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.
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.
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.
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.