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Sony HC1E First Look

Douglas Spotted Eagle reviews PAL version of Sony's consumer HDV camcorder By Douglas Spotted Eagle

The Sony HDR-HC1E is the first small-bodied camera in the HDV world, but it’s size belies it’s quality and capability. Aimed directly at the consumer market, this camera has a price of around $1700.00. Smaller than most DV cameras, the native 1440 x 1080 camera uses CMOS technology to provide impressive imagery from a 5.9mm (1/3) chip.

While this isn't aimed at the professional market, I have to say that I was substantially more impressed with this camcorder than I expected to be. Sony has created a very nice niche in the 1080i market. This camera, coupled with software like the DVRack with HDV Plugin Pak, makes for an amazingly inexpensive HDV production kit for even the most budget-conscious or HD-curious video geek.

If you're wondering about HDV and how it fits your workflow; this is the camera that you can experiment with. This also appears to be a great low-level event and wedding camcorder, in addition to sneaking it into museums, etc. For example, I was able to sneak it into a museum that would not permit "professional" videography. At the KLCC towers in Kuala Lumpur, I watched a guy with a fairly rigged DVX camcorder be turned away by security. He had a tripod, shotgun, and hood on the cam, so it looked fairly intimidating. None of the security guards gave me a second look, and one even somewhat posed, as I was taking images of him near the entrance of the KLCC complex. The quality of the shots coupled with the palm-corder style design of this camera definitely make it a terrific sneak n' peek camcorder.


The Sony HC1E is very small, fitting quite nicely into the palm of your hand.

Boasting just over 2.8 megapixels pixels, which is fantastic for capturing still images, video mode offers 1.9megapixels while the still camera mode offers 2.7 megapixels for standard aspects and just over 2 megapixels for shooters of wide-screen stills.

The camera uses the same Mini-DV tapes as all DV-camcorders as this is part of the HDV specification, and shoots in widescreen/16:9 mode unless the user specifies otherwise.

The Sony manual claims a battery life of just over 90 minutes in HDV mode, but in real world use of stopping/starting the camera, I was able to record for just over 2 hours. However, I also was not leaving the display screen open all the time, either, so their manual may be predicated on leaving the display open full time. Leaving the screen open, the camera performed for just under an hour after it's 4th charging, so the battery was operating at full capacity. Like it’s more robust relatives, the display may be turned on or off, and when shooting in DV mode, the camera will provide slightly longer battery times. The battery is charged via the camera, eliminating the need for an external charger. Fortunately, this camera uses the standard FM-50, QM71, and QM91 batteries like many other Sony products, meaning that spare batteries are very easy to obtain.

The battery pack is on the back of the camera next to the Start/Stop recording button; basically the same as any previous Sony consumer camera. Note the LANC control jack just above the REC/Start button.

The camera is extremely easy to use straight out of the box, and in my testing, I compared the CMOS images against the HVR-Z1 with both cameras in auto-mode. Automode is where this camera really shines. There are several menus available, and exposure, although capable of fully automatic, may be set to standard modes such as “Spotlight,” “Beaches/Sunlight,” “Portrait,” and “Sunset and Moon.” Exposure may also be instantly increased/decreased by the Exposure Adjustment found on the front left of the camcorder, which also applies to audio volume depending on the mode it is in.


The shutter is adjustable in standard shutter speed settings, and the camera auto-adjusts exposure based on shutter speed, effectively making this a shutter-priority camera. Shutter speeds are adjustable from 1/10000 to 1/3.


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