Sony has announced the UK launch of three new AVCHD camcorders - compact, high-definition recording models that store their video footage on to built-in hard disk drives.

Flagship model is the HDR-SR8E which has a 100GB hard disk, or enough capacity for up to 38 hours of high def recording in long-play mode. It is joined the HDR-SR7E which comes with a 60GB HDD and the HDR-SR5E which features a 40GB drive.

Recording times

Exact recording times vary from model to model depending on the storage capacity and the picture quality used. Figures for each picture quality mode are given below. XP is highest quality, LP is lowest quality. All timings are approximate:

HDR-SR8E (100GB)

  • AVC HD 15M (XP) - 13 hours 30 minutes recording time (approx)
  • AVC HD 9M (HQ) - 24 hours 40 minutes recording time (approx)
  • AVC HD 7M (SP) - 30 hours recording time (approx)
  • AVC HD 5M (LP) - 38 hours 10 minutes recording time (approx)

HDR-SR7E (60GB HDD)

  • AVC HD 15M (XP) - 8 hours recording time
  • AVC HD 9M (HQ) - 14 hours 40 minutes recording time
  • AVC HD 7M (SP) - 17 hours 50 minutes recording time
  • AVC HD 5M (LP) - 22 hours 50 minutes recording time

HDR-SR5E(40GB HDD)

  • AVC HD 15M (XP) - 5 hours 20 minutes recording time
  • AVC HD 9M (HQ) - 9 hours 40 minutes recording time
  • AVC HD 7M (SP) - 11 hours 50 minutes recording time
  • AVC HD 5M (LP) - 15 hours 10 minutes recording time

Picture and sound

In addition all three camcorders feature a range of technologies that aim to maximise picture and sound quality. First is the ClearVid CMOS image sensor. This promises excellent dynamic range and reduced smear compared to regular CCD sensors.

Second is x.v.Colour - Sony's own version of the xvYCC colour standard. This delivers a wider colour gamut, effectively doubling the number of colours the camcorder can produce. Other examples of x.v.Colour devices include some TVs and Sony's own BDP-S1 Blu-ray player.

Picture quality is further enhanced, says Sony, by the use of high-quality Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T lenses with up to 10x optical zoom. Full specs are given below.

All three Sony HDR-S series camcorders also include Dolby Digital 5.1 recording. This uses multi-directional microphones built into each camcorder that enable you to capture the sounds that surround you - perfect then for creating the atmosphere and ambience of a location.

Finding your footage

Sony's HDR-SR5E, HDR-SR7E and HDR-SR8E also include various movie indexing options. This makes it easy to search through recordings on the camcorders' hard disks. Key features here include a Visual Index which enables you to negotiate through scene thumbnails.

Film Roll index enables you to create scene index points within a chapter, again making it easier to find the scene you want.

More interesting of all is Face Index which automatically creates thumbnails of people's faces in your footage - handy for finding those precious family memories.

All three camcorders will be available in June from the European Sony Style store . The HDR-SR5E will cost £800 and the SR7E £1,050. Pricing for the HDR-S8E has yet to be confirmed.

More details on the features of each HDR-S camcorder model can be found below. We originally reported on the HDR-S series launch at the beginning of April.

Sony Handycam HDR-SR8E and HDR-SR7E

  • AVCHD 1080i recording
  • Up to 38 hours HD recording on 100GB HDD (SR8E)
  • Up to 22 hours HD recording on 60GB HDD (SR7E)
  • Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens
  • ClearVid CMOS image sensor
  • x.v.Colour
  • 10x optical zoom, 20x digital zoom
  • Super SteadyShot optical image stabilisation
  • Search functions
  • 6.1-megapixel digital still recording
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound recording
  • 2.7-inch touch-sensitive widescreen LCD
  • 123,000 colour widescreen viewfinder
  • Up to 5 hours battery life between recharges (using optional NP-FH100 battery)

Sony Handycam HDR-SR5E (£500)

  • AVCHD 1080i recording
  • Up to 15 hours HD recording on 40GB HDD
  • Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens
  • ClearVid CMOS image sensor
  • x.v.Colour
  • 10x optical zoom, 80x digital zoom
  • Search functions
  • 4.0-megapixel still image recording
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound recording
  • 2.7-inch touch-sensitive widescreen LCD
  • Up to 6 hours battery life between recharges (using optional NP-FH100 battery)