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on May 1, 2004
This is a great little camcorder. It feels sturdy, is lightweight, and I can hold it in one hand securely. The video is also quite excellent.
I was debating whether to buy this or one of the Canon ZRs. Even though I was not sure if I would be shooting a lot indoors or not, I like knowing that I can, especially with the Sony's infrared light. The reduced zoom compared to the Canons was a minor issue for me, but I thought that the improved low-light quality of the Sony compensated for it.
The touch screen only functionality of this cam took some getting used to, but as this was my first camcorder, I was not used to any other system. It does not appear that LCD-only buttons is a major drawback, and in fact, I got used to it quite quickly. Also, I can appreciate that there are fewer buttons on the body itself to add to a cluttered appearance.
The built-in lens cover is quite nice as there is no losing it, and also, I think, could be useful for quick manual transitions when shooting.
The camera itself is very compact, and slim. About 2" thick, I can slip this baby into my pocket and go, albiet, large pocket, but it's still amazingly small.
The zoom is very rapid, and the rocker allows variable-speed zooms.
The photo function is nice to have, but I wish that the 7-second audio with each picture was variable, or could be turned off altogether, but as with all camcorders, the photo function is just a nicety, and serious photos should be taken with a real camera, not a video camcorder.
All in all, this is a great miniDV camcorder. I have no basis for reference as this is my first, but I love it, and have no regrets in spending $460 of my limited college-student budget =) on this. I recall three years ago my friend and I were making a film for science class with his hi-8 camcorder, especially the pain of having to manually control a VCR to tranfer the film onto a regular VHS tape. But no more, with miniDV, I can edit and output a film in just a few minutes. WIth the help of a firewire cord (sold separately), on the first day I was able to import the film onto my computer and make a short film clip using Windows Movie Maker. It worked beautifully, so I didn't bother installing the software that came with the cam, since I've heard that it is useless.
Lightweight and compact
Excellent film quality
Infrared Lamp
Bright, functional LCD
Constrained still-photo function
Relatively short zoom
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on May 20, 2004
I so agree with "brucex", the person/s who designed this software should really be given life imprisonment...oh my god its just useless.
You cant copy raw video to PC but the picture package creates its own Video with its own effects and sounds...What Good is that...I just want my video as it is...For that the online HELP tells me you shud use a Third Party software..ahhhh
But the Camcorder MINUS software is just great....Its very easy to understand and use...
The touchscreen feature is fabulous and light/sound clarity is wonderful.
This cute camcorder definitely deserves 5 but the BAD software takes point away.
I wish Sony could come up with easier and better software for HC-20 and replace our CDs.
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on December 9, 2004
In my pursuit of the perfect camera, at the right price, I spent way too long pouring over online reviews, Consumer Reports articles and digital camera magazines. After a couple of weeks of labor (which included actually going out to the local stores and getting a "feel" for each camera -- a practice I highly recommend before purchase) the Sony DCR-HC20 came out on top of the rest by a full head.

Forget any of the complaints you might have read about the 7 sec delay on still shots: camcorders shouldn't be used for real photos anyway and any half-decent editing software comes with the ability to save still images straight from your footage. Also forget any complaints you might have heard about the bundled editing software: yes, it's nearly useless but again the basic software your home computer likely shipped with is all you will need to start putting together beautiful home-movies yourself (just don't forget you'll need to buy a fire-wire seperately).

The bottom line is this camera is about as light, sleek and easy to use as they come and the manufacturer was able to pack a heck of a camera into the small unit because they didn't waste time on unecessary extras like high resolution still photo shooting and the like. If you're looking for the highest quality and most user friendly camera you can find under $500, then this is the camera for you. Period. I know this sounds like a sales pitch but the truth is I'd just like to save any of you like-minded consumers out there a little bit of time and let you know the camera that perfectly fit my bill: home-movies, amateur film shorts and family documents all on an extremely doable budget.


(p.s. -- in case you don't want to take my word for it: the HC20 is, by far and away, the highest rated camcorder under $500 and the ONLY recommended buy of the current Mini-DV line...)
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on January 2, 2005
Have had this camera for 2 months now and it is the best video camera I have owned. Edited the video clips with imovie and pleased with the results. I would have given it 5 stars but, unlike the instructions state, I cannot upload any VHS tapes or 8MM tapes from the VCR or my old video because Sony does not make a 3 plug AV to 1394 adapter cable. I can download from the camera to the VCR or DVD recorder fine. This is a major disappointment as I have many VHS tapes that need editing.
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on December 8, 2009
I haven't really used the camera yet. The batteries are not keeping a charge but the camera will serve it's purpose and that is to transfer my tapes to DVD. I had to purchase a cord because it didn't come with one. When I asked the seller a question about the product after delivery, I never got a response.
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on June 15, 2004
I just got this camcorder yesterday and the unit is pretty impressive. It's very light has a comfy feel in your hand and took a 5 minute sequence of around my home and downloaded it on my comp using just the USB cable and I must say the quality is pretty acceptable. I encountered no dropped frames and the VCD quality as I said earlier is good. Have to try out the firewire output once I get the cable. Low-light quality is good (especially with Night-Shot) and the only complaint I have is the field of view when fully zoomed out seems limited, didn't see that covered in any of the reviews I've read. Would have been better if I could get wider angle but I am pretty satisfied. I'd definly recommend it. I wish they'd provided the firewire cable too, who uses USB these days to capture video?
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on July 22, 2013
The Camera didn't work, the screen wouldn't show anything but blue. The camera was broken before i even got it.
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on October 22, 2004
Camera is light weight and has plenty of functions, however, the softward to burn the tape to CDR or edit the tape is terrible. Basically, I can only hook up the camera to the TV to watch the video.
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on March 12, 2007
Enjoyed it while it was working.
In December 2004, I purchased this Sony DCR-HC20 brand new from Best Buy. Less than average use, only the occasional weekend stuff and twice a year vacation. Always exercised great care in handling and kept it in a protected carrying case when not in use.

Within the first year after purchase, the touch-screen and side button controls began to lose function intermittently and a false error message began appearing saying the cover was not open. I sent the unit to the Sony center and was charged $257 for repair of the unit (labor only, parts were included within the 1-year warranty period).

Last week, attempted to capture some video to computer, and discovered the DV i.Link feature was no longer functioning. I tried other cables and a different device to no avail.

Finally, two days ago the unit's cassette mechanism failed and the unit no longer accepts cassettes. It sends the infamous C:31:40 error message (do a google). I tried resetting it, removing and replacing the battery, different cassettes. No dice. The unit is effectively useless at this point. The DV i.Link function is inoperable, the false error message about the open cover still appears, and the unit no longer accepts cassettes.

Bottom Line:

Paid $400 to purchase this product brand new plus another $257 for repair less than a year later. Within two years of purchase, the unit is essentially worthless.
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on December 28, 2004
In May I finally decided to replace my old Panasonic VHS camcorder, dating from the mid 80s. I had looked at the Canon, Panasonic, and Sony. The Sony was the most expensive of the entry level models, but I wound up buying it.

The lens, made by Carl Zeiss, is a professional quality lens. The pictures are much sharper and crisper than on the Panasonic or the Canon. I have friends who own both types and I know for a fact that the red is best on Sony's offering and subpar on the others. (This is also true of Sony TVs--when I was shopping for my 24" Sony TV it had better red than any Panasonic, RCA, JVC, Hitachi, or Zenith).

Battery life is good off the included 2 hour battery, but if you're serious about taping you should buy a second battery. The camera goes nicely on a tripod and is so small it fits in the pocket of a pair of khaki pants.

If you don't mind a black and white viewfinder (which is fine since the LCD screen is in color) buy this one. It uses MiniDV tapes, which are falling in price and offer very high quality output.
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