Making home movies is a whole different game than it was 25 years ago. Back then, you flipped on your camcorder, recorded your kids for a little while, then turned it off. Poof–you had a home movie with which to bore your friends at your next gathering. But today, easy-to-use editing software means just about anyone can try his hand at becoming the next Ken Burns. All you need is good talent, a well-developed plotline and of course a great camera.

Enter the Sony HDR-SR12 Handycam. Introduced in 2008, the camera is the highest-end of Sony’s high definition hard drive camcorders.

The camera basics are solid. It boasts a good weight–if it were any lighter, it would be difficult to get a steady shot; any heavier it would become cumbersome over time. The camera’s controls are appropriately positioned, making it easy to zoom with your index finger and start and stop with your thumb. The handy touchscreen allows users to go directly to a menu option without having to cycle through a lot of other features.

The camera also provides face detection–a feature rival cameras have offered for some time. It allows you to track up to eight faces at once, then sort your clips by face, making it easy the find an exact spot you were recording.

The picture quality is superior, and the HDR-SR12 is capable of recording in either high def or standard def. This means if you don’t already own an HD TV, you’ll have all the high-def video stored in HD when you bite the bullet and buy that high-def set.

Finally–and a big selling point for my husband and me–the camera can record up to 14 hours of high-resolution video on its hard drive. So if you’re on a family vacation, you won’t have to go back to your hotel room to dump footage onto your computer. While the battery life on the camera is only about 90 minutes, longer lasting batteries are sold separately.

The HDR-SR12 does indeed have its drawbacks. First, video files become huge when they transfer to iMovie–not good news for Mac users. Our solution to this problem: We bought a $200 one-terabyte drive to store all our video. No FireWire connection also creates an additional challenge for Mac users–loading the footage onto the computer is surprisingly slower than real time. (The camera only takes a USB connection.) Although I don’t know from experience, based on reviews, PC users seem to have fewer problems.

The Sony HDR-SR12 doesn’t come cheap–retailing for $1,299. But overall, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages, and for high-quality video and convenience, it’s time and money well spent.