Sony DCR-SX45 Camcorder Review

While most reviews are for products sent to me for review, this one is based on my experience purchasing a camcorder for use in creating future reviews. I had done a little research and locked myself into a budget of $200 or less. My purchase had to be for a camera that provided good quality video, storage options compatible with my existing media, sported a brand name I recognize and am comfortable with, and has decent optical zoom. I bought the Sony DCR-SX45 Handycam.

I purchased this video camera, tried it out, reviewed it, and eventually returned it. The return was ultimately my own fault for paying too little attention to specifications when making my purchase, but let’s take a look at the pros and cons over-all first and I’ll explain my personal decision at the end of this review.

Cons

I’m starting with the pitfalls of this camera because one of them ended up being the sole reason I couldn’t accept it as a permanent solution for my needs.

Standard Definition – This was the deal-breaker. In the end, I really need HD video to provide you with the best possible look at products that I’m reviewing, and standard definition just won’t do.

Unresponsive touchscreen – The touchscreen is a nice feature, but it’s the only way to acccess many of the other features and functionality and often it was not very responsive to my touch. It works, just not as well as I’d like.

No on-board memory – Not a big deal, but it’s a nice-to-have.

Pros

Despite the deal-breaker mentioned above, this camcorder included a bevy of features that were hard to overlook. They may not have been must-have features for me, but are certainly worth looking into when making a purchase decision.

70x optical zoom – It may be a little-used feature for me, but a great one when needed. And a must if you have kids in sports programs.

Small and lightweight – Unless you’re shooting serious professional video, there’s absolutely no reason to have a bulky video camera. Just over 8 ounces is perfect.

Image stabilization – The perfect cure for shaky hands and zoomed video.

Under $200 – I paid $200.34 at Wal-Mart and they had it for $149 when I returned it. Sony has them refurbished for $109, as well.

Automatic lens cover – This is a great little plus.

In-camera editing – I would likely rarely use it, but it could be very handy if you record for 10 minutes and want to trim down to just the minute you want to keep in order to make room for more video.

Spot meter and many other functions – There are too many features to note here and some not quite as noteworthy but this camcorder has plenty.

Review Video and Sample Video

Aside from going out and getting your hands on one, there’s no better way to check out the quality of a camcorder than to see the video for yourself. Below, I put together a short video showing some features and my thoughts on them and added in some comparison videos shot with the DCR-SX45 and my iPhone.

Where I Failed

I’m a big fan of researching an important purchase thoroughly before pulling the trigger. So how is it that I researched my purchase and still wound up returning it? I’m also impatient and want to get to playing with my new toy as soon as possible. This, combined with some oversight on my research and idealism in my budgeting puts me where I am today, cameraless and still shopping. My first mistake, and easily the most critical one was my lack of complete research because I was impatient. I’m pretty busy, so when I had a small window of time to go get my camera, I did it hastily and failed to realize that I was buying a Standard Definition video camera. How could a guy who reviews products on a technology blog make such a silly mistake? Don’t be impatient. Do your research and you’ll be fine.

My second mistake was a misguided budget. You can get some really good cameras for under $200, but looking back, I realized that to get the camera I really want and need, I will be in for $300 or more.

My final mistake was not trusting the signs I saw about the camera I was going to (and eventually did) buy. Even in my haste, I looked this camera up online. Not finding it on Sony’s website, I read a review on CNET (linked above) that even mentioned the soft video and lack of image quality. Despite the fact that Sony isn’t even marketing it on their site anymore and CNET pointed out the one trait I couldn’t live with, I let optimism convince me that I could get the ideal camera within my ideal budget. Be real with yourself and trust the expert opinions.

Conclusions

Although this camera may be unusable for my needs and is definitely not ideal for anyone wanting to produce crisp video, it is priced very well and apparently dropping as stores start to phase it out of their product offerings. The video quality actually seemed to improve when I zoomed in on items, making it a good candidate for anyone who will shoot a lot of video from a bit of a distance. You often do get what you pay for and this is a good camera for a budget price, but a bad choice for anyone picky about the quality of the video it records.

CES 2013 Photos, Videos, and Wrap-Up

Wow, what a week! Last week, I hopped on a plane to Las Vegas, Nevada for the 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show. More than 3,250 exhibitors unveiled some 20,000 in 1.92 million net square feet of exhibit space and I covered as much as time and physical ability would allow in the three days I was there. In this post, I’ll do my best to summarize what I found at CES with the help of some photos and video below. Additionally, you’ll have an opportunity to voice your opinion about what products you want to see reviewed or have a chance to win here.

Bigger, Badder TVs

It’s no shock to find the latest televisions on display at CES, but there’s been a shift back to the promotion of bigger TVs, while still giving attention to the 3D market. This year also brought an array of 4K Ultra HD TVs brandishing incredible clarity. With several 100 inch units, big was in this year for sure. If picture quality trumps size when you TV shop, the 4K displays will leave you with a little drool in the corner of your mouth. And let’s not forget 3D and smart TVs. I saw a lot of 3D sets (especially from a new name to me, HiSense) and a wide offering of even smarter TVs, many complete with a full muti-touch interface.

Cameras At CES

Nikon D5200 DSLR Camera

The first thing I saw upon entering CES was Samsung’s live demonstration of their new point and shoot cameras. With large touch screens and a responsive interface, I quickly wanted one of my own. Nikon and Canon once again asserted their positions at the top of the DSLR pack. Nikon showed me a teeny tiny wireless adapter that lets you connect your camera to your network and control it with your phone. Fujitsu, Pentax, and others entered the fray with powerful lenses and more cameras than you could imagine testing in just a couple days. GoPro also shared the spotlight with some competition in the world of HD sports and adrenaline junkie video solutions. The Astak ActionPro 3 strongly resembled the GoPro in many ways and companies like Optrix offered cases iPhone cases that mount your iPhone to your helmet/bike/car while protecting it.

Computers And Tablets Galore!

Archos Gamepad Tablet

When the iPad came out, the previous success of the iPhone had every company from here to Hong Kong scrambling to challenge it with their own tablet. Like the iPhone, the iPad remained without a credible challenger for some time. In 2013, however, some tablets have fallen into the shadows as others have risen to meet the demands of eager Android users. A few from HiSense and Samsung stood out, but there were also companies that handed me three or four tablets that crashed or under performed. Breaking away from the traditional tablet market a bit was the Archos Gamepad which is a tablet built with gamers in mind, complete with built-in game pads.

Samsung and Toshiba also represented with slim notebooks while Asus won awards for killer cases. Lenovo was also on hand with their new PCs, which I was excited about since we have a new Yoga in the house and love it.

Smart Home Technology

If you watch the futuristic TV show, Eureka, like I do, you’ll be as excited as I am for the upcoming technology integration into home appliances that promises to bring us the smart home of our dreams. It still seems far beyond where it should be, but Whirlpool offered up a pretty cool showing of everything from a fridge that can stream your Pandora stations to the smart kitchen table seen at the end of the above video. The table can heat and cool your food and drinks with the help of interactive dinnerware and smart sensing technology.

Audio

Ferrari by Logic3

Wanna drive a Ferrari? So do I, but you can get a little closer with licensed Ferrari themed audio appliances and headphones from Logic3. The yellow Ferrari in their booth drew me in, but it was the audio components I hadn’t seen before. Logic3 was certainly not alone as high-end audio was a big part of CES. Spider International, Zipbuds and Eskuche also stood out among a large number of companies with headphones and ear buds to show off.

Cases, Accessories, Robots And Toys

Vuzix M100

CES has so many of my favorite things, including cases, accessories, robots, and toys. I saw flying helicopters (with and without video cameras), battle robots, Parrot AR.Drones, tons of iPhone and iPad cases and scores of portable speakers for use with your phone or tablet. One of the things that caught my eye was the Vuzix M100, which looks to give Google Glasses a run for the money.

Final Thoughts

If there’s one feeling you leave an event like this with, it’s the urge to sell all your technology and replace it with all the shiny toys and gadgets you’ve just walked away from. Although I didn’t see nearly all the stuff I wanted to, I talked to a lot of companies, so watch for loads of new reviews and subscribe if you haven’t yet. I also took a lot more photos, which can be seen on Facebook, including the booth babes in body paint that have been a topic of some controversy this year. While checking out the photos, Like or Share ones you like as a vote for me to talk to the product’s company about a review and the possibility of a giveaway.

I want to hear from you, too. What would you like to find out more about? Were you at CES this year? What did I miss that you want to share? Comment below.

What Is A Smart TV?

The word ‘smart’ seems to be appearing all over the technological world; smartphone, smart refrigerator, smart oven etc.

Smart TVs have recently surfaced, and their capabilities are dramatically improving with each model that is released, keeping them on a path to becoming a type of all in one device. As a result it is quite difficult to keep up with the latest offerings, and here we look at some of these.

LG have been in the smart TV business for a while now and are one of the major competitors in the field. Their latest release, the G2 Smart TV, is their first smart TV that is 3D enabled. It uses the Google TV 2.0 interface and supports a dual core CPU. However the most impressive addition to this model is a gesture-controlled “magic” remote control.

The control has two parts, the right side with normal button functions and the left with an integrated touch area for controlling the set. The control also has a built in microphone, enabling voice commands to be sent to the TV. Similarly to Nintendo’s Wii sensor bar, the TV has an IR sensor.

Samsung have taken a similar route with their latest smart TVs, using the Google TV 2.0 interface. They have also focussed on the remote control, completely stripping back the array of buttons to leave a smooth and sleek design. The remote doesn’t quite have LG’s integrated touch area but more of a laptop track pad. It does however include a built in microphone for voice commands.

But Samsung has taken steps in other areas that really give it an edge. Samsung has aligned itself with Microsoft’s Kinect technology, installing a web cam that tracks and enables a user to move a cursor around the screen, Minority Report Style. A clench of the fist means to select the option. If waving your arms around isn’t quite the look you want, you could always download Samsung’s free SmartView app to your mobile device, turning it into the remote instead.

So you have set all your preferences, and then a family member takes over. Well fear not because Samsung’s latest offerings also entail face-detection. The web cam recognises the person in front of it and opens their Smart Hub account, ready with all their preferred settings and favourites.

Although not released yet, and in fact no mention of a release at all, Apple’s iTV is set to hit retailers at some point in the near future. Even though still rumours, the TV will incorporate a number of Apple technologies such as AirPlay, Siri and a built in iSight camera for making free FaceTime video calls.

With an increasing number of products and appliances becoming Wi-Fi enabled, such as wireless printers, refrigerators and ovens, it is only a matter of time before the TV will become the central control point of the household.