on February 17, 2014
I bought this brand-new offering from Sony after some research based mostly on its claimed low-light performance and WiFi connectivity. I shoot a lot of indoor home videos and one of the biggest problems with many of the last generation of consumer-grade cams seems to be low-light performance.
The video quality is indeed very good in low-light situations, and for this reason -- by far, the most important criteria for a camera -- it gets four stars. It makes great videos. You can choose from a variety of video quality settings (balancing recording time with quality). The lower-quality settings compromise a lot in low-light, I'd use at least FH ("High Quality") to get acceptable video in most situations. It has amazingly good image stabilization.
The camera has a little built-in USB cable which tucks into the handle when not in use. This is a surprisingly handy feature since it means you'll never be looking around for a wire when you need to charge it on the go. It's completely unobtrusive. It also has a regular micro USB port.
It's got a built in DLNA server feature so you can just switch it on and view your videos right from the camera on most any modern TV or DVD player. It works very well.
It's extremely lightweight, which I guess is good, but it feels kind of cheap. I doubt it would survive a 3 foot drop onto a tile floor. The settings are managed through a miniature joystick which you use to navigate through menus and push to select. It works okay, but a touch screen would have been far better. There's also another button under the joystick which switches between "record" and "play" mode, mostly.
There are a couple minor but somewhat irritating design issues. First, when using power save mode, the camera powers itself off after some pretty short period of inactivity. There's no way to power it on again other than closing & reopening the screen. Not a big deal, but just one of those "really?" kind of things. If the screen's already open, why can't I just push a button to turn it back on?
Next, the camera itself has just two operational buttons (record and photo, to take a still), plus a zoom control. Frankly, a couple more buttons would have gone a long way, because basically anything you want to do other than start and stop recording, must be done through the tiny joystick. I sure hope it doesn't break! That includes: switching to very-low light mode; changing basically any video setting; syncing with a PC.
Speaking of syncing, this was one of the other primary features I looked for. It's got a "push" function that lets you transmit your videos to a PC via WiFi without needing to access the PC. In theory, anyway. I've been unable to make it work more than once. Following a physical USB connection to a PC sporting the (not bad but a bit bloated) PlayMemories software, it's supposed to just connect and transfer automatically. The problem is, it only works once. If I go an plug it into the PC via USB again, I can get it to sync wirelessly once more. But then it won't work next time. It's still possible to sync wirelessly if you initiate it from the computer -- that is, the device does actually connect over WiFi, it just doesn't perform the transfer as it's supposed to after the first connection.
When I get around to one of those mind-numbing tech support calls I'll hopefully have a better resolution in the future. I'm a geek, though, usually if I can't figure it out, it's broken. There's almost no information online about troubleshooting this, and the manual is terrible (to the point of not even mentioning the vast majority of the configuration options!) Luckily this seems to be a UI that's standard to other Sony cameras so you can find out what the stuff means online, but it seems pretty lame that the manual doesn't even mention (much less explain) most of the settings. The manual has a tab on the front page referring to a section called "Customizing your Camcorder" which doesn't actually exist.
-- Excellent video quality
-- Good battery life
-- Nice feature set (assuming you can get everything to work)
-- Lots of options, effects
-- Excellent image stabilization
-- Clunky UI & controls
-- Configuration for useful WiFi push sync feature problematic
-- Cheap-feeling construction
The Sony HDRCX330 is an inexpensive camcorder that records in both high resolution (AVCHD) and lower quality (mp4) formats. By default, in fact, it will record in both at the same time. The reason for this gets to the heart of this camcorder, a camcorder that bridges a gap with mobile devices, presumably for sharing video with social media networks.
The camcorder itself features a 30x optically stabilized lens with a fairly wide 26.8mm focal length. This gives it a lot of flexibility in shooting - just what is needed for casual use. It has a built in USB cable that is used for charging (via the supplied wall charger and USB extension cable) and for attaching to a computer (in disk mode, for copying files off the camcorder). The HDMI port is very compact, but fortunately a HDMI cable with the right connector is included. There is also a multi i/o port that can be used for standard composite video out with an optional cable. There is no microphone in jack on the camcorder.
The camcorder records in various data rates for quality/size choices, up to 1920x1080 60p resolution. At it's maximum, it is 28 mb/s, which is not stellar, but in line with the inexpensive cost of the camcorder. The video itself looks clean, given good lighting. As with all inexpensive camcorders, noise creeps in a bit in dim light, but there is a low-light setting that may alleviate some of that. The one criticism is that there was a little bit of blowout in high contrast scenes outdoors in the middle of the day - not a enough to be a serious problem. The optical stabilization works quite well, which is good given the lightweight of the camcorder. It accepts two different forms of memory cards - Sony's Memory Stick Micro (up to 16GB) - and microSD (Class 4 or better, up to 64GB in size). I shot with an inexpensive Kingston Class 4 card and experienced no problems with recording.
This camcorder features both wifi and NFC connectivity (along with the builtin USB connector). The wifi is used for file transfer - either to a desktop computer - or a smartphone (Android or iPhone). This is the value of the dual recording ability - you have a version of the video that is appropriate for playback on a handheld device - and of course - posting to social media sites like Youtube, Facebook etc. On my Mac, I had to download and install a piece of software, pair the camcorder with the Mac, and then tell the camcorder to send the video to my computer. While there were several steps here, Sony walks the user through the process. And again - there is always the built in USB connector as another way to transfer the video. One curious thing I noticed was that once the camcorder connected to my access point, it showed up as a shared device on my Mac - but I wasn't able to figure out how to connect to it. I was only able to transfer files using Sony's software. I feel this is a missed opportunity - something that should work but doesn't. But not a deal breaker.
Sony also has software for Android and iOS devices for transferring video from the camcorder and remotely controlling it. It is minimalistic - you can copy files from the camera and have them scaled to size (or not) - but works fine. The remote control operation gives you a real time view of the camera, and has simple controls for recording and operating the zoom.
Inexpensive camcorders face the same challenge as inexpensive still cameras - the smartphone. Sony has tried to make a good case for owning an inexpensive video camcorder by including features that smartphones (for the most part) don't have - such as the 30x powered optically stabilized zoom lens - but allowing the camera to be tied to a phone for video editing and sharing. It is an interesting value proposition. In all, it is a capable and inexpensive camera that works well enough, and has some simple but useful connectivity options.
on March 24, 2014
Excellent camcorder, no bigger than a soda can and half the weight. Awesome zoom and HD picture. battery life is incredible. Love the fact that only 4 buttons control multiple functions. Recorded outside at night in low light and could not believe good the picture was. Great value.
First impression taking out the HDRCX330 from the box is how far we've come in the video world. This thing is tiny, barely larger than a Twinkie(and sort of shaped like one). The small size is quickly followed up by the light weight - this thing feels as light as a feather. While the body is mostly made of plastic, the parts all fit solidly and there's no give or that general feeling of "cheapness" that's usually associated with plastic-based camcorders.
Performance-wise, it was here and there, honestly. The autofocus seems to be one of the slower ones I've played around with, taking anywhere from 1-3 seconds to refocus due to a subject change. They're not joking about the minimum focus length either - attempting to do a close zoom-in on a subject closer than 20" from the camera lens causes the autofocus to fail completely (even when the close up subject is taking up the entire field). I believe the manual states the minimum field to be 80cm, but it really seemed like you needed to be even further from your subject than that. While this won't be too much of a concern for people picking up this unit for things like family gatherings, it makes it only semi-usable in close-up applications.
The UI is very simplistic, giving you very little control over specific settings. The range of options is generally along the lines of: auto/outdoor/indoor/spot. Not a lot of manual tweaking.
Small thing to note, this unit does not come with any sort of memory card or a separate battery charger. The unit uses micro-SD cards and the battery is charged on the unit itself (ie: you put the battery into the camcorder and plug the camera into the wall). So if you're the type who picks up a second battery, make sure you pick up one with a charger as well.
All-in-all, this is a pretty good base unit which works well for the price point. However it is very much a plain point and shoot with only average performance and zero bells and whistles. Having said that, if you just need a camera to pick up and shoot video, this is a good little camera.
on October 13, 2014
This was my first camcorder and I am returning it, because I was shocked to discover that the autofocus mechanism results in audible sound being picked up from the internal camcorder mic.
From what I've read subsequently online, internal noise from the autofocus and/or zoom mechanism can be a common issue for camcorders. Nevertheless, the introduction of unwanted noise into a video is a major problem for my recording needs (hence only 2 stars, specific to my situation). The noise is always present unless you are zooming.
It is not possible to add an external mic to this camcorder to solve the problem. So you have to either A) live with the autofocus noise (a constant clicking, faint but too audible for me) or B) use a completely separate mic system and sync the video and audio in post production or C) turn off autofocus altogether. I am left wondering...why would a camcorder with internal noise *not* allow a connection for an external mic? To me that is a design failure. If it allowed an external mic (to solve the noise issues by moving the mic farther from the camcorder autofocus mechanism) then I probably would have kept the camcorder.
For what it's worth, the zoom was pretty amazing and the video stabilizer worked really well (it was my first time using a stabilizer and I have to say I like it). If you plan to shoot only loud events, or silent videos where you later add your own audio in post production, then this camcorder may make sense for you. For my needs (quiet settings) this camcorder can't work.
on February 22, 2014
I have owed many camcorders in my life and this is by far the best out of all of them. Out of all the brands I have used, Sony is my favorite. This one in particular is absolutely amazing compared to the Sony hdrcx220. I especially like the mp4 video format, it loads extremely fast when I load onto YouTube for my channel at "Freddie's Modern Kung Fu". I had to purchase a special memory card that was extra tiny but had a very high speed, that combined with the camcorder resulted in very fast uploads which is very important for me. The Wide Angle lens captures a lot of your surroundings even in tight fitting rooms which is a primary feature that I was most concerned with. Note that 26.8 mm means that it captures more than the 29.8 mm, the person at Best Buy told me the opposite which was not correct. Compared to the 29.8 mm, the 26.8 mm wide lens does capture much more. Excellent camcorder that is well worth the money, I highly recommend it.
on February 13, 2014
Unbelievably light. Con - for the money wish there were inputs for sound so I could plug in an external mic. Pro - picture quality is excellent and I love the wifi feature that acts like a bluetooth remote control.
on April 20, 2015
I bought this one and the Samsung HMX-F90 at the same time, and tested them. The Samsung cost about 40% less and was new, the SonyHDRCX330 was from Amazon Warehouse Deals, used. Though I liked the feel of the Samsung more, the interface, the fact that (like my phone and TV) it's Samsung, when I loaded clips of the same scene shot on both cameras onto my computer, there was no comparison.
The Sony image is brighter and the colors have more depth, but there were three enormous advantages of the Sony: 1) the Steady Shot works like a dream. My Samsung footage bounces all over, especially when I'm zoomed in. The Sony hides such shakiness -- it's amazingly smooth. 2) The sound is superior on the Sony. My daughter's voice from across a large room comes in loud and clear on the Sony, is fainter and more muddled on the Samsung. 3) Using the zoom on the Sony is nearly inaudible when later playing back the video, on the Samsung the grinding of the gears is present and makes other sound almost unintelligible.
Another reviewer criticized the tiny joystick that controls the menu. I actually like it and find it quick and easy to navigate. That said, the actual interface on the screen looks like it was designed in 1995, and finding the setting you're looking for isn't intuitive. Samsung's is modern and pleasing. Nonetheless, I bought these to take the best video and sound possible and... I'm sending back the Samsung and am happy with this Sony.
I picked one of these up with my wife after we saw a great deal on a Black Friday website add. We got this along with the Sony LCSU11 case. Just a tip if you do get that case, you'll either want to remove or stick the movable barrier to a corner to be able to fit this and you'll be hard pressed to fit your accessories in the case, so if you have the option try a different case. Anyway, it was cheap and we'd been talking about replacing the really old (10+ year old) camera we had. This is our first jump into digital, so please forgive if I have trouble explaining something that's common knowledge. We've had it about a week.
So the first thing is that it's very light and easy to carry. It doesn't weigh much and the built in strap is cool. There aren't a lot of buttons exposed on the exterior, but the key ones like zoom, record, and the lens control are. The strap is interesting as it houses the end of the USB cable that springs from the back of the camera like a solitary weed. It's your only means of charging the battery as there's no separate charger. The idea is neat, since in theory you could forget your charging cable and plug it into a computer in an emergency, but in practice it's so tiny you'd have a hard time positioning it in much other than a laptop and event that would probably be awkward to do. It's a neat idea I like, but because it sticks out I am conflicted since it could get caught on something and pulled out or damaged in some other way. The screen was clear and made it easy to point the camera. It also flips around so you can see it if you're looking at the camera as it records, for example using it with a tripod to capture a shot you're in.
The battery should last between 90 min and 3 hours depending on usage pattern, but typically more on the lower end. If you think you'll need more, get a new battery. The camera charges in a couple hours (est. 165 min) by AC adapter, but will take quite a bit longer (est. 305 min) off your computer's USB. They estimate playback mode to last about 280 mins. There is a nice little light that turns yellow while charging and off when done.
Your recording time will vary, but with the package we got there was a 16 GB card and it says the below times for the different settings. I should note the card is a micro SD so you can't use the full sized SD cards, so you'll likely have to pay a bit more. It can also take a Memory Stick Micro (Mark 2), in an ingenious "flip card upside down" using the same slot. Still, I can't see much benefit unless you happen to have one of those. They can only go up to 16 GB and microSD can manage up to 64 GB and is almost the defacto standard for tablets and phones making it easier to re-purpose for something later. It requires a microSD card of class 4 or faster. We used it with an old card from a phone, nothing special, and it worked fine, so no you don't need some kind of super expensive lightning fast card.
Picture quality at all levels has been pretty much acceptable, though in lower light conditions things aren't as sharp. Still, it does a reasonable job of handling a situation that's not stage lighting so all in all we're happy with that. The image stabilization feature does a good job of keeping things clear. Using the 16 GB card it states:
1h 21 min - Best
1h 45 min - High
2h 47 min - Standard
4h 03 min - Low
So what didn't I like? Well, my biggest concern, which hopefully is unfounded, is the USB cable. It's cool the way it's in there, but it has to move a bit at its base and ours makes an almost clicking sound. Generally when things at the base move it's not a good sign and wires will eventually work loose. Since it's the charger cable too, it really worried me almost enough to return it. In all honestly, I'd probably not have bought it due to that, but I am the first to admit I sometimes worry too much. I just don't have enough time using it to know so I'm just going to have faith it'll be fine since I've seen no complaints about it. I'll update the review if anything happens to it.
Otherwise, the number two issue is the joystick used to select things on screen. It feels really cheaply made and is a little cumbersome to use. Programming my password for the router was exceptionally painful, but thankfully shouldn't be needed again for some time. It was also a little hard to press the zoom slider on top while using the camera, though not impossible. The memory card slot can only be accessed after opening the viewer panel, which is kind of unsafe since you could theoretically yank the memory card out while recording and possibly corrupting your memory card. There is an indicator light, but I'd feel safer if it only could be removed when the camera was off.
The camera can transfer video over your WiFi network to your computer. This is a good thing since you'll save wear and tear on the components. it also has a large number of options typical to a camera on a phone. For example, you can use it to take still pictures, though they'll never be the quality of a stand alone camera they will still work pretty nicely. A nice feature, you can take stills while recording video, but it warned me I couldn't at the highest quality. That may be due to the card speed or a camera limitation. I'd guess the former, but sorry I don't have a faster card to test with.
You may want to be very cautions when considering the software used for saving files over WiFi though. The below message is from their download site for the software. You should still be able to use the camera in the worst case by removing the memory card if your computer is upgraded and no longer supports the software in the future, but it's a little worrisome just how limiting they are in what they will support. I haven't seen many things that only work with such a small set of systems.
SUPPORTED OPERATING SYSTEMS
Windows Vista® Service Pack 2 (SP2)
Windows® 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1)
Windows® 8 / Windows® 8.1
*Your computer must have one of the operating systems listed above preloaded when shipped from the factory. Sony cannot guarantee correction operation on computers that are upgraded to the above operating systems and those with multi-boot environments.
Amazon's page data currently specifies Windows XP SP3 /Windows Vista SP2 /Windows7 64-bit editions and Starter (Edition) are not supported which is either incorrect or means all functions are only available in Windows 8, but that seems odd given its market share of only about 17% of computers. The camera manual doesn't mention system requirements. I'm confused. Any comments from someone who understands this more would be greatly appreciated.
In conclusion, if you have a really nice smart phone, the need for one of these cameras is diminishing. Still, this one does better zooming and is overall more useful when we need to do something like take video of an event or a trip. You can also record 1920 x 1080 60p videos and 9.2MP still images which is better than my phone can do. With the couple reservations I've mentioned above, this is a danged nice little camera and we are looking forward to using it some more. If I find any other neat options or pitfalls I'll update this review. As of now, I'm just interested in trying this sucker out some more.
We got to use it a little more and are finding some nice new features. The manual tells us almost literally nothing so it's been trial and error. There's a nice option that I located that will tell it you're working in low light and make the picture slightly better in it. There are also some, in my opinion, worthless filters you can apply to images that just make things look worse, except the black and white filter which might be fun to use sometime.
The biggest thing we found though is that the camera will by default record in two file formats at once. So if you want to squeeze out a little bit of extra space on the memory card you can disable the .mp4 recording. I kind of like the .mp4 recordings better though since phones can read them as well as some LCD TVs with a USB (with adapter) or memory card port. I couldn't find an option to record in .mp4 only, so it may do that because the high def format is better for video editing in addition to higher definition.
I also tested the playback on TV with the HDMI connection and it worked like a charm. We have a computer with memory card reader plugged into the majority of our TVs so it's not something we'll use often, but it's great if we take it over to a family member's house, so long as they have a LCD TV with HDMI connection. Otherwise, you're stuck playing video on the camera's display which works but is no replacement for a big screen size.
I love this camcorder. It is the best one I have ever had.
-This is a reasonably priced camcorder for all you get.
-The menu is super easy to navigate. You have 6 choices; Shooting mode, camera/mic, image quality/size, playback functions, edit/copy, and setup. Those menus open up to offer more selections.
- I like the toggle button that is used to navigate through functions even better than the touch screen on my last camcorder.
- I love the intelligent auto that automatically changes the shooting mode based upon your shooting conditions. My old camcorder required me to go in every time, and through several menus, to turn on low-lux if I needed it and this one does it automatically.
- I love that it records in 2 modes simultaneously (AVCHD, and MPEG4) so that if you want to upload to your smart phone it will be in the right format.
- I love the quality of the video. I am amazed at how great the shots turned out. Only in the evening, inside with just ambient light did I see deterioration in image quality, but it was still better than I have ever had with other camcorders.
- I love that once set up, it wirelessly downloaded the files to my computer.
- I love that it also can take pictures while I am shooting video.
- I love that is lightweight .
- I love that the USB cord is permanently attached and slips into the handle.
- It takes a micro SD card and those things are tiny.
- I noticed the body gets pretty warm with prolonged use.
- The whole casing is plastic.
- I found it tricky to get it set up to transfer wirelessly. I got it done, but it wasn't as easy as just installing the disc. You have to install the disk, setup your network on the camcorder, and plug in your camcorder to the USB on your computer and do a regular transfer the first time. Anyway, maybe some tech savvy person would know exactly what to do in a more efficient manner, but tech savvy is something I am not!
Overall, I think this camcorder is a value while still offering exceptional quality. I have paid way more for fancier units that didn't shoot nearly as well as this one. Plus the wireless feature works great once it is set up. I am very happy with this camcorder.
Update - I don't know what I'm doing wrong. After my first successful wireless transfer I haven't been able to get it to transfer videos wirelessly again. I wish I could figure out how to get it to work consistently. For that reason I am going to reduce its star rating from 5 to 4.