The Sony Handycam DCR-HC62 is roughly comparable to Canon’s ZR950 in size and shape but sets itself apart with some flashy features and excellent video quality. But we’re not sold on whether those extras are worth the $70 premium this digicam costs over its nearest competitor.
The marquee feature of the HC62 is without a doubt the touchscreen LCD, which has allowed Sony to banish most buttons from the camcorder and move all the interactive elements onto the LCD display. The LCD seems to be mostly resistant to serious smudging or fingerprints and is quite responsive, always doing what is expected when it is touched or tapped. The one caveat is that most of the top-level menu buttons are thin, little rectangles that sit close to the beveled edge of the display. It can take a few tries to avoid getting caught on the edge of the screen’s frame and actually make contact with the on-screen buttons. Once that obstacle is surmounted, the graphical menus are very easy to navigate and comprehend. In bright sunlight, the LCD becomes hard to see, and glare brings out subtle smudges that would otherwise go undetected.
The few buttons that do remain sit just below the LCD display. The most useful is the aspect-ratio selector, a feature the JVC GR-D850 shares. Strangely enough, the other buttons duplicate functions accessible from the body of the camera: starting and stopping recording and zooming in and out. This means these actions can be carried out by both the left and right hands. While that ambidexterity might be useful in certain situations, it feels like a redundancy, especially when the left-hand zoom control is so sluggish that it’s hardly worth using it over the traditional right-hand zoom lever.
The video quality of the HC62 was excellent, almost on a par with JVC’s GR-D850. Both record to MiniDV cassettes and can boast vivid, satisfying video; however, the HC62’s 25X zoom lens itself is somewhat of an issue, as it’s far less powerful than the GR-D850’s 35X zoom or the Canon ZR950’s 37X zoom. Also, the HC62 has more trouble keeping steady when the long-range zoom is in use, and its tele-macro function didn’t help at all.
The HC62’s Super Nightshot Plus infrared system definitely improves low-light performance but can result in an eerie halo effect. Even so, it was more effective than JVC’s NightAlive feature. Rated at 85 minutes, the HC62’s battery life nearly matched that of the Canon ZR950, falling just ten minutes short.
While both the Sony Handycam DCR-HC62 and JVC GR-D850 are almost equal in terms of video quality, the nearly $70 price difference between JVC’s model and Sony’s HC62 can be attributed to the latter’s advanced LCD touchscreen. Consumers need to decide whether they’re willing to shell out for a budget camcorder with this feature or for the JVC’s longer zoom.