A small and light model, the Sony HDR-CX6 records all footage on to removable Memory Sticks.

This means there's no need to include a hard drive, which in turn makes the chassis smaller and lighter and removes any moving components likely to create mechanism noise for the built-in mic to pick up.

Shaving a few extra centimetres off its girth, the sockets (most notable of which include HDMI and component video outputs) are all located on a docking station.

Simple Sony design

The cam is bundled with a 4GB Memory Stick, that'll store up to half an hour of top-notch HD footage (1920 x 1080i) or nearly three times that amount if you opt for one of the reduced quality SD shooting modes. Obviously, you can invest in larger capacity Memory Sticks to increase these figures.

The chassis features hardly any buttons, switches or dials, thanks to its touchscreen operation.

This means that pretty much every feature, shooting mode or manual adjustment is made by simply touching the LCD panel. This is great for those who want simplicity, not so good for those with larger, greasy digits.

Intuitive menus

As we've come to expect from Sony, the menu is sensibly laid out with the features separated into logical folders and sub menus, making operation on the whole intuitive, even for those new to camcorders.

Overrides include focus, white balance and exposure and while undoubtedly simple to carry out, they are no substitute for the precision provided by a proper dedicated ring or even a joystick.

Flawed HD performance

Surprisingly, the CX6 weighs in with a weak HD performance. Though pictures are clearly superior to standard-definition material of old, they lack the jaw-dropping sharpness and detail that has made HD such a winner.

In good natural light, when the CX6 should be on top of its game, colours are generally natural, while the focus is on the whole precise and snappy. However, look closer and it quickly becomes clear that fine details are lacking.

Individual leaves on trees, the hairs on a fly's legs or the fine layer of dust across a table are either not picked up at all or are done so in a way that is inferior to the other models on test.

Unsurprisingly, things worsen when shooting in either artificial or lowlight conditions. We'd expect to see the odd littering of grain over darker areas and the accuracy of colour rendition to drop off a touch, but not to the levels on show here.

A good value HD camcorder?

On a positive note, the hunting that autofocus so often undergoes in lower light wasn't evident, although it's the exposure that proves itself to be sluggish.

Final reasons for cheer come thanks to a smooth and precise zoom control and some impressively accurate whites.

However, the combination of these pluses, and the better-than-average audio performance, aren't quite enough to raise the performance of the Sony HDR-CX6 to the levels that we'd expect from an HD cam at this price point.