Customer Reviews: Sony HXR-NX30U Palm Size NXCAM HD Camcorder with Projector & 96GB HDD (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
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on August 24, 2012
I sometimes shoot high-end videos for my company with dSLRs to get beautiful, shallow depth of field, but I bought this mostly for my family. I have 10 grandkids under the age of 7 and you can't follow them around with a dSLR and catch all the action without being out of focus and shaky. To my surprise, the footage looks so good from this camcorder I can use it for certain commercial footage too.

Its #1 feature is the floating lens. It's so freaky to look at the lens while moving the camera back and forth and see how it absorbs the shake more than any camcorder ever has that I know of, by far. Where the floating lens is most amazing is when you zoom long and you're trying to hold steady but your shaky hands can't quite get it still enough. They can now. It has a 17x zoom, so long is really long.

What I expected is it would provide a look like a Steadicam does. Unfortunately, it's not really that and it took me awhile to understand why. For one thing, it's so light that it's easy to rotate it right or left as you're walking or running with it and it's hanging down by the handle. A steadicam doesn't roll right or left easily because it has a long vertical axis. The floating lens doesn't prevent that. Also, since it's so light, it's easy to move it up and down, side to side, and the floating lens only partially helps that. It's the shake when zoomed in and you're holding it fairly still but the lens is so long that it normally would make it all shaky where it seriously smooths out the shake. In other words, actually moving it sideways is not where the floating lens helps so much; it's when you rotate it left and right quickly that it does.

Since the sensor is small, you don't get shallow depth of field like you do in a dSLR, but for run 'n gun chasing children, doing documentaries, shooting action, etc., when you want things in focus and sharp, it's seriously good at that. It's surprisingly good at low light but not like a Canon 5d MKII or MKIII. The sound is awesome. It's really simple to use and the white balance, auto exposure and auto focus are amazing. I can't understand how they made it so great with so small a unit.

The only annoyance for me is getting the video off the internal memory is a pain. I had to use that funky Sony cable that it comes with that I lost, and hook it to an external drive formated with a FAT file system. I finally figured it out, but I use a Mac and it was such a pain I ended up just using memory cards. I'm told you can import into Final Cut X, but I couldn't even get it to recognize my MacBook Pro Retina.

A feature that seemed like pure gimmick to me is the projector. You can project onto a wall or car or something what you just shot. Oh my gosh. My kids and friends are addicted to that. I would sometimes shoot amazing footage on a Disneyland ride because it smooths out the shakes so well, then entertain everyone in the line by projecting the footage.

A month after buying it and shooting nonstop for two straight weeks with it, I'm still in awe of how good it is. I'm usually a very tough critic of camcorders because this is the first one I've really loved after having owned and sold 8 of them.
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on September 16, 2013
I bought this camera for a couple specific applications, and I think it fits the bill pretty nicely. I write this review to help others who might have similar needs and are wondering if this does the job. I buy everything based on consumer reviews, so I feel like I owe it to someone else to help them make a decision on a significant investment.

Specifically, I wanted a video camera that could be controlled remotely (hanging on the end of a crane) and also one that could take pictures while doing video at the same time. I shoot photography professionally and have been running video off my DSLR's (Nikon, mainly my D800 & 600). Hard to beat a great lens on a great DSLR, but at the end of the day there are things a videocamera does better (like record an entire wedding, for starters, not to mention superior autofocus)

To be fair to the camera, I have not read the manual all the way through, so I can't pretend to be an expert. Nonetheless, there are some FACTS:

1) Viewfinder is useless - that's fine, I didn't buy it to use that.

2) The hood does come off pretty easily. It doesn't just fall of when you are walking around, but any kind of bumping can have the thing falling off. Kind of strange since you do actually have to screw it on (in a really weird, inside-out fashion), but it can definitely pop off with some jostling (like inside of a bag).

3) You will need more power than what comes with the included battery - you'll run out of juice before you get anywhere close to eating up the generous internal memory. The Wasabi's are great, can get through a whole day of video with those 2 extra batteries (each of which has more capacity than the included Sony battery).

4) The microphone rig is nice, easy to control manually or put some or all functions in "auto" mode. Attaches easily and securely, definitely gives you a "compact professional" look - and delivers on this look.

5) The projector is useful. Don't think for a second that it is just a gimmick. End of the day review of shots in a hotel room with no connection to the TV, project it on a wall in a flash, focus with slider up top, forget that it is even a video camera. No one thinks of it as a toy when you suddenly have a crisp image projected up on a wall. And the "crisp image" is really what takes it out of the toy realm. Get the Sony pistol grip controller that folds out into a tripod (a must, in my opinion - more later), and you won't even have to worry about holding the thing while the videos play.

6) The touch screen is fine - adjust your brain to the fact it isn't an iPhone, and you'll be okay.

7) It does have a remote. Hard to find this in any of the online documentation, but it actually is in the box. My 18 month-old apparently threw mine away (I usually catch her doing this stuff, but she slid this one by me), so I had to order a new one. NOT EASY TO DO since there are no part numbers handy and stuff. I got one that looked close and hoped for the best, and it worked. It even had a "PHOTO" button, something missing from the included one.

8) Software stinks. It's just weird, and it is slow, and I feel like they could have done a much better job with that. Why have a great camera with bad software? But this seems to be a trend - Nikon has done that for a while now...

I think if you use it for any extended period of time that you really need the pistol grip controller. Makes it 1000% easier to use than the side handle, though in my opinion it could be a tad bigger (I have big hands). I mention this because your enjoyment of the camera could be hindered by hand cramps if all you use is the side handle. I had someone walk up to me and ask about it since he was dealing with the uncomfortableness of his camera with just a side grip and could see that the grip made life way easier.

Video quality is great, watching it on my 1080p HDTV it looked crystal clear and life-like. No issues here at all.

Camera adjusts well exposure-wise going from bright light outside to not-so-bright inside, pretty seamless automatic exposure change. I left this alone and chose to put focus at my fingertips for the one mode that can be adjusted manually (button can only be set to do one thing manually).

I give it 4 out of 5 not really because of things like no photo button on the remote, useless viewfinder and a hood that comes off too easily, but for non-intuituveness of some of the menus and bad software. I'm pretty good with stuff, but found myself a little lost at times trying to change some setting, or understanding exactly what the differences were for some things. You might think this was a result of not reading the manual through from cover to cover, but I feel like it really isn't the best menu system out there.

Trying to take photos while doing video isn't just as easy as pressing the PHOTO button while you are recording - you have to be in the right mode, or it just gives you an error which makes it look like you are trying to do something the camera won't do. I REALLY had to dig to find the one sentence that tells you this information as side note. I had someone else running it while I was shooting at a wedding, and somehow it got in a mode where it was snapping photos non-stop. Wasn't any easy way to stop it (like some "stop with the photos already!" button, but I changed it to a mode where it couldn't take pics and kept on moving.

If you select max quality/size for pics, it takes a while to process each image if you are simultaneously shooting video. In photo-only mode it is fine (couple seconds), but don't think you can take a quick succession of pics while doing a video.
This is the first Sony product I have had for a while (and the first photo-related Sony product I have owned), and I know every manufacturer has a different system and way of doing things, so I don't ding them TOO hard for their menu, but I really think a few things could have been less buried and more intuitive.

The software is a little unforgiveable because of the format of the files that come off of the camera. You can't just play them in any player, so you could be a bit dependent on the software for really knowing what you got when playing it on a computer. I am a Windows user as far as my computer, and Windows Media Player gives you a picture but no sound. I use VLC to get around this, but that doesn't really give you great video playback quality. The software is just really lacking, and slow to the point that you think it isn't doing anything sometimes and you start clicking other stuff to try and make it work. If it had some horsepower, it would probably be fine.

Despite any flaws, I think most of them can be overcome with practice or ingenuity, and I find this camera to be very smart and quick overall. Autofocus is great, exposure is great, video quality is great and at the end of the day, it can do what I need it to do. Because the projector is good, it increases the camera's value in other people's eyes -- "wow!" as opposed to "oh, that's cute(i.e.-lame). I definitely recommend this camera wholeheartedly and do not have any regrets on my purchase.
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on December 3, 2012
I bought this camera for my business and with new technology very skeptical when cameras go compact. I took a chance and bought it with very few reviews. Using 3-CCD cameras this little had many of my peers had doubts this would do anything but professional filming. When it finally arrived, I had them look over the controls, the touch screen, the options, settings. They were all impressed with this little package from a cosmetic view and economically felt really nice to handle. On my first shoot, I had to get used to the different locations of the buttons and focus knob. I found focusing very easy and used a HDMI external monitor. I also used a couple wired Lav's for my piece and found all the controls as easy to use as the bigger models. The biggest surprise was the low light quality and setting the camera to low lux on, it picked up colors that my other cameras would not. In a small room with a 80watt bulb, it did a terrific job. The floating lens is also a fantastic feature of this camera and the light weight meant I could maneuver it much easier in tight areas.

After the shoot, it was fun to project the video to my client. They were surprised as I was to have this feature and the quality of the built in 24mp camera pics really made a big impression. I found this camera identical to its Sony HDR-XR520V with a smaller internal memory (compared to 240gb), has the same internal GPS but without maps, has a mechanical floating lens, bigger capacity battery and added the dual XLR handle. The better processor with a 24mp camera is amazing. The pictures are crisp and saturated very nice. The extra L.E.D fill light/flash is also a bonus. Overall, this is a great camera and 1/2 the cost of 3-CCD that beats our current camera in capturing low light situations and the useable bells and whistles make it a perfect small business pro equipment must have.

Cons: Using the eye piece that small is unrealistically unusable. They could of knocked off another $25 to keep that off the camera and leave the LCD. The touch screen feels old and outdated compared to my smart phone. The lens hood lock and release is a joke. Otherwise, the external mic and built-in mics are very good. Because I have large hands, I found slipping it into the handle sleeve a bit cumbersome so I bought a threaded pistol grip that worked quite well. I will be buying a couple more.
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on January 25, 2014
* Video has a few random clips from the zoo using the setup I describe below. In post I added a little contrast and saturation so the footage would pop a little more. All done handheld, some with IS on, some off. Most were in very low light as well. Not pulled in at HD quality when amazon converted the file.

Purchased this camera after doing quite a bit of research, reviews, seeing footage and narrowing it down to the features I needed to get the best results for my work.

1) Video quality is amazing ! I stepped up from a limited 1920x1080 30p to the 1920x1080 60p this camera offers, it also has 60i.
2) Great on board audio, XLR jacks, manual controls and the bonus included microphone works very well with interviews.
3) Built in light for interviews.
4) Night Vision - You never know when you need to track a Big Foot.
5) Low light - well above average, shark blacks, very little grain if any in most situations.
6) Stabilizer built in - Very fluid, similar to high end steadicam,
7) Storage - 96gb built in, also holds memory cards, and can copy to an external HD without a computer (I have also copied cards from my DSLR in the field to a HD using the camera as the interface)
8) Size- Fits anywhere.
9) Quick start up time.

Working in the field and traveling, you never want to have to pack a lot of gear to keep up with. Being able to streamline and conserve space is a great thing. This camera allows me more freedom when working, without sacrificing quality.

Update: What settings to use?
I am asked this quite a bit and here are my basic settings for 99% of my work, low light, bright sun, and changing rates will require minimal adjustments from here. It also allows you to PUSH the heck out of the camera into almost manual mode.

1) Set ACG Limit to -9
2) Set front Button to AE Shift (bust adjustment for fine tuning exposure)
3) Go into menu under "My Buttons"
4) Button #1 Shutter Manual
5) Button #2 WB Manual
6) Button #3 ACG (go to -6 or -3 if you cannot add more light)
7) Save and enjoy!

This makes the camera get as close to manual as possible and allows for quick adjustments to areas without sending them all back to Automatic. otherwise from the onscreen dial or menu, what ever you set to manual, triggers all others back to automatic.

* The hood will come off easily, unless you look on the inside of the hood and turn the ring through the slot to tighten it. Once this is done, it stays on like any other.
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on August 5, 2013
Looked at and researched numerous video cameras before deciding on the Sony HXR-NX30. I wanted a camera that performed as well as a professional camera yet easy to setup and lug around. This camera does that and more. I recently used the camera to record a stage performance with some scenes in very low light and others in extremely bright spot lights. Since I received the camera the day prior to the performance I had no time to play with manual settings. I used the auto settings for everything and the video turned out fantastic. The video is so crisp and clear it looks as good as any professional video on my 55" HDTV. So far it's hard to find anything negative to say about this camera. The only negative thing I will mention is that it took a little time for the camera to automatically adjust the focus and adjust to the bright spot lights that were suddenly turned on from a completely dark stage between scenes. Other than that I haven't found anything I dislike about this camera. The auto focus works great in normal daylight situations.

I mounted the camera to the dash of my 4WD truck, which has extremely stiff suspension and drove around to see how the Active SteadyShot feature performs. I was amazed at how steady the video turned out. It looked as if the camera was floating in mid-air. In the video you can see the hood of the truck bounce up and down as the truck hits dips and bumps in the road, but the video stays as steady as a rock. What more can I say.
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on March 16, 2013
I have been looking for pro quality HD video recorder for a number of years. As my kids get bigger, video becomes better at capturing those memories. I had a canon tape camcorder which was great. Unfortunately, the first moments of my youngest was overwritten after someone in the family viewed the video. One of the downsides of tape is that you need to forward back to the end of the recordings or else your prior recordings will be written over. With flash memory recordings, these problems are no longer an issue.

I've looked at SLR video and camcorders, and feel that focusing and white balance is superior (for now) on the camcorders. SLR video is a great tool, but for me, it requires too many accessories and attachments. What appealed to me the most is the size of the NX30U. It's small and discrete without the lens hood and XLR adapter and inputs. Similar quality recorders are larger and attract a lot of attention.

96GB of internal memory is great! You also have an extra SD slot. Still trying to figure out the maximum size card that can be used.

The image stabilization is fantastic! I was able to video a roller coaster ride at California Adventure and the balanced optical stabilization did a great job! I think this feature makes the NX superior to Canon and Panasonic. I was able to hand hold and video the World of Color and the video looks like it's on a tripod. The wide angle of the NX30 is 28mm and is best in class. Telephoto is ~260mm which is beat by Panasonic.

The AVCHD recording format will not import into iMovie, so you'll need to use Adobe's Pemiere or Apple's Final Cut X. Pro gear needs Pro software and a good storage solution. I feel that this is the biggest problem with HD video for most people. AVCHD is good for compression, but problematic for editing. Premiere and Final Cut has a steep initial learning curve.

I'm very happy with my purchase as it has great image quality with superior image stabilization in a small discrete package, but has the ability to flex up to pro audio if I need it.

Update: Got word from Sony USA and the largest SD card that can be used to supplement the 96GB internal flash memory is 64GB. Don't bother getting the 128 or 256GB SDXC cards! An added plus is that in OSX Mountain Lion, the AVCHD files are read by Quicktime natively. One needs to connect the NX30U via the USB port and the flash drive will mount. Clicking on the AVCHD icon, OSX will show previews of all the clips. They can then be opened and played in quicktime and exported to .mov files to where you want. Of course editing and making movies will need Premiere or Final Cut.
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on November 1, 2013
I have used many video cameras and DSLR cameras to capture video. This is the best camera That I have ever used for making small informational videos and mini documentaries. The NX30U is great because it has a small footprint even with the XLR. It is even smaller without the XLR. The picture is amazing. Sony hit a home run with this sensor/lens combination. XLR audio gives superb results and is easy to use. The Active Mode is very useful if you must shoot and move. The lens floats inside the camera body giving better results than a steadicam. I use primarily 60p, but the results are great with any other frame rate setting.
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on March 21, 2014
I'm shooting cinematic looking documentary films. And I like everything about this camera except th e fact that I cannot adjust the shutter speed and Iris (aperture) at the same time! I always shoot at 24fps and 1/50 shutter speed and in order to manage depth of field I want to be able to set aperture manually. Also the camera does not have ND filter and you cannot have usable shallow depth of field without bumping your shutter speed so high that it creates the jittery high speed shutter look.

But if you are looking for just point and shoot camera, you will love this one. You will get compact camera with a great stabilized image quality.
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on September 21, 2012
This is a really great camcorder. It is the camcorder with the built in steady cam. I've noticed this: you can film under fluorescent lights with camera set in auto white balance, and the colors will turn out PERFECTLY. Never seen anything like this before. This is really a camera with a built in steadycam. If you've ever tried to use a steadycam, you'll know how difficult they are to balance and operate. Not with this camera. Very difficult not to get a steady shot every time. Steady walking, steady everything.
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on July 30, 2014
I am still in the process of learning what all this camera can do, but I already love it. I spent nearly a month researching the capabilities of this camera before I finally took the plunge, and so far, I'm not disappointed. The picture quality is amazing, and the floating lens system, while not perfect, does make your hand-held shots much smoother.
The fact that this camera has 96gb of on-board memory was one of the biggest selling points for me. I generally rely on SD cards for storing the footage I shoot, and this camera features an SD slot as well. This gives you the option to back up the clips recorded to the internal memory just to cover your bases.
The one critique about this camera that I have found in the other reviews is that the hood tends to come off very easily. That is true, if you don't take the time to at least flip through the manual. Unsecured, the hood will pop off very easily. However, on page 14 of the manual are instructions to secure the hood. There is a threaded ring around the lens area inside the hood that must be twisted to the right to fully secure the hood.
I have bought a number of video cameras over the years, and the HXR-NX30U comes with by far the most comprehensive manual I have ever seen. Not only do they walk you through all the options for adjusting the shots, but it explains the terms very clearly. This will be an invaluable tool for both the experienced user and complete newbie alike in getting the best out of this camera. Plus, you get a hard copy paper booklet, as well as the manual on DVD. The camera, like most other newer cameras, also includes a variety of cables and adaptors. This is certainly an added value, but if you have bought a camcorder in the past five years, you probably already have these.
I don't ordinarily buy the ALL THREE suggested products on the Amazon listing, but this time, I did. I got the WASABI POWER batteries, which are way worth having. It gives you a wall charger instead of having to charge the battery through the camera, along with 2 six hour batteries. The bag is a Sony product also, and the camera fits perfectly in the Large size bag. It offers lots of pockets for accessories, and a shoulder strap. While these extras do add to the price, they are all really smart additions to compliment this camera.
The handle on top of the camera is very useful, especially for low level walk-through shots. It is sturdy and comfortable, and aids in getting yourself a steady shot. In playing around and learning the camera, I was able to create nice smooth walk throughs holding the camera at chest level, and supporting it underneath with my free hand.
I fully intend to record a video version of this review, as well as sample footage in a variety of lighting conditions to post on Youtube. There are already several really good review/example videos on Youtube which influenced my decision to purchase this camera. I just purchased a second unit of this same camera. The SONY HXR-NX30U is a really amazing camera for the price. While I realize spending more than $1500 on a camera isn't cheap, you're getting a low end PROFESSIONAL camera. I took a chance on the first one, and was impressed enough to buy a second camera.
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