Review: Sony Handycam HDR-CX700VE

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With a 3-inch touchscreen, an Exmor R CMOS Sensor, built-in GPS receiver and 96GB of internal storage, Sony has produced another consumer camcorder – this time with the Handycam HDR-CX700VE. However, what it says on the specification sheet may sound great, but does it translate in reality?

Our verdict on the camcorder, is after the jump.

  • Score:

    6.9 / 10

  • The Good:

    96GB of internal storage, easy to hold, sleek design

  • The Bad:

    UI can be cleaned up, image quality can also be better

  • Bottom Line:

    Alright, but at that price point needs to be better

For Sony, the body is sleek in black and is sturdy and solid. It is not awkward to hold in your hand and the top keys of the zoom and photo-capture button are accessible with one finger. The viewfinder can be moved horizontally and is not tilted, which is a slight inconvenience for some, and most of the ports are covered with sliding doors. There is an included USB cable attached to the camcorder, but it’s hidden away with the handstrap, which is handy if you don’t want to carry lots of cables.

Also on the body is the manual control dial and will allow you to manually control certain aspects of the video recording. Pressing the center button toggles between manual and auto, while holding will let you select what to manually operate. Twisting the knob will then allow you to control the precise need you want, rather than the default Sony option.

The camcorder’s screen is a 3-inch LCD screen and has built-in speakers and is a touchscreen. While some functions will need you to touch the screen to control whatever you are doing, most of the recording controls, such as zoom, are all done with buttons and knobs on the body, rather than the screen. Sony also has on the top the camcorder’s microphone, which records in 5.1-channel Dolby Digital audio, and while it looks good, can be an annoying thing to listen to when playing back videos and tweaking with the settings manually. You will be able to hear your fingers hitting on the body, providing some unwanted noises.

The UI is also sleek with big icons in the options page due to the touchscreen. However, going into the options is not as easy as it seems, as you will have to go to page after page of options before finding what you want. And that can take a long time. On the recording screen, most of the touchscreen keys on the view finder are scatted at the left-hand side of the screen. It also appears to be non-responsive to touch keys at times, but that could be due to my fingers, or could be due to the fact that the keys are a bit too small.

Now lets go into the quality of the footage and images we recorded. Video was smooth and was not choppy, and sharpness was great. Of course, we should point out that you should not go too far into your zoom as the sharpness of the image is, well, not there and all blurry. The colour of the footage is good and vibrant, though not perfect as I did notice that the colours are a tad darker than what I see naturally in some cases. It fairs well in normal light conditions, but in low-light situations, it did not perform as well as we hoped for. In its defense, it does have low-lighting options.

The camcorder has 96GB of internal storage, and that is expandable via Memory Stick and SD (which we are pleased to see, since it has taken Sony this long to actually support that standard in addition to its own). We don’t have any qualms with AVCHD, as it is pretty standard amongst consumer HD camcorders, except for the size of the footage. It can be pretty big, and thus requires a somewhat-powerful computer to edit those videos. If you don’t need HD, then don’t use it. Stick with SD.

Other features of the camcorder include geotagging, which was interesting to see. However, turning on and off is done via the settings – there is no manual switch – and will drain your battery a bit faster. I also had a problem when trying to get the GPS to work, because for some reason, it couldn’t find the location of where I was (and my BlackBerry Bold, with its crappy GPS, can?)  until I took it outside. So don’t expect it to do work smoothly – and preferably turn it off if you need it for more than four hours.

Overall, with a price tag of $1,799, you’re not getting very much – other than a bigger capacity and GPS. Image quality can definitively be improved, as rival camcorders are a tad better than this one, and the UI can also do with a bit of a clean up. In order words: it’s alright, but can be better – especially for that price.