Top positive review
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The Next Evolution Doesn't Disappoint.
on March 18, 2013
This camera packs a lot of features for the $1100.00 price tag, but its well worth it.
Sony introduces new changes and improvements for the 2013 Handycam line. The Sony HDR-PJ650v has a 20 lumens(360p) built-in projector, which was introduced in the 2012 models and enhanced from the previous 13 lumens projectors. Now via the "Micro HDMI" cable(included) and changed from the previous "Mini HDMI" input. You can now stream content from your tablet or compatible smartphone(like a Samsung Galaxy S or iPhone) through the Projector via a dedicated Projector Input terminal. Now for the first time ever, you can record footage in dual video format(AVCHD Progressive or .MP4 for Web). The .MP4 format supports full 720P HD(30fps) and 20.4MP still images. Both MP4 video and still images can be uploaded through a tablet or smart phone Via the new "Multi-Interface" Wireless Adapter(sold separately), and you can even control camera functions remotely from a tablet or smartphone and preview the footage.
I wanted to address the .MP4 format quickly. In case you are wondering why it's only 720P(30fps), it has to do with file size and what most Tablets and Smartphones are capable of handling, be it iOS or Android. Most Tablets and Smartphones typically are only up to 720P and record in 30fps, but .MP4 is the most file-friendly because its a simplified format that all wireless devices run on. And anything in the 1080i/p 60i or 60p range where the frames are doubled and the resolution is higher and needs more compression would be way too large and most devices that are running 1080 resolution are only running at 30fps, and the lines of resolution are not very high for mobile devices to begin with. And since the Wifi feature of the camera is meant to be mobile enabled, 720P is just more realistic and feesible since most people who own an HD Tablet or an HD Smartphone at least have one that supports 720P. Also, the file size is much easier to edit if you plan on editing videos with a Tablet or Smartphone.
However, because this is 720P HD with Balanced Optical Steady Shot, it makes the footage much more stable than any Tablet or Smartphone, and current Smartphone cameras and Tablet cameras can't even begin to compete with this kind of image stabilization. Also, this is true HD resolution with 6 iris blades backing it up, so the images you upload are going to be way sharper in detail and higher in resolution and more focally balanced as opposed to a camera phone where there's no optical stabilization and weak lines of resolution, and a lack of true to life colors and saturation. So if you plan on uploading footage for mobile purposes, this is a much better and grown up option than relying on your camera phone which is limited as a competent camera for recording those details you can only get from a full camera, and will certainly look more impressive and give camera phones a run for their money, and certainly a feature worth showing off to friends just to compare quality.
The 5.1 channel microphone has also been greatly enhanced and streamlined to reduce background noise and improved richness in sound quality for crystal clear audio as well as a reduction in motor noises by the camera, pretty much gone. They have also improved the low-light feature of the new camcorders for improved low-light performance that may have you recording at night more often. This camera features the sublime "Balanced Optical Steady-shot"(introduced in the 2012 models) which keeps the footage steady as a rock while moving or in the car as the entire lens block is litterally floating inside the camera housing reducing camera shake by 13x over the Optical Steadyshot for the best available stable footage without the use of a tripod or stabilizing equipment.
The lens is a 26.8mm(35mm equivalent) Sony-G Wide Angle Lens with a 46mm filter diameter. It also comes with a lens hood, a step-down ring to fit 37mm lens accessories, and still features the built-in USB 2.0 cable for transferring files, as well as a headphone jack, microphone jack for external microphone attachments, and now the "Multi-Interface Terminal"(replacing the A/V R from before). This camera also has an extendable electronic viewfinder which is pixel equivalent to the LCD screen(921k), so it's one you can actually use. This model also features a 12x optical zoom, a 20x extended zoom, and a 160x digital zoom. You get much more optical zoom on this model than the PJ790v which costs much more. The only feature lacking on this model is the "Nightshot", if you care about that feature. But there's loads of professional features packed in like zebra, peaking support, golf shot and more.
You can also still transfer your recorded footage to an external HDD without a computer. They eliminated the dedicated USB port on the older model camcorders which was replaced by the Projector input and incorporated it into the "Multi Terminal" on the side of the camera instead. So you will need an additional Multi USB adapter cable(sold separately for $19.99) to use with your external HDD. So for those fearing that feature was gone, it isn't. Much of the older and familiar camcorder functions have been reassigned to the Multi Terminal in order to streamline the camera.
The good news with the new "Multi-Interface"' shoe and "Multi-Interface Terminal" port, you can still use "A/V R" and "Active Shoe Interface" accessories, but you will need to get a "Multi-Interface A/V" adapter cable(sold seperately) and a "Multi-Interface-to-Active Shoe" adapter. They cost around $20-$25 each, but if you already own "Active Shoe" accessories and "A/V R" accessories, you will require these for your "Multi-Interface" enabled camcorder since all the 2013 models feature these. So at least they are affordable.
I do have some minor complaints on the PJ650v. The internal storage 32GB flash might be fine for recording in the .MP4 format if you plan on uploading web videos to Facebook or YouTube since its only 720P, but in the AVCHD Progressive format in 1080i/p is only 2-3 hours of recording time. So you will need an SDHC, SDXC(up to 64GB Class 4 or higher)memory card with a larger memory capacity, or have an external HDD for storage if you plan on recording in the higher formats. But overall it's fine on the lower formats, about 7-11 hours of recording time.
My only other complaint is the stock battery Sony included. The package is solid, maybe Sonys best camcorder value. It includes the HDR-PJ650v, a lens hood, remote commander, step down ring, USB transfer cable, micro HDMI cable, AC adapter, and power plug. But If they are going to market high-end consumer camcorders, they really need at least the NP-FV70 battery included, the stock FV50 is almost worthless. Keep it as a back up, but you can buy 3rd party batteries at a fraction of the cost of Sonys overpriced batteries that are much better.
Overall, for the money and the streamlined enhancements made to this years 2013 camcorder models over the 2012 models, I have to highly suggest this camcorder, maybe over the PJ790v in terms of price and features. You're pretty much getting all the new features, and its the best model to get over the lower end models of the 2013 line. The only major difference with the PJ790 and the PJ650 is a Carl Zeiss lens, nightshot, a slightly larger MP still image(24.1 vs 20.4), and a slightly brighter projector(35Lumens vs 20 Lumens), and a slightly larger sensor. It really comes down to whether or not you want to really spend the extra money for a few slight enhancements when the cameras are pretty much identical, and it's a top model camcorder. Overall the 2013 Handycam cameras are perhaps Sonys best yet, and really bridge the gap between consumer and professional. It's easy enough for consumers to use, but also not so simplified that it isnt appropriate for professionals to use as well.