At first glance, the unit's overall design doesn't look particularly noteworthy, but closer inspection reveals a classy exterior. A tough plastic slider protects the unit's component jacks rather than the cheap rubber flap you would normally expect to find. In terms of weight, the HDR-SR5E comes in at over half a kilogram, which is enough to keep your footage reasonably steady without burdening your arms.
We found the touch screen controls to be responsive and user-friendly, with the majority of features easy to locate in the menu. For those who prefer to just point and shoot however, the included 'easy' button makes things even simpler; with the camera automatically adjusting modes and settings to suit your environment. We would therefore recommend this model to novices and older/younger users who find camera menus difficult to navigate.
More adventurous users will find plenty of adjustable settings on this unit, including the excellent Smooth Slow Record function which records footage at a quarter of its usual speed. This is a very handy mode for athletes who want to study their technique, such as tennis serves, without any motion blur. Another noteworthy playback feature is Face Index, which automatically detects faces in a moving image and displays them on the touch screen as thumbnail images. In addition to these helpful features, the HDR-SR5E also has adjustable shutter speeds, white balance modes, a selection of digital effects and manual focus.
Like Sony's other hard disk-based handycams, the HDR-SR5E attaches to an included docking station which doubles as a battery charger and data transferring device. This allows you to transport your files to a TV or computer for viewing and editing purposes. Making DVDs of your video footage is a simple one-step procedure thanks to the handy 'disc burn' button located on the docking station. However, if you plan to extensively edit your footage, you will need to purchase editing software that supports high definition video