Most helpful positive review
44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
Impressive - Floating Lens is Uh-May-Zing!
on May 2, 2012
I've tried many video cameras over the years, and consider myself a loyal Canon user. I've had the XL1, XL2, XLH1 and a few of their handheld consumer cams like the HFS10, so I was curious to see how this Sony HDR-PJ710V would compare to my past experience. And I have to say, I'm quite impressed.
I really LOVE Sony's decision to include a wide-angle lens on this cam. I've bought an aftermarket wide angle for virtually every video camera I've ever owned, so to have that come standard this time out was a real nice touch. If we're talking a Canon XL camera, then the expense and hassle of an additional wide angle is justified. But as far as the average Joe(sephine,) getting a wide angle is a big deal in both cost and convenience. Most video cameras try to strike a balance between a decent zoom lens, and a barely adequate focal width. The problem with that is, the majority of us are using personal cams like this for intimate events like birthdays and family gatherings; environments that beg for the wide angle lens that most cams are lacking. Plus, aftermarket wide angle lenses never fit right, because the cams themselves weren't manufactured with the added lens in mind; even if you buy a name brand lens direct from the cam's manufacturer. So the extra attachments tend to block things like flashes, built-in lights, buttons, and often mess with auto-focus and an array of other nifty features you got the cam for in the first place. Plus, I hate carrying added attachments. A pro working environment is different; I expect to have a bunch of added gear in those situations. But for personal shooting environments, less is more. What's the point of buying a nifty little compact cam, if you have to lug around a bulky wide angle lens too? Doesn't make sense. As far as zooming, the 10x optical and 17x digital zoom works brilliantly too.
Floating Lens - Absolute Genius
Sony has taken their SteadyShot to a whole new level here, and competitors better take notice. The Active Mode SteadyShot on this cam means that the _entire_optical_lens_block on this cam MOVES to give outstanding image stabilization. The best analogy I can draw, is that it's similar to an accelerometer in a cell phone, in that, it senses the camera's movements and physically moves the lens accordingly to give an optimal focal point, and reduce camera shake to almost nothing. You can actually see the lens move inside the housing as you tilt and adjust the camera -- again... Uh-May-Zing!
Manual Focus & Aperture
Yes, this cam can do all that stuff automatically for you. But I have used many a camera where I had to fight with the auto-focus just to get it to focus in on the right thing. Believe me, having the option to manually focus your lens and adjust your own aperture settings is a huge deal, and not every cam offers the feature. Big bonus points for that one.
Every Shooting Mode Imaginable
Lets face it, sometimes cams like this come with so many bells and whistles, it can be daunting just to shoot some simple video. But the cool thing about this Sony is, you can put everything on auto-pilot and just shoot. Or, you can get into the nuts and bolts of it and really manipulate your shooting experience. 24p, zebra, peaking -- you name it, this cam's got it. So get as simple or as complicated as you like with this one.
Have you ever noticed that when you're operating a camera, that you're not totally a present spectator in what you're filming? Your attention is focused on keeping the subject framed and following the action. And because of that, you spend more time filming an event, rather than enjoying it first hand. Well, tracking focus eliminates that circumstance, by honing in on any subject of your choice and automatically following it, and keeping it in focus, even if it momentarily leaves frame and comes back into view. To put it plainly, set the tracking focus to follow your child in a school play, then just sit back and enjoy the show, while the camera automatically tracks your child's movements on stage and keeps them in focus for you. Coupled with the floating lens, and you almost don't have to watch what you're doing with regard to filming, and can keep your attention focused on what matters most... real life.
I'll refrain from pulling out the Thesaurus to look up all the synonyms for Cool; suffice to say, the built in projector is fantastic. It works quite well in an array of lighting environments and is easy to focus and use.
The built-in speakers on this cam are actually quite good and sound much better than other cams I've tried. It gets loud enough to be heard well and doesn't sound like a tin can. Even my pricey Canon XL cameras needed inline amplifiers just so the sound could be heard while using the camera.
High Quality Touch Screen
Excellent viewing angles, crystal clear image worthy of an HD cam, very responsive with no lags or quirks -- top notch and VERY nice indeed.
Good Menu Navigation
The next most important thing to a responsive touch-screen, is having coherent and clearly laid out menus that are intuitive and easy to navigate. Sony did a nice job here. Everything is easy to find, clearly marked in a way that makes sense, and pictographically pleasing to the eye. Some cams fail miserably in this department. What good are all the bells and whistles if the menus are so convoluted you can't find anything? You shouldn't have to repeatedly refer to a User Manual because the tech department failed to create coherent menus. Thankfully, Sony took the time to do a good job with this.
Great Mic with 5.1 Surround Recording
Excellent wind reduction and noise cancellation, with 5.1 recording to boot. And the accessory shoe and added inputs can accommodate higher caliber external microphones.
Geotagging Via the Built in GPS Receiver
This is one of those features I don't expect to use much, but I can see it being invaluable for some people. The camera can automatically tag your photos and videos with the precise location of where they were taken, via the internal GPS receiver. Think of Google Maps automatically built into your video camera. Nice touch.
Bottom Line -- Sony has certainly moved the video camera into the next century with this one. The HD video quality is pristine, and the camera is very easy to use. And the floating lens and tracking focus are exceptional. And I haven't personally seen these features on any other video camera. It is pricey, but this is a great video camera. I'll definitely be reaching more frequently for this one over my Canon. I can't see giving this video camera anything less than 5 stars.