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on May 21, 2013
Color: Black|Style: Body Only|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
With a typical camcorder, the design trade-off is between portability and cost on the one side, and low light performance on the other.

If you salivate over low light performance - the HDR-PJ790V is the one for you - but it both weighs and costs three times as much. On the other hand, if you desire portable videography on a budget, the HDR-CX380 is the winner. In fact, as you will see in the comparison notes below, the CX380 is probably the best value to be had in Sony's stable of budget camcorders - CX230, CX290, CX380, and CX430.

CX380 Features:

++ 16 GB of flash memory, sufficient for 1h 15m of highest quality video
++ Clean 3" LCD with touch buttons for recording/zoom
++ Hardware features (Mic input)
++ Software features (Face Detection, Auto Wind Noise reduction, Tracking focus)
++ decent lens (Sony G Quality, 26.8mm/F1.8, 30x optical zoom)
++ compact - surprisingly light, and fits in smaller hands and into most large purses
++ traditional Sony optical steady shot stabilization tech

CX380 performance:

In good lighting conditions, it captured smooth images, great colors, and decent sound - though the auto wind filter was a bit over-aggressive.

As expected, in low light conditions, the images were noisy - though watchable, and the colors were muted.

CX380 conclusion:

This is a well designed unit, with small thoughtful touches such as rough grooving along one side for a better grip, and a built-in USB cable.

While there is nothing here that blew my socks off, it did meet my expectations for performance in a highly portable unit at this price point.

Happy videography!

For more details:

Additional Notes:

Comparison to the CX290:

Going down one level to the CX290, you lose simply way too much functionality:
<< less flash memory (8GB with only 35m of recording time)
<< a lower quality lens (27x zoom, less wide at 29.8mm, and slower at F1.9)
<< no recording/zoom buttons on the LCD
<< no mic input
<< no software features (Face Detection, Auto Wind Noise reduction, Tracking focus)
<< a slightly smaller LCD (2.7")

Comparison to the CX430:

Going up one level to the CX430 gives you:
>> Balanced optical steady shot - Sony's killer new feature!!!
>> 32GB flash memory (up to 2h 20m recording time at the highest quality)
>> larger video sensor (4.6mm vs 3.1mm)
>> 5.1 ch surround mic for much better audio
>> Misc features (Golf swing analysis mode, accessory shoe etc.)
>> GPS

From personal experience, the balanced optical steady shot is simply spectacular - especially if you shoot without a tripod. To me, the GPS is of questionable value - its interface is unpleasant, it is slow to get started, and its usefulness is limited.


Sony camcorders are currently divided into two main camps. The HDR-CX series contains core camcorder functionality, and the HDR-PJ series adds in a built-in projector. I'd recommend avoiding the projector, unless you are going to use it often enough to justify the extra cost.

Recording modes:

Sony uses video quality abbreviations - PS, FX, FH, HQ, and LP - that I'm clarifying for others who may be as confused as I was:

There are 4 aspects to recording video - bit rate (the number of bits captured per second, in Mbps), the number of pixels in each video frame (full HD 1920x1080, or 1440x1080), frame rate (the number of frames recorded per second), and whether these frames are interlaced or progressive (whether each frame is captured in full, or whether the odd rows and even rows are captured separately.)

For highest quality capture: pick the highest bit rate, the highest number of pixels in each frame, the highest frame rate, and use progressive mode.

For the HDR-CX380 this is [PS] quality - up to 28 Mbps, 1920x1080 resolution, 60 frames per second, progressive.

The downside? All those bits take up a lot of disk space, reducing available recording time. Switching to FX or below, causes more aggressive compression - that can cause compression artifacts in fast moving scenes.

My advice: stay at PS. Why compromise on quality? Just pack a external drive, and clean up space as you go.

Must have accessories:

1] To help out the supplied NP-FV30 battery, consider the NP-FV50 or the NP-FV70.
2] BC-TRV charger - I hate to leave camcorder charging overnight so this travel charger is very handy.
3] VMCUAM2 USB adapter cable - to back up videos to an external drive, without a computer.
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VINE VOICEon June 18, 2013
Color: Black|Style: Body Only|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I've owned a few Sony Handycams since the early 1990s and the Sony HDR-CX380/B is the best one I've yet owned. It does pick up wind noise a bit too easily and is hard to keep steady since it's so small, but all-in-all it's a great little HD camcorder that delivers rich, vibrant video (you can also take high-resolution photos).

There are many features -- but the best thing in my opinion is not having to mess with them. The automatic mode is my favorite because you just point and shoot. Very easy to use. A perfect family camcorder.

I do like the external microphone jack - that is a great feature when for example shooting a video blog post. You can also use this camcorder with a tripod, which I do quite often.

I've put together a short video to give you a better idea of what to expect. Hope it helps! Feel free to ask questions and I'll do my best to answer them.
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on March 31, 2013
Before we bought this camera, I tried to find a review of it, but there was nothing online yet. So here's the first user review for the HDR-CX380. We just got this camera last week, and so far, so good- for the most part. The picture quality is great, even in low light conditions. Audio is also quite good. There's a setting to reduce wind noise when shooting outside in high wind, but I haven't had a chance to try it yet. Recording time is very good, even when using the 16GB onboard storage. The screen has a very good display and the touch screen works well for adjusting settings on the camera, although the icons are pretty small. It doesn't come with a remote, but my son was able to get it to respond to a DVD player's remote, which was a pleasant surprise and is very helpful when watching videos with the camera plugged into the TV. Not all remotes work with it though, so your mileage may vary.

My biggest complaint is with the stock battery. It only gives about 30 to 45 minutes of real world use. There is an extended life battery for the HDR-CX380 that is supposed to give up to ten hours of use, but it costs between $100 and $160. I wish I could turn off the GPS in the camera, but I can't find a setting for it. Turning it off would save some battery power. I say a video camera without GPS is like a fish without a bicycle. Also, the zoom control is on top of the camera, and using it while shooting isn't easy, although the picture quality when zoomed in is fantastic. Overall, this is a HUGE step up from our old Sony digital tape camcorder that we bought 10 years ago. It's maybe half the size of our old clunker and kills it for picture quality. If you need a good, high quality camcorder and battery life isn't a big concern, check this one out. It might be just what you need.
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May 23 - Simplified Update: I've now spent well over 15 hours working with this camcorder, today including a HS graduation, a baseball game, and some nature shooting.

Pros: Small, lightweight.
Excellent in low light, especially indoors. Parties, kids, etc. easy to focus on in confined space.
Good picture at moderate (not extreme) distance. At 30 feet, the video is good. Father than that, and difficulties ensue.
Lots of shooting options.
Good battery life of 2 hours.
16 GB of internal storage. Slot for external SD Card (strongly recommended)

Cons: No viewfinder which would add to ease AND stabilization. LCD can be easily washed out in the sun.
Hard to focus on distant objects. Camera shake is not the problem: camera movement is. At 20 feet, action is hard to focus on and remain steady.
50x Extended Zoom is pretty bad. Video is fuzzy if in focus; very grainy. Stick to 30x optical zoom.
Too many shooting options and too many decisions to be made.
Recharging battery is slow, 2 hours with AC; 3 with USB.
Editing/deleting videos and stills is difficult.

Neither Pro nor Con: Provided software (downloaded from Internet) is fair, but most people won't need more.
Nature photography is not really an option. A bird in a nest at 75 feet is almost impossible.


I'm a semi-professional nature photographer, and thought that video of birds and mammals was a great idea. I had a camcorder in the 80s (the 1980s) that was close to HD since it was Super 8. That camera weighed about 6 pounds. This is NOT the camera for nature photography "as seen on TV," but it's fine for family and vacation memories.

You're in for a surprise if you haven't seen this PJ380 in person. (See my photos.) It's less than 5 inches long, and weighs about 9-10 ounces. (The AC charger/adaptor is bigger than the camera.) But this tiny bundle packs an awful lot of software which can be good or bad. The good part is that you can pretty much start shooting once the battery is charged.

Assuming you're right handed - because Sony (and all the others) did by putting the hand strap on the right side - you will definitely find it tricky if not difficult to manage the on-screen menus with your left hand. Therefore, I suggest that you focus the camcorder and set the definition before you start taking video. Most important to set the focus AND face/object recognition because, if you are taking a clip an animal or person that's going to be moving, you'll lose them with these phenomenal wide angle and zoom capabilities.

The camera does not focus quickly, and sometimes finding your subject can be difficult. (Emphasis:) There are no presets for zoom or wide angle. Further, since you're focusing or viewing with the LCD, you will undoubtedly have problems with sun washing out the LCD. While I certainly didn't expect the high end quality of say the Canon Vixia HF G10, in the end I really want a viewfinder, and I might have been willing to go $200 more just for the viewfinder and better stablilization.

I found that it was not as steady as the Sony promo video shows. In fact, I defy 95% of you to run and take a clip of a back yard soccer game and have it as steady as Sony shows. That said, panning indoors or when not trying to capture movement, is excellent. A graduation ceremony today was easy to video, and came out more than satisfactorily.

This camcorder is excellent in low light. I took several videos indoors - where I really think this shines - without any added light. The videos came out without that annoying orange tinge that incandescent lighting normally gives.

Ease of use: It's easy to take this out of the box (charge the battery for 2 hours), and start shooting. But I found the internal software to be cumbersome to the point where I had difficulty deleting videos from the camera. Perhaps it's cumbersome because there are so many settings that you can have AND you have to set them on your LCD. Supposedly, you can edit your videos on the camera. (Sony even brags about the 180 different scene combinations. My advice to Sony would have been to keep it simple, but you'll be happy to know that YOU can keep it simple for them.)

55x "Extended Zoom" is pretty much like most DIGITAL zooms: bad. Stick with the 30x optical zoom which is plenty. Face recognition may be very handy for getting this to focus on one person (it even has smile recognition), but it takes greater control than I seem to have. Sony talks about image stablilization in reference to camera shake. But "shake" won't be your problem when focusing with an LCD. Wide swings in all direction will be your problem. In addition, I can't stand to focus and follow action with an LCD, and even though this camcorder weighs around 9 ounces, you'll hold it out from your body as you would with a smart phone. People move while you're moving. True stabilization will cost you thousands!

As for the projector, I might use it when I'm on vacation, but otherwise it's handy but unnecessary. I much prefer watching videos on my PC 23" HD monitor. And I probably won't be hooking it up to my TV, but if you have kids and have the family over, you're definitely going to want to share the stunning videos with them on a big screen TV. (Mind you, I haven't gotten my Super 8 videos out in 20 years though I still have a player. On the other hand, if you have kids, the grandparents are going to want to see what they've been up to, and Skype is only an adjunct when Gran and Gramps can watch the videos over and over.)

Battery life is about 2 hours as promised, and 2 hours should be sufficient since most people shoot in one or two minute increments. I don't like the 2 hours to charge with the truly cumbersome AC adaptor or almost 3 hours with the built-in USB cord which, on my PC, means that the PJ380 hangs from the side of the tower. (My laptops have quit and I don't have a tablet.)

Last, I much prefer using - and did use - an external 32 GB Class 10 SDHC Flash Memory Card. It's MUCH easier to download your movies to a PC or Mac, and then with almost all software upgraded or developed since 2010, you can delete and even edit video through your computer. Once it's on your computer, just format the card and you're ready to go again. It's also much easier to burn a disk than directly from the camera.

I would recommend the PJ380 to any family with kids or puppies or cats or even for someone who wants to record a baseball or soccer game. Just be aware that the results may not be quite as advertised. Overall colors are good, but not astounding.

4 stars for family videos.

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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon September 29, 2013
Color: Black|Style: Body Only|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
It has become standard for practically any camera these days to record video in 1080p HD, but even among all those recording devices, the picture quality can vary. There is such a thing as "cheap" 1080p and "professional" 1080p. If I were to categorize this Sony video camera, I would say that it is certainly a step above the iPhone, but don't expect to point and shoot Planet Earth documentaries.

This camcorder is still designed for home/personal/non-professional use, but at the same time, it IS very professional. The video quality is stellar. If you can find great lighting and a picturesque scene, it will look beautiful. Most notably when using the camcorder as a regular camera and taking still shots. The 8.9MP are rich in depth, texture and color. Switching between recording video and still shots is very easy, because you don't have to switch at all. There is a button for still shot and a button for video record.

As far as set-up is concerned, this camcorder is pretty much ready to go out of the box. Just charge it up, open the viewer, and start recording. The only setting that I would recommend you adjust right away is the "picture quality" setting. By default, it is set to a moderate picture quality, so be sure to go to the menu and select "highest quality" and "60p" recording to make sure you get the best video possible. For longer recording (concerts, plays, etc.) you will want one of the lower quality settings.

My only complaint is in regards to the audio and it's more of a half-complaint. On average, voices are very clear and not susceptible to popping or distortion, even at close range. If you are shooting outside, however, the mic will pick up a good amount of wind. A little too much, in my opinion, although it is better than most camcorders I've used. You can insert a professional microphone into the included 3.5mm stereo microphone input if needed. For professional projects, I would recommend it.

OVERALL: I can easily recommend this camcorder for families and friends who want to capture those precious moments in exceptional HD and also semi-professional film makers. The picture quality is about as good as you can get for under $1000 and the impressive zoom function and other features allows you to do a lot more than you could with a cell phone camera. I won't say it's the best I've seen, but it also sells at an affordable price. If I were to gripe, it would be in the audio department which leaves a little to be desired. Overall, though, I give the Sony HDR-CX380 a solid recommendation.


- Glorious HD video
- No auto-focus issues
- Also great for still shot pictures
- Very compact, easy-to-carry size
- Multi-format recording options
- Easy setup, easy USB connection
- Touch-screen menu


- They advertise "wind reduction" technology for the microphone, but there's still a lot of wind/air/environmental sounds when shooting outside. There is a 3.5mm stereo microphone input which allows you to use specialized microphones for more professional audio if needed.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon May 31, 2013
I've been using this camera for about six months now and am very impressed with the quality and features of this camera. The projector, which seemed an odd little feature initially, is actually extremely useful and the quality of the video and stills are absolutely amazing.

1. The PROJECTOR : When I received this camcorder I had some initial concern over quality of projector. It seemed like a gimmick that might be thrown in to give people the urge to upgrade from their old workhorse camcorder that lacked a projector. Or pull you into buying a feature you really do not need. Also, I had some doubts over how it would work in a room not dark enough or with its ability to project a truly clear image. We mounted the camera on a tripod and aimed it at the wall in a room with the curtains closed and the lights off during the day time (by no means a pitch dark room) and the projected image was simply amazing. The little slider that helps focus the image works really well and we had a crisp clear image on the wall! The camcorder allows you to hook up your smartphone, laptop or any device with an HDMI port to the camcorder and use the projector to watch the files on those devices. We have travelled overseas with this twice and the projector was extremely useful on both trips when we wanted to watch video with family before we left. We didn't need to sort out how to use their hardware or burn discs or anything of the sort.

2. MEMORY : This has a built in 16G flash memory as well as a memory stick slot that will take SDXC cards. I'm using a 64G SDXC card and it works like a charm. (Oddly enough, while my old camcorder would take SDXC cards, my not so old TV was totally confused by them so if making the step to SDXC you might want to consider that.)

3. TOUCH SCREEN: I love the crisp clear image that you see on the three inch touchscreen. I did not have any trouble using the icons on the touchscreen but a friend with blockier fingers found it a bit aggravating since the icons are pretty small. Also, the response time after selecting a setting is a bit longer than I would have liked. Note that the touchscreen does not work when using the camera as projector; you have to resort to the zoom toggle and the photo button to navigate things while projecting.

4. I found myself horribly frustrated by my previous Panasonic camcorder which required settings adjusted for every new scenario. If you are like me and want automatic to be just that, to be able to yank it out of your purse or bag and start shooting asap before the fun is gone by, then this camera will be great for you. I used it indoors, outdoors, indoors with awful lighting and even sitting 30 feet away from a stage (I got gorgeous close ups and video of the child in HD glory!). I did try out the low lux setting which did wonders in really low light settings.

5. Another thing that is very noticeable is that the built in STABILITY CONTROL really works! With a 55x zoom I was expecting major wobbling when zooming in without a tripod from far away. The video I got wavered once in a while but it was amazingly level and clear. A little bit grainy at full zoom but surprisingly clear until zoomed in all the way.

6. AUTOFOCUS was a bit of an issue since, with moving objects crossing over the line of sight. This was easily overcome by tapping on the touchscreen on the center of focus. The camera readjusts very quickly.

7. STILLS were gorgeous, high quality, well focused pictures. I find the placement of the still picture button on video cameras to be annoying but the strap that goes over your hand is adjustable and, once the camera is balanced well on your hand, taking pictures is a snap. :) The camera has a smile detect function that takes stills automatically as you are recording. It gave us some of our best stills!

8. BATTTERY: Charges quickly (about an hour) and lasts fairly long (between two to two and a half hours). I have purchased a second battery but have not once had this battery run out while in use. It holds it's charge well when not in use. I am glad to have a second battery just in case but, unless you use the device a lot, you may not need one.

9. VIEWING YOUR STUFF: the camera came with the recommendation to install software called Play Memories from sony. We currently use Picasa (which I hate) and tried Visual studio (which was a mess) but Play Memories, I am very glad to say, is a simple, intuitive, clean little software that allowed me to sort all my pictures (notice I said all - it filed and sorted all the media on my computer) and video into neat little folders by date or name or type or device used and what not. As someone who likes software to not make life more complicated, I love this basic little photo/video software.

10. MANUAL : you get 250 pages of searchable information online. If you don't mind having to use electronics to learn about your new electronic device, it is well designed and easy to navigate. If you prefer a paper manual, you are out of luck. Personally I know that there is a lot that this camera can do that I have not taken the time to look up since I still prefer to flip through a paper manual to see what stands out for me.

It would have been nice if the camera came with a carrying case and I do wonder about the wear and tear to the lens of the projector which does not have any sort of protection but, besides that, I cannot recommend this little video camera highly enough! If you don't think you will use the projector often, a comparable camera (sans projector) is the CX380 however, with sales and Amazon's deals (the PJ380 was available as a Gold Box deal today!) it may be possible to get the PJ380 for a comparable price. I find the projector to be very worth it indeed!
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on October 2, 2013
This camcorder still amazes me and I've had it for weeks and used it dozens of times already. The technology Sony has packed into this is incredible.

The tiny size of this camcorder is great for large or small hands. The buttons are easily accessible. The touch screen icons could be a bit sensitive for larger fingers, but with a small LCD that's to be expected.

It charges fairly quickly and the battery life is phenomenal. The fact it turns on and off by simply opening the viewing screen is a very nice touch. I really like that.

It gives you various recording quality options when setting it up and the higher end modes shoot drop dead gorgeous video. It has an 'internet' video mode for easily shooting clips for YouTube and other social media.

The zoom is fantastic. With the built in stabilization it is not a problem to zoom way out and still shoot quality video.

The crowning jewel of this camcorder is the built in LCD projector. It is not extremely bright, but it is plenty to show everything in a dark room and clearly see the video. I hook up my Kindle Fire to it via HDMI and project Netflix and Amazon Video for family entertainment. We like to lay out blankets and project it straight up on the ceiling and just lay back and relax.

The camcorder is very responsive. It doesn't lag when changing modes or turning off/on.

The software installation was easy and it immediately updated to the latest version. I am still getting used to Sony's memories software and using its features.

If you can't tell already, I absolutely love this camcorder. I would (and have) recommend it to anyone looking for a quality compact camcorder with entertainment value to boot.
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on July 29, 2013
I've been using a Mini-DV tape-based Panasonic PV-GS31 for quite a few years - it has stood up to some punishment and served me well. After a pretty thorough evaluation, I opted to replace it with the Sony HDR-CX380. Wow! I love this camcorder. Here's why:

Weighs next to nothing.
Fits into a pocket.
Incredibly easy to use.
Great feature set, from the built in USB cable to the touch screen, menu structure, external mike jack, auto lens cover, etc.
At 8.9 Meg, the still shots are great - on a recent trip I left my SLR at home and really did not miss it!
True HD, though having bought it I discovered that iMovie and the version of Final Cut Express I had could not process full HD (1920 by 1080). However, with the direct HDMI connection, I can view full HD, and dropping down to 1080i does not seem to lose much in the way of resolution.

Really none. I wonder if it will last as long as my old Panasonic - does not feel as solid, but I plan on treating it with the respect it deserves.

Bottom line - I'm still not sure about the debate over using a good SLR for video as well as stills. For me, a dedicated (and ultra light) camcorder seems to make sense and works great!
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on March 20, 2013
We like the b-ray quality of the recording. The camera is small and easy to take on family trips. We like the video feature of taking photographs while the camera is video taping. And there is a feature of putting the camera in video mode or photograph mode. The camera is easy to use.
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on November 17, 2013
I have always liked Sony products and I purchased this camcorder for my son's piano recital assuming that with an external microphone input and a newer camcorder with 60p ability the image would be better and the sound would be more clear. The sound was better but I was gravely mistaken with the recording quality. The image quality at all settings were just grainy. I spent 2 to 3 days trying to figure out what the problem was. I wondered if I have a defective camera like what Scott Waring's review stated. Overall, this camcorder just does not live up to its price tag. The image it generates is faded and grainy. No matter what setting you use, Standard, mp4, 60i or even 60p, the videos just look grainy with poor focus. Videos I made with my Samsung Galaxy S3 look better than this camcorder at 60P. I read through the menu and went on line researching through whatever material that was available but I just couldn't make the quality of recording any better. In fact, my old Panasonic HDC-SD40 from 2 years ago produced better recording images! I spent 3 days to come to the conclusion and will return this item.

I do not recommend buying this camcorder.
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