I make video's and I want them to look as good as possible. Trouble is, I don't have the money to be able to buy a truly professional class of camera.
What I need are video cameras that offer more than your average consumer model, that have manual features and other specifications that give you the options to create something as close to professional as possible.
I was lucky enough to buy the last display model of this camera from my local Sony Centre at a good price a couple of years ago. It's much bigger than your normal camcorder, but that didn't bother me as I was attracted by the features it offers.
These include a large 3.5inch LCD screen, manual control ring for focus or other controls, mic input, headphone jack etc. These are the kinds of features that are not available on most other cameras as they are aimed at the home 'point and shoot' market.
My review is based on recording in HD, which I assume most people will do. It can record in standard definition, but I'm not sure why you would want to do that! Recording times increase significantly if you record in SD, so bear that in mind regarding what I'm about to talk about...
The biggest downside is that it doesn't have a hard drive like its sister model the SR1. I've been able to work with that by being happy to buy 8cm DVD discs. The cost is very low when you buy write once or re-writable discs, but they only have the capacity to record around 25minutes at decent HD quality.
The answer is to buy dual layer discs (DVD+R DL only) which can record up to around 45mins, but the cost increases significantly to around £2.50 - £3 per disc and they are not re-writable. Worryingly they are also getting harder to source and the price seems to be increasing.
If you are recording short sections of video, swapping discs isn't an issue and you can happily use the cheaper re-writable's. However, if you need continuous recording for more than 20-25minutes you are going to have to use dual layer and I worry that it won't be long before that is not viable anymore due to high costs or availability of the discs.
That said, this is a great camera. It shoots beautiful video that looks natural and in good light jumps off the screen in colour and detail. It's not very good in low light though, which has been a disappointment. That said, I use this camera to record music shows and promo's that should always be well lit. Use something else if you are going to shoot fairly dark indoor scenes without extra lighting.
All the settings, such as exposure, focus, white balance etc can be set manually and the lens ring allows you to assign that setting to it. As you turn it, it will then alter the setting accordingly. Being able to do that manually in some way is a must have feature for me on my primary camera(s).
It's a heavy unit, so don't buy this if you just want a family camcorder. Do buy this if you accept the disc recording and want something that starts to approach what a professional camera would offer.
It records in Dolby Surround Sound, has a high quality lens and all the output's you'll need such as USB and a full size HDMI socket. It also can take 4megapixel still photo's that are stored on a memory stick.
Battery life is good and various accessories such as wide angle lenses can be added as it has a 30mm lens thread along with a hot shoe connector for external mic or light etc.
It records in the now well established AVCHD format, which works in nearly all software packages and platforms now. The discs record m2t data files, just as a hard drive would and these are playable in most blu-ray players or the Playstation 3 (which is compatible with the smaller 8cm discs).
The files can also be imported into pretty much any video editing software.
I'm now actively looking to buy the hard drive version of this camera via Ebay because I haven't found a replacement for my UX1 yet that offers the same kind of specifications I need without costing a very large amount of money which I don't have.
Record high-definition video on a DVD with AVCHD technology
ClearVid CMOS sensor for high-quality HD and standard-definition images
3.5-inch widescreen hybrid touch-panel Clear Photo LCD
Professional 30mm Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens
HDMI, USB 2.0, component, and composite connectivity
Recording media: 3-inch (8cm) DVD (DVD-R/DVD-RW/DVD+RW?DVD+R DL)
Audio recording system: Dolby Digital 5.1
USB streaming: N/A
SteadyShot Image Stabilization: Yes (Super, Electronic)
Accessory shoe: Yes, active interface shoe
White balance: Auto, indoor, one-push, outdoor
Memory Stick Pro Media compatibility: Tested to support up to 2GB media capacity
Still image mode: JPEG
Minimum illumination: 5 Lux (0 Lux with Super NightShot Infrared System)
Low light capability: Super Nightshot
Analog audio/video inputs: N/A
Analog audio/video outputs: Yes (multi A/V)
Digital audio/video inputs: Yes (via USB)
Digital audio/video outputs: Yes (via USB)
USB ports: Yes, 2.0 high-speed compliant
Component video outputs: Yes
Headphone jack: Yes (stereo mini)
Microphone input: Yes (stereo mini)
Remote jack: Yes (stereo mini)
S-video outputs: Yes (via optional accessory)
HDMI outputs: Yes
LCD: 3.5-inch (211K pixels) wide (16:9) hybrid touch-panel Clear Photo LCD plus display
Lens type: Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T*
Microphone: Yes (built-in 5.1-channel)
35mm equivalent: 41.3-485mm (16:9 Camera Mode), 50.5-594mm (4:3 Camera Mode), 40.4-404mm (16:9 Memory Mode), 37-370mm (4:3 Memory Mode)
Exposure: Touch panel/ring
Filter diameter: 30mm
Focal distance: 5.1-51mm
Focus: Full-range auto/manual (ring)/one-touch
Progressive shutter mode: Yes
Shutter speed: Auto, 1/4 - 1/500 (AE mode)
Optical zoom: 10x / Digital zoom: 80x
Battery type: InfoLithium with AccuPower meter system (NP-FM50)
Video recording system: MPEG-4/AVC (H.264)