Just bought the Sony Sony DCR-SR32E - not impressed, advice please

ade_01

Standard Member
Hi,
New to the forums and desperately seeking advice before I send back my Sony DCR-SR32E.

It arrived yesterday from Amazon, and after overcoming initial problems with the software ( using NeroVision to burn DVD`s ) I thought I was happy with it.
However, a couple of issues are seriously making me reconsider.
First of all, the focus seems very fussy, often re-focusing numerous times when I`m not even moving the camera. It seems to struggle to maintain a sharp focus.
The other issue is more concerning. The picture quality seems reasonable on first watch, but when I compare it to the quality of a Sony DVD camcorder it seems washed out and the contrast seems quite weak. Also, colours are not as vibrant.

I borrowed the Sony DVD camcorder over Xmas from work to take videos of my 6 month old sons first Christmas. I cant recall the exact model number, but when I searched for it it appears to be unavailable , so I assume it is discontinued. The nearest I could find to it was the Sony DCR-DVD106E DVD Handycam Camcorder. However, I overlooked this model and thought I`d splash out on the HDD DCR-SR32E. As this meant more recording time without the need for tapes or discs.
I assumed ( foolishly ) that the picture quality would be better if not equal to the lower DVD model.
When I play the footage recorded on the DVD camcorder it seems to have better contrast and more vibrant colours. It also doesnt suffer from the focusing issue ( nowhere near as much anyway ) as the HDD camcorder.

I got it from Amazon as it was the cheapest I could find ( £290 ) however, I now wish I had got the equivalent model to the one I had borrowed. Thing is, as I said earlier that one didnt seem to be available anymore. The nearest I could find was the DVD106E.

Does anyone else own a SR32E and have similar issues with the focusing.
I would prefer to keep the HDD model as the hard drive capability is the reason I chose it. However, the picture quality compared to the DVD model is nowhere near as good ( even when I recorded in LP and compared it to HQ on the DVD version )

I am planning on returning it tomorrow, but would like to know if either a) I`m doing something wrong, or b) its a common issue with this model.

The DVD version is £200 on Amazon, and money is quite tight at the moment, but I took the plunge so I didnt miss any magic moments with my son.

Any advice/comments will be greatly appreciated.

Cheers

Ade
 

senu

Distinguished Member
I have not heard anyone shouting at the rooftops at the SR32s PQ TBH . I handled it sometime last year along with a similar costing JVC Everio and was .. frankly ( to be polite) "underwhelmed" . Especially when the light levels were less than bright sunlight ..

I would not presume to say much about the DVD camcorders suffice to say they are not ( as my mother often says) "My cup of tea:)"

HDD camcorders seem to improve once you dig deeper into your pocket.
There are a handful of us here who will tell you in earnest that you are far likely to get better quality and value with a similar costing MiniDV model provided you shop around and avoid the likes of Comet ( which dont stock them anyway). Tape may seem "out of date" but for sheer video quality it still is it ;)

By the time you Spend £4-500, the HDD models begin to shine.
Ironically you then get into Hi def tape territory and Even HDD Hi Def.

Im trialling an excellent Canon HDD AVCHD ( HG10) which is unable to capture SD ( doh!) but even with at that it shows that non tape models are very capable provided you chose carefully
 

ade_01

Standard Member
Thanks for the reply senu.
I had a feeling the focusing issue may be to do with light levels, I`m filming indoors in the evening ( at work during the day ) so not had chance to test under normal bright sunlight.
I`m guessing the Sony is struggling due to lowish light levels, but its no different to the conditions that I filmed under with the DVD version.
I know what you`re saying about tape too, but for speed and convenience I was willing to compromise with DVD or HDD. Mini-DV put me off a tiny bit for various reasons, I`ve not had much experience with them ( especially when transferring video to a PC and burning to DVD ), but I guess its more long winded than the simplicity of finalising a DVD in the player , or dragging and dropping MPEG2 files to the PC for NeroVision to convert.
I`m really a newbie to the whole camcorder thing and a bit of an impulse buyer, so even though I did a bit of comparing before purchase I think I mislead myself with the experience of the DVD model.

Considering I`m on a bit of a budget ( £280ish been my max - and then thats pushing it! ) what would you recommend. I thought the one I borrowed was pretty good for DVD format , and took the HDD route for higher recording capacity. However I cant get my head round the fact that the picture quality seems to suffer on the HDD one, only as regards to the colour saturation and contrast.
All Sonys use the same lens , so why would a more `superior` HDD model give an inferior picture?
I`ve fiddled with the settings and seem to be able to almost cure the focusing issue by using the `touch focus` which sets the focus to manual. Thus eliminating the constant searching - it just seems overly sensitive. When my son even moves his arms about it constantly tries to focus, but I never got this with the other camcorder.
The colour issue is improved by switching on something called a `colour slow shutter` , but this is for still images, and the video just goes into blurry jerky vision when using it. Other options that I changed are the scene selection modes, but its just so much fiddling around when the other one was pretty simple.

I think I want to stick with DVD or HDD, but can someone recommend a camcorder with good contrast and colour replication, and none of this focusing problem in lowish light conditions.
Sorry for the long post, just want to provide as much info as possible.

Thanks

PS - i`d love that Canon HG10, but I think £600+ is out of my range at the moment !
 

redsox_mark

Novice Member
All Sonys use the same lens , so why would a more `superior` HDD model give an inferior picture?

This is not correct; e.g the SR190 has a higher quality Carl Zeiss® Vario-Sonnar® T* lens, vs the Vario-Tessar® on the SR32.
Plus there is more to a camcorder than the lens (or the format); the sensor on the SR190 is twice as large; which helps greatly with low light performance.

For that budget all the HDD models will have similar issues as the SR32.

The DV HC96 is much better, even if it is an older model.
http://www.ebuyer.com/product/108048
 

ade_01

Standard Member
Thanks for the reply Mark, thats really helpful to know.
As I said I`m new to camcorders , and when I said Sony had all the same lenses I was unaware there was varying types and quality!
I just remember the Carl Zeiss Vario bit not the other bit which obviously determines the quality. How is the newbie like me supposed to know which is better just from a name! Now you`ve made me aware of that I will certainly be sending the camera back. Which is a shame as I like the HDD part of it.
I`m not keen on using Mini DV, so may look for a DVD model with a better lens to keep the cost down.
What is the best way to tell if the lens on a camcorder is any good or not?
As I mentioned before my main concern was that the SR32 colours look alot less vibrant than the DVD model I borrowed.
How can I be sure that I will get a good contrast/colour image from a camcorder?

Thanks again for the advice, its really helped.

Can you recommend a DVD model with a better quality lens? I really want the colour to be vibrant and not washed out like the SR32.
Cheers
 

redsox_mark

Novice Member
You can't tell the lens quality by the spec or the name. You either have to try the camcorders, trust the reviews, or trust the manufacturers to put better lenses on the more expensive models.

Quality of a DVD camcorder in this price range really shouldn't be much better than HDD.
 

felix2

Novice Member
Hi,

I haven't ever tried a DVD camcorder, but I'd be very surprised if a Sony DVD camcorder was any better than (or any different from)a Sony HDD camcorder at the same sort of price.

I'm guessing slightly, but I'd have thought the DVD-106 is the same machine underneath as the SR32 (i.e. same lens, image sensor, processing, and MPEG2 compression system, all giving the same picture quality at the same settings and in the same conditions), but one's got a DVD drive bolted onto it and the other's got a HDD on it.

I don't know if this link will work: http://www.sony.co.uk/product/Compa...-SR190E&models=DCR-DVD106E&models=DCR-DVD506E

but otherwise go to http://www.sony.co.uk and do a 'Compare' of the Technical Specs of the different models you're interested in. Probably the main things to look at are the sensor and the lens, which appear to be the same for the DVD106 and the SR32.

The higher range DVD and HDD models (e.g. SR190 and DVD506) have sensors twice the size (i.e. 4x the area), meaning better lowlight performance (colour and overall picture indoors in winter evenings), and better lenses.

I don't know which DVD model you'd borrowed, but if it was a previous year's model, it might have been a higher spec than today's entry level DVD (or HDD) models (which may well be cheaper than that would have been when it was new).

At that budget, the mini DV tape models would still get my vote - Sony HC96 or whatever 3CCD models Panasonic make if they're still available (GS230? GS320??)
 

ade_01

Standard Member
Hi again.
Thanks for that link felix, it was helpful.
Well, I`ve decided that the SR32 will be going back on Monday. What swayed my decision was that I took the `corder into work today and compared it side by side with the one I borrowed ( which was incidently a DVD-105 )
From what I`ve looked at it appears the 105 is superceded by the 106, the only difference (that I noticed) was that the 106 had 40x optical zoom as opposed to 20x. I cant confirm this, but I`d like to think that the 106 has a similar touch screen interface to the SR-32. By this I mean it looks more cleaner and nicer graphics than the 105 ( sort of like Windows 98 to XP ).

Anyway, in a (fairly) well lit room I held the two camcorders together and focused on the same object. I find the SR32 loses its ability to stay in focus the more you zoom in.
So, I kept both cameras the same distance from the object and zoomed in a bit - not to max, as this often results in a completely blurred image.
Immediately the SR32 began `pulsing` the focus and couldnt keep a firm `lock` for more than a second. The DVD105 however was fine.
The next thing I noticed was that the colours and contrast were more accurate on the 105. I focused on a black PC keyboard and the blacks were black on the 105, but on the SR32 it almost had a grey feel to it.
The colours were more vibrant on the 105 too, I had to use the option on the SR32 to increase the LCD colour saturation to get the colours similar to the 105. But I knew that the recorded footage would be much less saturated when played back on a TV.

What I cant get my head round is that the two camcorders are completely indentical spec wise as regards to the lens, sensor size and megapixel.
Both are Carl Zeiss Vario Tesser, both have 1/6" sensor, and both are .8 megapixels.
Why the heck then, does the picture quality look so much better on the 105.
I know it probably wont compare to a Vario Sonner T but surely the SR32 should be the SAME quality!
I rang the local Sony Center and the chap there didnt have a clue. He gave me the Sony Customer Support number and I think I smelt some bull poop when I talked to him.
He said that the HDD models suffered from this problem as part of the design of the HDD versions. I simply cant believe that, how can an image coming in through identical lenses and hitting identical sensors be different just because one is writing to a hard drive and the other is burning to a DVD.
Makes NO sense.

If anyone can explain this, I would be really interested to know the reason behind it.
I`m off to the Sony Center tomorrow to try some models first hand. I will be taking my SR32 to compare it to others ( even to another SR32 in case mine is faulty ) I dont have to send it back until Monday, so I have a weeked to try it out some more.
Somehow I dont think I`ll be persuaded to keep it though, I may wait a bit and splash out on the HDD Vario Sonner T models - a SR190 ( around £400 ).

Cheers for all the replies. I`ll let you know how I get on tomorrow.
 

redsox_mark

Novice Member
You are right, there is no reason the SR32 should be lower quality than the DVD105. As Felix2 described so well they use the same lens, sensor, compression.....

Could a different quality setting have been used? Maybe the DVD105 using a higher quality (bitrate) setting? This wouldn't explain the ability to focus though.
 

ade_01

Standard Member
You are right, there is no reason the SR32 should be lower quality than the DVD105. As Felix2 described so well they use the same lens, sensor, compression.....

Could a different quality setting have been used? Maybe the DVD105 using a higher quality (bitrate) setting? This wouldn't explain the ability to focus though.
The 105 was on LP mode, the SR32 was set to HQ. The picture quality on the SR32 was probably slightly less grainy. I dont think the quality settings would affect the contrast and colour saturation though. I also thought that what you see on the LCD is a direct result of the lens and sensor.
The image quality loss created by LP or low quality would only become apparent on playback. Thats what I would guess, but I dont know for sure.
This is why I find the option to increase the LCD colour saturation on the SR32 fairly pointless as the changes dont carry through to the recorded video.

Perhaps I should point out that I wasnt actually recording with either unit. Just looking at the quality of the image on the LCD. I have compared recorded footage from the two devices under similar conditions and the same result applies. The SR32 is definately more `washed out` than the 105.
 

redsox_mark

Novice Member
You are right the quality setting shouldn't impact the colour, or what you see on the screen.
With the small LCD I find it hard to judge the quality though; and there the settings of the LCD itself can make one look better than the other when comparing in that way (though it doesn't impact the actual footage).
 

ade_01

Standard Member
I`ve been hunting for some reviews of the SONY DCR-SR190 , google keeps coming up with price comparison sites!
I`ll see one tomorrow at the Sony Center, but I`d like to read some comments on it first.
Amazon.co.uk seem to have a handful of positive reviews, mostly 4`s and 5`s.
However, some numpty gave it one star simply because it wouldnt connect to their XP computer! Can you say `user error`?! I hate people that rate a product simply because they are too stupid to get it to work! Some people have given bad reviews on other products just because postage was late, or in one case this guy was annoyed that Amazon dropped the price of the camcorder he`d bought by a fiver the next day! Those reviews are utterly useless and make the products overall rating suffer.

I`d like to read about the SR190 on a reputable site by a professional reviewer though. I`ll keep looking.

edit/ its just occured to me that the higher end camcorders seem to have a lower optical zoom - ie only 10x on the SR190 compared to the SR32`s 40x - is there a reason for this? Seems like a step backwards for a higher spec model.
 

redsox_mark

Novice Member
its just occured to me that the higher end camcorders seem to have a lower optical zoom - ie only 10x on the SR190 compared to the SR32`s 40x - is there a reason for this? Seems like a step backwards for a higher spec model.
Yes - it has to do with physics and lenses, and the sensor size. With a smaller sensor (which the cheaper models have) it is easier to do a larger zoom. Generally 10 or 12x is enough.

Here is a review of the SR300... which is the US equivelent of the SR290; which is very similar to the SR190. Same sensor, same lens; only difference between the 190 and 290 is the 290 has optical image stabilisation and higher quality stills.
http://www.camcorderinfo.com/content/Sony-DCR-SR300-Camcorder-Review.htm
 

senu

Distinguished Member
its just occured to me that the higher end camcorders seem to have a lower optical zoom - ie only 10x on the SR190 compared to the SR32`s 40x - is there a reason for this? Seems like a step backwards for a higher spec model.
It isn't, more zoom would definitely need a tripod and is otherwise unwatchable. Camera shake in video is unbelievably magnified and looks terribly unwatchable on playback
The better cameras have bigger sensors which need more focal length to achieve more zoom.
Bigger sensors mean better colour contrast and better low light performance.
As such you trade more zoom available in camcorders with smaller sensors ( because it is easier to achieve with them) for picture quality
I will say in a word , get a costlier HDD camcorder or get tape .
DVD camcorders ( if you much avoid tape and HDD) have been superseded by Flash card models
HDD, Card , DVD and tape models still benefit from their footage bring captured to PC edited and a "proper" DVD made.
But that is another issue: first get the camcorder right:)
 

felix2

Novice Member
Well, what you're reporting doesn't seem to make much sense, but you know what your eyes can see!! ;) Perhaps the optics and image sensor are implemented differently somehow in the DVD and HDD models - the cams are rather different shapes, although I would've guessed the imaging parts inside were still the same. I wouldn't bank on Sony telling us one way or the other...

If you're thinking of paying around £400 for the SR190, just check you've definitely ruled out the tape models (e.g. Sony HC96, £300) and hi-def tape models (HV10, HV20, HC5)... although they are even more £.

But the best thing you can do, as you say, is go and try out the different options in the shop - and just double check your SR32 isn't a duff one. I find the touch focus excellent, and although we have to accept auto focus can struggle indoors in relatively low light, it probably shouldn't be as much of a pain as you report. And you obviously want the best image and colour you can get for your money! Good luck, and let us know how you get on.
 

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