Sony DCR-SR100 Camcorder Review
**Video Performance ***(7.75)*
The Sony DCR-SR100 features a single 1/3"Advanced HAD CCD, with 3310K gross pixels. This corresponds to 2050 effective video pixels in 4:3 aspect ratio and 2060 effective video pixels in 16:9 aspect ratio. The provided specs sheet did not indicate how the electronic image stabilization (EIS) affected the pixel count; EIS typically lowers the effective pixel count.
At 3000 lux, the DCR-SR100 had a good, even color balance, and sharpness nearly matching that of MiniDV (which has a much lower compression). There was a noticeable amount of saturation, but not nearly as high as last year’s DVD403. On the whole, the DVD405 of this year had a nearly identical color performance to the SR100, evidence of the fact that they use the same imaging system. The big difference between the SR100 and the DVD405 is the effects of compression. The DVD camcorder’s compression left extremely jagged lines along curved lines. The SR100 did a much better job with curved lines.
The DCR-HC96, Sony’s top MiniDV camcorder, also uses the same chip as the SR100. And like the DVD405, the color performance is nearly identical, hence, very good. The differences between the images were very slight: the SR100 appeared to have a little more sharpening, with larger halos around areas of high contrast, which may be a result of the different compression methods. Also, the HC96 had more fine grain noise.
The SR100’s main competition is likely the JVC Everios G-series of camcorder, with the GZ-MG77 ($799) in the lead. We haven’t written a full review of the MG77 yet, but we did look at last year’s GZ-MG70 (similar in most regards, except for the MG77’s slightly larger CCD). The MG70 was much blurrier than the SR100. The colors were slightly more muted. The MG70 also showed the same problem with jaggies along curved lines that we saw in the Sony DVD camcorders. The whites were whiter and the blacks were blacker in the MG70, too the point of nearly blowing out. The SR100 looks much better, overall.
Finally, the Panasonic SDR-S100 also captures video to MPEG2, onto an SD card rather than internal hard drive. The colors were more saturated, overall, with a particular emphasis on the greens. Along straight vertical and horizontal lines, the lines looked sharper than the SR100, but the Sony did a much better job with curved lines. Noise levels were roughly the same.
Overall, the DCR-SR100 is a solid video performer, and much improved over the Sony DVD line.
We tested the DCR-SR100’s video resolution by shooting a standard ISO 12233 resolution chart and running stills from the video clips through Imatest imaging software. In 4:3 aspect ratio, the SR100 produced 451.2 lines of horizontal resolution and 431.3 lines of vertical resolution, yielding an approximate resolution of 194602.56. In 16:9 aspect ratio, the camcorder produced 476.4 lines of horizontal resolution and 351.4 lines of horizontal resolution, yielding an approximate resolution of 167406.96.
The chart below shows how competing camcorders scored in video resolution. The DCR-SR100 finished well above the other models.
**Low Light Performance ***(6.75)*
The DCR-SR100 was tested for its low light performance by shooting in 60 lux and 15 lux, light levels that are a challenge for most camcorders. These might not look that dark to the human eye, but keep in mind that the eye is much more effective in low light than an imager.
At 60 lux, the SR100 had an excellent picture. The large 1/3" CCD is obviously a boon for the camcorder, and the picture is hardly any different than at 3000 lux. Noise has increased slightly, most noticeably in the reds and blues. The colors have muted a little, but overall, this is a great picture.
The DCR-DVD405 and DCR-HC96 have the same great image. The DVD405 showed the same problems found in most DVD compression (see Video Performance above), but the colors were great. The HC96 was practically identical to the SR100.
The JVC GZ-MG70 had terrible noise problems, great blue splotches across the yellow, green, and blue portions of the spectrum. The picture was bright enough, but much of the color saturation had been lost. The Panasonic SDR-S100 lost a great deal of color information and sharpness, and noise increased significantly.
At 15 lux, the DCR-SR100 dropped off pretty quickly. Whereas the 60 lux image was bright and full, the 15 lux image was very dark, with barely recognizable colors. The DVD405 and HC96 are the same, indicating that 15 lux is a breaking point for this particular chip.
The GZ-MG70 was even darker, which is not a surprise, given the smaller imager in the MG70. The image was essentially greyscale. The Panasonic SDR-S100 was overwrought with noise, and the image was even worse than the SR100.
Overall, the SR100 was a strong performer through moderate low light, but performance fell off as the light became dimmer.
Wide Angle* (9.2)*
The Sony DCR-SR100 is able to shoot in both 4:3 and 16:9 formats and was tested to determine to what degree these two formats provide a different field of view. When shooting in 4:3 format the camcorder produced a 40 degree field of view. When switched into 16:9 format the camcorder was able to extend this field of view to 46 degrees. While this isn’t as impressive as the 52 degree field found with Canon camcorders this will definitely allow for users to consciously shoot in two different formats without having to compromise image quality through crop and zoom or vertical cropping.**