colour suffered from the single CCD but there was less apparent noise. Manual controls are limited but well implemented. We were happy to stay in 'Easy' which coped well. And we couldn't get enough of the slow motion mode that manages a short burst of high quality slo-mo. Tenerife Baywatch action, anyone?

While the UX7 competes with the SD1, though, it falls just short of matching the Canon HV20’s stunning 24P video quality. So while we certainly recommend this Sony for its high quality footage and convenience, purists and pros should look elsewhere.

Stuff says... 

Sony HDR-UX7 review

A capable cam that'll take the knocks and matches it rival, the Panasonic HDC-SD1. It can’t quite better Canon’s HV20 on sheer performance though