If we're not careful we'll easily confuse the Sony DCR-DVD406 for the HDR-UX3, because they are so similar in appearance. However, the HD marked on the cover of the LCD screen leaves no doubt, the HDR-UX3 is a high definition DVD camcorder.
Like all camcorders in the DVD series, the HDR-UX3 is "big" and you will have trouble fitting it into a big pocket. The design is classic, but Sony didn’t really try to attract us with appearances, but rather its HD performance. The interface is also classic with a LCD screen, serving as virtual control tower. Menus are very intuitive, but access to functions isn’t really direct. So, the UX3 is more for use in complete automatic mode. Compared to the UX1, the former HD model, there are few modifications. The screen is smaller, but the shutter can now reach 1/2 and this model has an interesting NightShot mode. The HDR-UX3 still records sound in 5.1 surround, but here Sony still doesn’t want to offer audio input or headphone jack. Finally, it’s unfortunate that there is no true optical stabilization and instead we have an electronic system, which gives us the occasional jump in images.
Of all HD camcorders that we‘ve seen (up until the date of this test), the HDR-UX3 offers the best image quality. It’s very precise and its high contrast reinforces sharpness. In the end, on a Full HD screen, images are shiny with very saturated colors. They appear rather "artificial" but are quite nice for non-professional use (the UX3 undoubtedly fits in this category). White balance is rather cold and results in well contrasted images. The HDR-UX3 was quite sensitive to capturing our Barbie doll in the dark, but didn’t display any colors, and electronic noise was rather noticeable. Despite the inscription on the camcorder, the photo mode isn’t really a true 4 megapixel, because the sensor only has 2 million pixels. The 4 mega pixels is attained by a simple interpolation and results aren’t up to par with claims. The advantage of DVD support is that you can record in MPEG-2 in standard definition. The DVD is then directly playable on a home DVD player. In HD, things are much more complicated. You will need a Blu-Ray player to read DVDs recorded with the UX3. SD mode (standard definition), gives provides a very good image quality.
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The main interest of the HDR-UX3 is its easy combination of classic DVD and HD DVD. The (significant) investment is therefore somewhat justified, because you can also film in HD with an excellent image quality.