on April 29, 2013
I am a long term Canon user - and my current stable of camcorders includes a HV20 and HV40 - both of which I prize for their extensive manual controls, their HDV recording, and the use of tape - which acts as an natural archival mechanism.
The PJ790V was an exciting departure from my normal routine, and I used it exclusively on a recent trip to St Louis, MO to watch my son's high school robotics team compete at the Robotics World Championships. Over 3 exciting and exhausting days, I put this camcorder through its paces.
Here are my thoughts.
This is easily one of the most comprehensive camcorders I have ever come across in over 25 years of videography.
In an embarrassing abundance of riches it combines:
1] an astounding amount of internal memory (96 GB. Really.)
While the jaw-dropping 36 hours recording time is only achievable on the lowest quality setting; even at full 60p HD you get a still-awesome 7 hours. See below for notes on Recording Modes.
2] a wide and fast Zeiss 10x zoom lens (26-260 mm/F1.8-3.4)
3] mind blowing optical image stabilization technology. At the Robotics World Championships, I shot hand-held, indoors, at full zoom from the nosebleed section of the Edward Jones dome - and the images were still spectacular, with hardly any camera shake (except for wild pans in my excitement.) Check out footage in the first comment below this review. This is unbelievable OIS quality.
4] built in 100" projector(imagine that!) with a 1.6' throw distance and WVGA resolution (854x480)
5] a microphone separated from its body to avoid the camera noise that plagued my HV20
6] Navteq-supplied GPS for most places you are likely to visit - including North America, Europe, Japan, and Oceania. Unfortunately, it does not do navigation, traffic, or weather :)
7] PlayMemories Home software lets you trim, split, and combine videos; grab frames for stills; and to share your creation. I found it to be a very intuitive video organizer/editor and great for when you can't be bothered to load up a full editor.
Some minor quibbles:
1] The touch screen takes some pressure to register. I initially thought I had a bad touch screen!
2] The zoom rocker has a perceptible delay when the camera is first turned on, which is distracting when you need to get going quickly at a sporting event.
This is one of those cameras that you can simply start using, right out of the box. It is that intuitive. I was blown away by its SteadyShot system - the image stabilization is truly best in class. When you view the clip in the comment below, remember that this was shot by a tired and excited parent, whooping like a kid, in indoor stadium lighting, often at full zoom. The focus is sharp, the images are clean, and the microphone clearly captures the videographer's very vocal enthusiasm. At its highest PS video quality (see Recording Modes section below), you get stunning video - that needs to be seen to be believed.
Add in its clear and bright LCD that I could easily use even in bright daylight; elegant design touches such as the USB cable integrated into its hand grip; the attention getting lens hood; and reasonable power consumption (even the tiny NP-FV50 lasted me an entire day), and you have a winning performer.
I'm more conflicted by the presence of the GPS and projector - features that are great attention grabbers, but ones that I'll probably never ever use.
Must have accessories:
1] The NP-FV50 needs help - especially if you are on vacation. Check out the NP-FV70 or NP-FV100 instead.
2] BC-TRV charger - I hate to leave camcorder charging overnight so this travel charger is very handy.
3] VMCUAM2 USB adapter cable - lets you back up your videos to an external hard drive without needing a computer
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-PJ790V 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.
Now, I'm done :)
Postscript: The kids ranked 20 out of 100 teams in their division. The kids had a great learning experience and the parents cheered themselves hoarse. What could be more fun!
on July 15, 2013
Let me preface this by saying that I am a self proclaimed "prosumer". I was one of the first to buy the $4k Sony VX1000 when the DV format came out in 1995. I was also one of the first to buy the $2k Sony Hc1 HDV camcorder in 2005 on the first day of release. I have since been using canon dslr and since last year a Nikon D800 camera for videography. This is the first camcorder that rivals or beat the D800 in video quality. I have always wanted that super clear "like you are there" sharpness that you find on blu ray movies when watching on a newer LCD tv. The D800 and this camcorder both met this or come close to this.
The reason why I purchase this even though I already have the D800 (shot with Nikon 24mm f1.4 or Tamron 24-70 f2.8) is because sometime I am lazy and just want to shoot sharp video without having to pull focus. Remember that with DSLR videos, you always have to focus first. Their "full auto focus" is as good as camcorders of the mid 1980s, so don't believe any of that hype. However, you get excellent shallow depth of field and the ability to change lens with a DSLR. I was never satisfied with any of the camcorders because of the flat depth of field, and the low contrast. There is always that "fog" in the footage....it just was not "crystal" clear like what I would get on my D800 or my Canon T2i.
Going back to this camcorder, I purchased it because it rivals the D800 in sharpness, and it autofocus like a normal camcorder! However, what really got me seriously thinking about plunking down more than $1.5k for "another" camcorder is the balance steadyshot. OMG, this is freaking amazing! I have 2 other panasonic camcorder (SDK 750), and their "hybrid OIS" was the best a couple years ago.....this new sony technology beats it hands down! My wife can record while we are driving in the car, and you can see the windshield moving up and down, but the center image is totally at a standstill like the car is not moving!
I can walk with this camcorder while recording. While standing and just recording a footage, most people would mistaken the footage as if it was on a tripod! Of course, don't expect miracles! My cousin was panning back and forth and the footage got very bad, very quickly! This camcorder when used properly, will aid the operator immensely in producing "professional quality" footage.
Another "gimmick" is the built -in projector. The projector is very low in lumens (35), so even in total darkness, anything bigger than a 35-40 inch screen is too dim. The picture quality is only "ok". However, it is useful to check after a day's shooting to see if you have all the footage you need. The funny thing is, when I showed this to my wife (who thinks I have too many cameras and camcorder already), it was a deal breaker for her! She wasn't too impressed with the balance steadyshot or the 1/2 inch sensor, but when I turned on the projector, she shriek and said OMG, buy this now! LOL! If you are on the fence about a PJ model or CX, I would hesitantly recommend this. However, in a couple years, when they up the resolution of the projector to at least 480p and increase the lumen to 150-250, then it would be well worth it.
Ok, now I will discuss what I don't like about this camcorder.
1. Photo quality. Ok, maybe I am spoiled by the Nikon D800 photo quality, but this will NOT replace your DSLR. 24mp does not mean anything! It all comes down to the lens and the sensor. In perfect outdoor weather, I would say it is as good as a cheap DSLR. However, there are NO detail sharpness! Indoor pictures are horrible because of luminance noise and lack of sharpness! To compare this, I would say that it is better than my iphone 5 camera (which is think is excellent for a "phone camera").
2. LCD monitor wiggles up and down. At first I thought my camcorder is defective. If you wiggle the monitor while closed, up and down, it will move significantly like there is a loose screw. However, when I wiggled the screen on my old sony HC1, it did the same. I went to Costco and noticed that all sony camcorder lcd monitor also wiggled up and down; None of my Canon (HDV 20 and HDV 30) nor my panasonic camcorders had this problem. I guess this is "good", since the freeplay serves sort of like a shock absorber to prevent it from breaking from the camcorder.
3. Menu. Everything is from the touchscreen menu except for the front button by the lens, that you can assign a function. To assign a function, press inward for 2 seconds and then choose one of the function to assign and then press inward again. You can now adjust by scrolling the wheel. I learned that you can adjust something, like white balance shift (which is great!) and then push inward to choose another function to assign and adjust like shutter speed, or aperture (IRIS). However, be careful that certain function will cancel other functions.
4. This camera is bigger than most compact camcorders. This is about as big as my old Canon HDV 20. It is much bigger than the panasonic TM900 or the SDK 750. This is not a bad thing per se. You trade quality for compactness.
Overall, I am very happy with this camcorder for it's new steadyshot technology and video sharpness. It is a keeper for me.
Lucky in my usual "jinx" sort of way.....Just bought myself a brand spanking new Canon VIXIA HF-M500 HD Camcorder with every option I could find for it here at Amazon. But hey, I am not complaining to get to try this Sony. I almost actually bought a much cheaper Sony model instead of my Canon. But I have to admit up front that we have had HORRIBLE luck with Sony "quality". 3 PS3 units (2 failed in 14 months) and a new 55" LCD HD TV that died with less than 400 hours (yes HOURS!) on it but it was just 2 weeks after the 1 year warranty & Sony told us to pound sand. So I no longer spend MY money on anything Sony. But to try this free of charge was like a gift from God, nothing less. (For the record I also use expensive surge protection on all of our electronics even though we live in sunny southern California).
I want to get to this right away. I give this 4 out of 5 stars and will adjust up OR down as time & experience (reliability!) dictate. I am no camcorder expert like so many who write reviews that make me dizzy when I read them. I am a point & shoot old "phart" but one who loves and appreciates nice video. I just don't want to have to go back to school to accomplish that. I have to say that my new Canon simply blows me away, and for the price I got it for on sale, STILL find it the super deal of my life (if you have to pay). I never much needed the manual to figure it out. I pointed, shot and got no less than stunning video. I also for the first time ever, finally became aware (with the Canon) just how much more stunning your video looks if you take the time to connect it to your TV to enjoy as opposed to looking at it on one of your computers. I had NO idea what I was missing. I was thrilled to have a 1/3" CMOS that blew my socks off when watching my videos on the TV.
But there was a problem, and one that I always have no matter how much I spend. Shake, jitters, bouncy video caused by me being an old goat with less than steady hands, and lately, by my latest new car, my Fiat 500C. I LOVE my Fiat convertible, bought it to try to get me off motorcycles. But it will beat you to death, plus I have done lots of mods to it so it is not a car to relax in. The videos on my Canon were simply useless, abysmal if not worse....This is where this Sony will simply blow you away.
I took the same route (driving along the local beach) with both cameras and you can actually watch the video taken on this Sony without throwing up in the process. No it is NOT perfect but it is night & day better than my new Canon or ANY of my current 5 camcorders. Simply in a league of it's own. Image quality.....I call it a tie, in fact the Canon just MAY be a bit nicer still even though it has a 1/3" CMOS and this Sony has a 1/2" CMOS (as I best understand it)? Whatever is going on, I love BOTH so much I can hardly contain myself when watching. But the Sony makes me able to use it with my new dash mount I just got here at Amazon, the ARKON CMP212 Friction Dash and Windshield Mount for Cameras with 1/4 20 Screw Thread. Even though it was useless in my Fiat with my Canon, it is wonderful with this Sony.
Low light or indoors. It is sort of a wash between the 2 except you need to know something Sony will NOT tell you. The Sony low light is only good for a maximum of 10 feet.....so be aware of that before diving into a somewhat lofty promise. My Canon seems to do about as well in low light all around. But not talking about with the light OUT, at night? In other words, inside my home during normal daylight hours, I prefer this Sony, same at night with just indoor lamps lit normally. The Sony just seems (to me) to have warmer color and I am a severe Canon fan so it pains me to say this. But it is the truth so there it is.
Again, I just can't compete with all the expert power users out there that would normally spend the kind of money this camera costs, and give you the science on this beauty. Best I can do (to be honest) is judge it by what I have experienced with it and how I use a camcorder. I DID have to read the manual to use this, to figure out how to use the included USB cable which is a WEIRD setup by the way! You have to disconnect a cable in the strap you hold the camera with and connect a bizarre supplied cable into that, then into your computer....WEIRD to me anyway. Then be prepared to download a proprietary Sony program called "Play Memories Home" and jump through some extra hoops to transfer your movies if you film using their massive and WONDERFULLY included/built in 96 GIG SSD memory. I still think I am going to faint when I film and never even DENT my memory! It makes any & all hoops well worth my effort but I bitch about nearly everything (per my wife) so why stop now? I have simply never felt so relaxed using a camera knowing I will NEVER run low on drive space. I almost blush when inserting my now skimpy SanDisk Extreme 32 GB SDHC Class 10 UHS-1 Flash Memory Card 45MB/s SDSDX-032G-AFFP I bought for my new Canon...It really is Heaven.
I guess everyone already knows by now you have to buy optional Sony parts to use the WIFI? But I would rather use the supplied cable and not waste all the time WIFI takes crawling my data back & forth so I could care less, I won't be wasting my money there. I WILL however be ordering the following today:
-Wasabi Power Battery (2-Pack) and Charger for Sony NP-FV100.
Bought the same for my Canon and it is an AMAZING DEAL/STEAL. This camera is a LOT heavier than my Canon or others and I like that. Like that a LOT since it makes shooting (for me anyway) more stable. But the camera is also much larger (which I also like) but I was afraid it may not fit in the new bag I just bought here also. But it does but barely. I recommend the Canon 2400 SLR Gadget Bag for EOS SLR Cameras since it just makes it and still has room for my other cameras and my Canon camcorder which I will now be selling if this doesn't absolutely burst into flames:-)
The included remote is still mystifying me....It seems counter intuitive compared to my Canon and I have yet to master it. In addition, it ONLY seems to respond for ME if the camera is facing ME? So useless when using it to begin recording while driving. Then sometimes it works either way so will see how that turns out with time. On the projector? Well if in a darkened room I guess it is "OK"? I would NEVER pay any premium for it out of my own pocket however. NEVER...I just find it to be a novelty (for MY use) at best but then again, this is after viewing drop dead GORGEOUS movies direct to my HD big screen TV. I mean, after that? I would move Heaven AND Earth to only view my movies that way from now on. It is equal to Blu-Ray to me anyway. Simply knocks my socks off. As a result I only want to watch my movies in a way that showcases 100% of what this camera can do. Why spend this much money to watch in any inferior way?
So, would I spend $1600.00 of my own money for this? Well after using it to try out, I would IF I wasn't living on a tiny pension and I would wait for the inevitable price drop once some time has passed. I have to admit right up front however....I have NEVER had my aged old hands on ANY camera or camcorder this nice, EVER. It feels like a million bucks, looks like a million bucks, sounds like a million bucks. I am not equipped like many who spend this kind of money to write an eloquent review worthy of this perhaps, but I CAN say I feel like the luckiest man alive, EVER to have been allowed to test & review this. I am grateful beyond words. I will add to and modify this as time & experience happens. I am a harsh critic when it comes to Sony given my experiences. If this Camera holds up, it WILL go to 5 stars. Given it's price, if it fails as horribly as my past high end Sony products, it will go to a MINUS 5 stars. I won't lie, won't be bribed, even for "free". But this camcorder seems to be simply an amazing piece of equipment. Sure hope it turns out to be. I LOVE this thing.
UPDATE April 27 2013:
I just completed an exact road test of this to compare with my Canon VIXIA HF M500. Took the exact road etc and there is simply NO comparison of this camcorder to ANY other camcorder made prior on image stabilization. NONE! My Fiat 500 Convertible will rearrange your spine worse than most of my motorcycles...It is a modified car and harsh to drive but I like it that way. I just got home and looked at the raw video to compare to all my other cameras and camcorders. I simply can not believe this system that makes my video smooth when the road is so bad you can hear my car keys endlessly slapping against my dash! Yet you look at this video on the screen and the car looks as if it is "floating" along on some kind of cloud....This camera is simply a staggering piece of equipment and I am doing something I just never do. I am changing my review from 4 to 5 stars until it does something to deserve otherwise. If I had ever known there would be something that could perform like this I would simply borrow the money or finance to own it. It is that good. I am in the process of uploading the video comparison to my YouTube page. If you do a search on mikecartwrightsurfs at youtube you should find it in a few hours. For the record, ANY video looks like crap on YouTube compared to watching direct to your HD TV. But the proof of just how remarkable the image stabilization works on this is crystal clear, even online. If this camcorder doesn't burst into flames or fail in some horrific way, Sony has just EARNED me back as a customer. I had been a lifelong customer with them until so many failures as described above. The performance of this latest camcorder is just astounding and the ONLY camera on the market that makes it possible to use in my "
And for the record, UNLIKE the Wasabi charger & battery kit with 2 extra LARGE capacity batteries I bought for my Canon, this kit for my new Sony DOES display time remaining to use on the extra 2 batteries. I bought my kit here at Amazon through Blue Nook both times. Great product for just a couple bucks and wonderful Company.
on February 19, 2013
Pros: Fantastic Quality, Anti-Shake Technology, Great Sound Quality, Projector on camera
Cons: Touch Screen
I've only had this camera for a day or two but so far I just love it. The quality is the best I've seen in a while, really easy to use too. The projector is great and one of the best qualitys is the anti-shake feature in the camera. The camera basically floats inside of it and makes for a much smoother filming experience. The only problem I have is that it has a touch screen. Not that big of a deal but it often takes multiple taps for it to actually register.(hide)
on April 21, 2014
I'm 85 years old and have been editing video for more than 30 years, both professionally and for family. I decided to give up video production about two years ago because of shaky hands. I read some favorable reviews about this new technology and thought I would give it a try. I was totally blown away by the rock-solid performance of this little camcorder. I did some slow panning with my shaky hands and couldn't believe how solid the playback was.
on June 27, 2013
I've owned a lot of cameras over the last 5 years. Everything from Pocket Cameras from Kodak, to Cybershots from Sony, and of course, to Handycams by Sony.
I needed a camcorder that would do a lot for me since I gave my Sony DVD Camcorder to my Dad recently, and this camera caught my eye. I decided to buy it, even though I knew it was going to cost A LOT of money. But I wanted the highest end camcorder that Sony had to offer without being too complicated, so I went with this one.
My first impressions of the camera were like what most people felt when they probably felt the camera for the first time. The lens inside the camera is a free floating lens, which means that it feels like something is broken inside the camera when you are moving it around. This is normal though, so don't return this camera unless there is a different issue besides the floating lens.
The camera itself is a bit bigger than most of the handycam's that I've played with before, but that's to be expected with the amount of features that you get with this camcorder.
I really do like the fact that the microphone is 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound capable, and I'm telling you, the sound on this camcorder sounds VERY crisp and clean. Unfortunately, 2 things I don't like about the microphone is that #1, if you attach the lens hood to this camera, it blocks most of the microphone, and 2nd, since the microphone sticks out of the camera and doesn't move at all, camera bags are going to be harder to use in terms of storing this camera when it's not in use.
Onto the good stuff though, I have to say, this camera literally has everything I need. 96 GB of built in storage? AND you can put a memory card or even a memory stick pro duo in this camera too? It's just too awesome.
2nd, The projector feature is REALLY nice on this camera. I will admit, it's more of a novelty feature to me than a neccessity, but I still like showing videos/pictures to other people without having to look at a small screen or being forced to upload it to my computer or youtube.
And finally, I LOVE THE NIGHTSHOT FEATURE. Nightvision is a feature that I've always wanted in a camera, and this one doesn't fail to dissappoint when it comes to shooting video in the dark.
Video quality is absolutely SUPERB for this type of camera, and again, everything I need in a camera is here in the PJ790V.
If you're looking for one of the best cameras out there, look no further, as you will definitely be happy with this purchase.
on June 10, 2013
Very rich with features, very clear and crisp videos, indoor, outdoor, night, day, etc. Only exceptions are with telephoto aftermarket lenses, at least the 4x, you have to stay zoomed in 70% or better to avoid seeing the round shape of the telephoto lens. Hands down its a nice non professional camcorder. Projector is outstanding in a dark room and good in a fairly dark room. Balanced optical really works well.
on May 17, 2014
I have been a professional videographer for the past 20 years. Won several awards too. Worked in VHS, then Hi-8, DVcam and now in several HD format(s). I have followed this camera since it won top camera CES award last year. I needed a small and light-weight camera for travel and upcoming small production work (run and gun). Adding additional lighting and XLR audio equipment fill the few voids that this camera has. While manual is somewhat limited, the quality for the price is tops. Add a slider and tripod you video will shine. This camera will deliver a quality image at 24 Mbps (1920 X 1080i) and 28 Mbps (1920 X 1080p) -- I edit at 30P, so I shoot at 1080i and convert. For the low budget 'home-movie/filmmaker' -- this camera is top dog!
on June 16, 2013
I have been using the Sony XR500V for the past four years and recently purchased the HDR-CX430V and HDR-650V. In summary, both camcorders were returned after experiencing less than stellar results in audio and video quality. That said, I opted to invest in the HDR-790V and I am absolutely thrilled with the performance of this camera. Although I have been primarily experimenting with the "Intelligent Auto" setting, I could not be more pleased with the incredible quality on all fronts. The stabilization, color accuracy and build materials are outstanding. I highly recommend this unit!
on June 20, 2013
I first got the opportunity to really put this camcorder to good use at my two-year-old daughter's first ballet recital. In a reasonably crowded auditorium, I was able to get seats maybe 15 rows back from the stage. Without standing behind a tripod, I wouldn't have believed that I would be able to get watchable footage from that distance, but the optical stabilization in this camcorder is astonishing! You'll likely think there's something wrong with the camcorder when you pick it up -- the internal optical train is floating, loose, inside the body of the camcorder. This floating feature is what allows you to steadily zoom in on a distant object without translating the shaking of your hands into unbearable shaking of the video. At the end of the day, we got really wonderful footage, zoomed in tight, of my daughter "dancing" (read: standing still and waving her prop flower at us while music played).
The projection feature is certainly neat, but a little gimmicky for my taste. I can't see a time when this would be the preferred way in which I would showcase the video I've shot. For reviewing the footage I've just taken, I wouldn't rely on projecting it on a wall, either, lest I think that the focus problems that I might have from the projector were somehow the fault of the video I'd just taken. Still, it's got a nice wow factor, and I suppose I might find a way to show it off.
The lens hood attaches in a quirky fashion, and blocks the 5-channel directional microphone's most important channel (forward). Not sure I'd recommend using it.
The video quality is very good - so good, that iMovie can't import it directly (1080p at 60 frames per second is beyond iMovie's native capabilities). If you have a mac, I found a work-around: open the drive with the AVCHD file, open that in Quicktime player, and select the clip you want to import. "File" -> "Save" that clip once it's playing to your desktop, and iMovie can open that file from the Desktop.