Sony HDR-CX350V Full HD Flash Memory Camcorder Review
Sony HDR-CX350V Full HD Flash Memory Camcorder
Text and Images by Tony Gomez
Earlier this year Sony introduced an entirely new line of High Definition HandyCam camcorders. Depending on the model, these new camcorders use hard disk, internal memory, or removable flash memory—or a combination thereof. I recently tested one of the best of these new models, the HDR-CX350V, which is a 32GB internal/removable flash memory model that shoots 1920 x 1080 Full HD video and sells for $799.99 (MSRP).
The HDR-CX350 is quite small, due to the flash memory feature. It’s only 2-1/8” D x 2-5/8” H x 5” L, and weighs a very comfortable 11 ounces. But don’t let its small size fool you. Packed inside is a powerhouse of features: Full 1920 x 1080/60i HD video with a 7-megapixel Exmor-R CMOS imaging sensor, 7MP max/5MP (widescreen) still resolution, a Sony high quality G-lens with 12X optical/160X digital zoom, Geotagging with built-in GPS receiver, Face Detection/Face Priority, Optical Steady Shot with Active Mode, and a Mini-HDMI port (for viewing of all captured video and stills on an HD monitor with a mini-HDMI to standard HDMI cable (not provided).
The CX350 has an easy, logical UI. Switch between Video and Photo modes by simply touching the Mode button at the back of the camcorder. Flipping the LCD screen open powers the unit on. A 2.7-inch TouchPanel LCD allows the various controls to be accessed. Adjust the Movie Image quality to Standard or HD (1920 x 1080). In HD mode there are four settings, with HD HQ being the default. HD HQ gives the best compromise between image quality and recording time, whereas HD FH and HD LP give longer recording times respectively, but at reduced High Definition quality. Select the recording medium—either 32GB internal (default), or Sony’s Memory Stick Pro Duo (if you have one inserted).
In the Shooting Set menu you can set the SteadyShot to be either Standard or Active (for improved image stabilization). The Low-Lux sensitivity setting can also be activated, making it very handy for getting better exposure when shooting under low-light conditions. Face and Smile Detection settings are also available to lock into faces for the best focus.
For shooting still pictures, the Photo Settings menu is where you adjust image size (7MP/5MP WideScreen/2MP/ or .3MP VGA mode) as well as Flash Mode, Flash Level, and RedEye Reduction (when the built-in flash is used). Still image capture is also available simultaneously while shooting video, but at reduced 3MP resolution. Just press the handy PHOTO button on the top next to the zoom button or on the LCD panel to automatically capture a JPEG image while shooting video.
Low-Light Recording Features
In addition to recording video within a well-lit daylight scene, the CX350 is excellent for recording in low-light/night conditions. Two built-in features make this happen—the Exmor-R sensor and the Low-Light Sensitivity setting. The Exmor-R sensor is Sony’s revolutionary CMOS sensor that allows video capture with relatively little increase in noise. This is remarkable because the sensitivity required to capture such an image in low-light would normally boost any noise to an unacceptable level. My video shot at Universal Studios City Walk in Los Angeles at night demonstrates the impressive low-noise capture.
12X Optical Zoom and Active Mode Image Stabilization
The CX350 has Sony’s high quality G-Lens with a remarkable 12X optical zoom range (30mm – 357mm equivalent). At 30mm it’s a very practical wide angle lens so you can get more in the frame. Another nice feature is the zoom control, which is smooth and responsive to finger pressure, and can travel its full range from a fast three seconds to a slow 13 seconds.
Handholding your camcorder has always been a challenge to videographers because of the tendency for camera shake. Sony has long been a leader in optical image stabilization technology, in order to make those captured images relatively shake free, but now their new Active Mode for SteadyShot in the CX350 brings it to a new level. In Active Mode, three types of image shake reduction are now employed: vertical, horizontal, and lateral roll. The end result is a dramatic new level of camera shake reduction when handholding. This Active Mode shake reduction improvement was demonstrated to me when I was handholding and shooting scenes of the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge from three miles away. And just in case you might need it, 160X Digital Zoom is available at reduced resolution.
Sony HDR-CX350V 7MP still shots (click the thumbnails to see full-size images)
Sony has really packed a ton of practical features into the diminutive HDR-CX350V. The image quality of captured 1080i video (daylight or night) was superb on my HD TV. Still images captured were as good as any 7MP digital camera I’ve tested too. The image stabilization was significantly improved thanks to ActiveMode SteadyShot. If you want a small sized High Definition camcorder that is a real workhorse, the HDR-CX350V should fit the bill nicely.
Sony HDR-CX350V: www.sonystyle.com