Right, let's now take a look at the various
features of this camcorder.
Design and Construction
The Sony DCR-HC21 is a
clearly a well-designed camcorder. Measuring 2.3" X 3.6" X 4.5" (WHD), the unit
weighs only 4.1 ounces. You can imagine just how small, lightweight and comfortable
it is to hold in your hand. Add to that the nice, silvery finish of the unit and
you have a camcorder that is sure to turn heads.
Optics and Resolution
The Sony DCR-HC21 has an optical zoom of 20X, which is enough for everyday video shoots. As with most of Sony's camcorders, it also incorporates a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens and a Super SteadyShot system. This means that if you have unsteady hands, the camcorder will try to correct the shot for you.
The imaging system in the camcorder is based on an advanced HAD CCD imager. I tried shooting some sample videos and was most impressed by the quality of the shots.
There are also many auto exposure modes which make recording easy even when filming in challenging situations. You can choose from portrait, beach and ski, sports lesson, landscape, spotlight, or sunset and moon modes - whichever befits the environment you're in.
Another interesting optical feature is Sony's NightShot infrared system - which
you can employ to capture natural looking video, even when shooting in low
Lets look at the user controls. First up is the LCD screen. The Sony DCR-HC21 has a nice 2.5 inch LCD screen which provides excellent viewing clarity and improved resolution. If you dislike LCD screens which are difficult to view under direct sunlight, you'll be glad to know that the HC21 has no such problems. I took the unit out to bright sunlight and could still discern the images on the screen with no problems
All user controls for recording and viewing video are conveniently located on the camcorder. Basic controls like recording and playback are accessible through a little jog dial you can flick with your thumb. This means that if you're on the move, you can easily shoot with one hand if required.
On top of that, the menu provides a mind boggling array of features that you can access. One of the best features is the End Search function - which automatically advances the video tape to the last 5 seconds of the last recorded scene. This prevents you from accidentally recording over previously recorded videos.
The Sony DCR-HC21 also gives you the ability to perform manual focusing using
the touch panel. This is very useful in situations where the the camcorder's
auto focus fails to perform optimally, such as when shooting through a window or
in a crowded environment.
Storage and Transfer
To transfer video from the Sony DCR-HC21 to your computer, you will need a Firewire cable and a Firewire capture card (installed in your PC). Connect one end of the cable to the camcorder and the other end to a Firewire port on the capture card. Then start your video editing application and transfer the video.
Another thing - and I know for a fact that this point always confuses people -
the USB cable that comes with the unit does not allow you to transfer
video. USB transfer speeds only allow you to move still pictures from the
camcorder to the PC. The only way to transfer video is to use a Firewire cable.
I had no qualms about the battery life in the Sony DCR-HC21. The camcorder takes Sony's rechargeable Lithium-ion batteries and remaining battery life is conveniently indicated in an AccuPower meter, in either the viewfinder or on the LCD screen.
I took the unit out
for a full day's shooting and came back without requiring any recharge. For
those who need more power, separate battery packs are available for purchase.
The Sony DCR-HC21 is a great camcorder, but it is not without shortcomings.
Firstly, the audio output is positioned right where your hand is - which blocks
video sound a little during playback. Secondly, I feel the manual was very
unclear about transferring video. It should have stated in no uncertain terms
that a Firewire cable is absolutely required. Add a short paragraph like
this will save customers a lot of wasted time.
Whether youre a novice or an intermediate videographer, if you want a good entry level camcorder to play with, then the Sony DCR-HC21 is the camcorder for you. While its not as sophisticated as some higher end models, it is pretty cheap, offers a good feature set and excellent image quality. Definitely worth looking at the next time you're in the electronics store.
Edit Digital Videos With Ease
If you've been looking for a good video editing program, you may want to check out Corel VideoStudio Pro. This software allows you to quickly create and share a movie using built-in templates, special effects, titles and transitions. You can apply unique effects such as stop-motion animation, time-lapse and chroma key to create brilliant digital videos.
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