The Sony DCR-SX44 is the ultra compact camcorder with embedded internal memory and a long optical zoom.
The Sony DCR-SX44 features a 1/8-inch CCD sensor that is packed with 800k pixels. Its ultra compact body still manages to pack a hefty Carl Zeiss 60x optical zoom which is one of the strongest feature for a body this small. Besides, it also came with image stabilisation which Sony called as a SteadyShot and whether it is an optical or digital is still.
There is no viewfinder except for the swiveling 2.7-inch LCD touchscreen which has 230k colour support. For storage, the Sony DCR-SX44E has internal flash memory of 4GB and it also accepts memory card (SD, Memory Stick PRO Duo). Videos are recorded in MPEG-2 format at 720x480 resolution at 25 fps and its 4GB of internal memory can store around three hours of video in LP mode.
Images captured are stored in VGA resolution though. There is also a built-in LED video light and a zoom-mic which is supposed to focus on the audio from the zoom-in subjects. The Sony DCR-SX44E's microphone does not have a wind-cut like we saw on the Samsung VP-DX205 which is quite essential to have audio clean and clear for the recorded clips.
There are 10 scene modes in total and Face Detection is also included. Manual white balance function is also available while there are no colour effects of any sort.
Sony DCR-SX44E: Design & Usability
Owing to its ultra-compact design, the Sony DCR-SX44 scores in terms of look and portability. The swiveling LCD screen is a big advantage while shooting at various angles. The capturing buttons for video and photo are easily accessible: one for video at the back and the other for photo at the top. The Zoom lever at the top is also easy to reach and conveniently located to be used with forefinger.
The overall body build quality is good and the look is also respectable. There is a lens cover which protects the lens from dust and it has a switch for opening and closing. Opening the LCD screen reveals buttons located inside, these are buttons for power, direct disc burn (DVDirect Express technology), playback, LED light, and a mini USB port for either data transfer or TV-out. The battery is at the back and the charging port is at the bottom right. Memory card slot and tripod mount are at the bottom. All in all, this basic camcorder has a simple design and it is easy to figure out which feature does what.
The ultra compact design does not offer the best grip while holding the camcorder but is still manageable. The buttons are well placed and getting used to the layout is a no brainer. The touchscreen is bright, responsive but visibility outside suffers under the bright sunlight. Its interface is easy to navigate but the lack of proper explanation for each function would be a bit of a problem for beginners. Sony included the AV cable, charger, miniUSB cable, a software CD (Picture Motion Browser and Handbook), and manuals.
Sony DCR-SX44E: Performance
Tested in the PCWorld.in Labs
The Sony DCR-SX44 is a responsive camcorder and it started up in 2.4 seconds approximately (with the lens cover already opened). The camera started automatically the moment the LCD screen is opened and closing the cover powers it off.
The lens is also fast and quick to focus even at the tele end under good light conditions. It only struggled in some of our indoor shots where there was low light. The only major problem was the image stabilisation system which is ineffective and made capturing watchable videos difficult especially towards the end of the tele. So, as much as we appreciate the mega zoom lens, holding the camera still using one hand is very difficult and this makes it more suitable using a tripod or place the camcorder on a stable support.
The footage we recorded outdoors lacked sharpness and details. Except for the average frame rates, the standard definition videos it recorded looked soft with digital artifacts and lots of purple fringing. The colour reproduction is also not great and there are some hightlight clipping in bright contrast areas.The tele macro mode let us capture sharper videos but the videos captured at wide angle were just average standard definition video.
Indoor shots in low light were without much noise but lots of noticeable digital artifacts presence and the lack of sufficient details make this just an average standard definition camcorder.
When we compared with videos we captured with camcorders like Canon Legria FS200, the Sony DCR-SX44 captured less impressive footage in terms of sharpness and colour reproduction. The audio recorded via its stereo microphone has good clarity though, the stereo effect from left to right channel were reproduced excellently. If you are satisfied with the standard definition, and willing to use a tripod or place it on a stable support, the Sony DCR-SX44 will let you capture a watchable but average qualityu video.
The still image quality recorded at VGA resolution despite the 60x optical zoom ability is nothing greater than what a budget mobile phone could capture. The battery lasted us for a little bit above 2 hours which is good enough for casual usage and of course, you can always get extra battery.
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