The £360 inc VAT Sony DCR-HC96 MiniDV Handycam, Sony's high-end MiniDV camcorder, offers step-up features such as a higher-capacity battery, a charging dock and the ability to capture higher-resolution video than can other HC series models.

Although the Sony DCR-HC96 MiniDV Handycam scored points with our jury in still-image performance, the Sony DCR-HC96 MiniDV Handycam's low-light video quality and battery life were merely average.

With a body composed of plastic and metal, the Sony DCR-HC96 MiniDV Handycam fits nicely in your palm. The 2.7in widescreen LCD has touch-screen controls and play, record and stop buttons sit just below the Sony DCR-HC96 MiniDV Handycam's screen, enabling you to keep your eye on the action while controlling the camera.

A built-in lens cap and a top-loading cassette mechanism are other subtle design pluses. The Sony DCR-HC96 MiniDV Handycam includes Sony's proprietary AIS accessory shoe for attaching an AIS-compatible microphone or flash. The camcorder comes with a dock that supports FireWire and USB transfers and provides connectors for AV cables and power (the latter ports are included on the camcorder as well).

The Sony DCR-HC96 MiniDV Handycam delivered impressive still images. Our panel of experts judged the test shots we took with the 3Mp unit as Superior, thanks to high marks for colour accuracy, sharpness and exposure.

The Sony DCR-HC96 MiniDV Handycam's video quality was impressive, too. High marks for audio clarity and for video taken in standard light, along with middling scores for low-light video, yielded an overall video quality score of Very Good.


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