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View topic - Sony HDR-UX20 HD Camcorder

Sony HDR-UX20 HD Camcorder

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by NiteHawk » Fri Sep 12, 2008 9:21 am

There are plenty of high-def-capable camcorders available for under $1,000, but in my experience, it’s not so easy to find one that meets all your expectations. Up to now, my problem with the new breed of HD cams has been fear of the AVCHD format. Everything I’d read about AVCHD slammed its inferior picture quality as compared to HDV (the compression format used on tape-based HD cams).
And then there was the Editing Issue: AVCHD support has so far been spotty in PC video-editing software, and Mac programs like Apple’s iMovie are only compatible with the codec when run on a newer Intel-based machine — something I lack.
Given these circumstances, it was with great trepidation that I unboxed Sony’s new HDR-UX20. But as it turned out, my fears were largely unfounded. The cam is appealingly light and its compact form-factor makes it easy to tote around. It features Sony’s SteadyShot optical image stabilization, an impressive 15x optical zoom that lets you really close in on the action, and the ability to capture sound from the top-mounted mike in Dolby Digital 5.1. Like other Sony HD models, it can also encode video captured by its single 1/5-inch CMOS sensor in x.v. Color — an expanded color space standard that a number of new HDTVs can correctly reproduce.
What’s really notable about the HDR-UX20, however, is its flexible way with handling media. You get the option to record HD and standard-def video to 8 cm recordable DVDs, Memory Stick Duo cards, or the cam’s 8 GB internal flash memory. And once recorded, it’s easy to transfer video files from one format to another. For example, after loading up the cam’s internal memory with HD video, I used its onscreen menus to sort through the clips and create a DVD containing AVCHD files that I was able to watch on a Blu-ray-enabled HTPC (many standalone BD players can also play these discs). The disc even had a start menu with image thumbnails, and I didn’t need to use a computer to create it!
The HDR-UX20’s picture quality was generally very good, especially when shooting in bright light situations. Pictures were crisp and solid, and showed none of the macroblocking artifacts I'd been primed to expect from AVCHD. That said, footage taken in low-light situations — a kids’ birthday party, for example (what other event would you pull out a camcorder for?) — looked considerably softer and noisier. My old miniDV model even had a leg up on the Sony in this regard! But when the lights went up again, it was difficult to shoot bad-looking video with the HDR-UX20 — the cam’s automatic controls do a great job of locking in focus and setting an appropriate exposure with zero effort on the user’s part.
Beyond its low-light performance, I had only a few gripes with the HDR-UX20. I found it difficult to navigate the cam’s touchscreen menu system using the tiny 2.7-inch widescreen LCD viewfinder. My ultra-compact digital still camera even has a larger screen than this one, and I don’t have to touch it to make adjustments. And there’s also the iMovie editing problem when using the Sony with older PowerPC-based Macs, which is one I’ve yet to deal with. Sony’s HDR-UX20 may not be my ideal HD camcorder (I’m still looking), but there’s definitely a lot about this lightweight, media-savvy, and easy-to-operate model I did find to like — and you probably will, too.

Review by Al Griffin of Sound and Vision

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by jehill » Fri Sep 12, 2008 11:03 am

Excellent review!
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by raeppa » Mon Oct 06, 2008 12:15 am

Sony HDR-UX20 HD Camcorder is a good camera. You may want to check some camcorder ratings.
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