Sony’s first HDV camcorder, the HDR-FX1, was introduced at $3,000. Sony’s HC1 hit a below-$2,000 sweetspot. Enter the new Sony HC3 – available for around $1,000.
Sony’s current HDV line up is as follows: at the top end, it’s the Sony Z1. Sony FX1 is next in line, then the HC1, and finally, the HC3.
Sony’s main competitors in the DV field both have their HD cams: Canon XL H1 and Panasonic HVX200. Neither Canon nor Panasonic, however, have the range of cameras that Sony does.
SONY HC3 Review – Chips and Video
Sony HC3 has a single 4:3 aspect ratio CMOS chip – the same as the one in the HC1 . In comparison, Sony FX1 has three CCDs which are natively 16:9. The FX1 pixel count is lower – 1.12 megapixels per CCD – while HC3 has 1.98 megapixels in 16:9 mode. This matches exactly the 1080i standard – 1920×1080.
The HC3 1080i CMOS chip performs very well in well-lit environments, on par with its more expensive brethren. Colors are crisp and the resolution of the video image is really outstanding. A true HD cam. Some reviewers have observed more sharpness artifacts and more color saturation which are probably the result of Sony targeting the average Joe with this cam. The colors and sharpness can be tuned down to get a more natural video.
SONY HC1 Review – Controls
Although Sony’s HC3 is considered a lower class cam, just like its predecessor – the HC1, it allows certain control over important functions. Most of these are automated but perform relatively well. For example, the auto-focus is quick and responsive – very similar to the FX1. Speaking of AUTO, the HC3 has a master auto switch that will put the camera in a full auto mode. The only thing you’ll be controlling in this mode is the zoom.
You can also control the shutter speed, focus, zoom, and white balance but these are pretty obvious and taken for granted. The control over the zoom and the focus are pretty good (for a consumer cam).
All things considered, Sony HC3 is a worthy successor to the HC1 and an excellent entry-level HD cam. You can use it as a disposable cam for guerilla filmmaking or as a helmet cam for extreme sports videos. You should keep in mind you won’t come across as a “PRO” with any of these minicams … it’s almost like using a webcam for production.