Sony DCR-HC1000 test and review

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Sony DCR-HC1000

Can Sony's new sub-£1,000 three-chipper live up to the hugely popular DCR-TRV950 it replaces?

The DCR-HC1000 marks a change of direction for Sony. Even though it's supposedly the successor to the DCR-TRV950, it's a rather different beast. For a start, the TRV range has been discontinued in favour of HC, which is rather more consumer-oriented. As a result, the HC1000 is intended to be a lot more automated, while maintaining the high video quality its heritage would imply.
The camera body itself is a completely new design. The combined tape transport and hand stock rotates, like a Sharp Viewcam. This may not suit everyone, but we found it very comfortable to use. Even when operating the camera at waist level, it's still possible to maintain a firm grip on this stock, which makes for steadier shooting than with most other camcorders. It also makes up for the fact that the HC1000 is quite weighty - even heavier than the Panasonic NV-GS400B, although it does have a reassuring solidity about it.
Internally, the HC1000 and its predecessor have a lot in common. The camcorder is based around the same trio of 1.07 megapixel CCDs, each 1/4.7in in size, giving the same 1,152 x 864 still-image capability. The smaller MemoryStick Duo has replaced the TRV950's full-sized MemoryStick, but the pop-up flash remains.

We can't help feeling the HC1000 has a bit of an identity crisis. While it is undeniably another extremely high-quality Sony camcorder, the near-£1,000 price puts it firmly in the high-end video enthusiast and semi-professional market. But, that kind of user will almost certainly demand more immediate access to manual controls. It's hard to fathom why Sony didn't add a few more buttons, or adopt the multi-function lens-ring approach used by Panasonic's NVGS400B.
For semi-professionals, the HC1000 is overshadowed by the Panasonic even though the Sony's surround-sound has lots of potential for innovative film-making. However, this isn't accompanied by a progressive widescreen mode, and that's a surprise given that the even more consumer-oriented upright Sony DCR-PC350 offers a Cinema Effect, which combines widescreen and 24 frames-per-second shooting for a quasi-film look. We would have expected this to have been implemented in the HC1000, considering the similar time of release of these two camcorders.
Anyone wanting the best quality point-and-shoot camcorder around should look no further - the HC1000 excels in this department. It's also keenly priced for such a high-quality three-CCD system. But existing DCR-TRV950 users will be disappointed. This is not the heir to an aristocratic semi-professional camcorder lineage, more the founder of a new consumer-enthusiast generation.

James Morris

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Reviewed in this issue:

Panasonic NV-GS400B
Three-CCD consumer camcorder, £1,030

Pinnacle Liquid Edition 6 Pro
Windows analogue and digital video editing software, £600

Pinnacle Studio Plus 9
DV editing software for Windows, £60

Sony DCR-HC1000
Three-CCD consumer camcorder, £989

Wacom Intuos 3
A4 graphic input device with pen and mouse, £345

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HD-compatible Canopus Edius Pro 3;
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Mediachance's no-nonsense DVD authoring with DVD-lab Pro;
Cut-price HD-compatible hardware/software Edius bundle from Canopus;
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Video Forum 2005 preview; multi-format optical disc recorder with 160GByte HDD from LiteOn;
V7 of 3ds max from Discreet; enhanced video editing, authoring, streaming and digital imaging with Nero Reloaded

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