Customer Review

40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fills a gap between PRO and "pro"sumer camcorders, December 4, 2011
This review is from: Sony NEX-VG20H Interchangeable Lens HD Handycam Camcorder with 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OSS Lens (Electronics)
I've now used this camera for a couple weeks and have been very pleased with it.
I was watching the NEX-VG10 for some time and was very interested in seeing what the VG20 would be like.
After visiting a Sony Store and learning that I could buy the camera and try it with the ability to later return it (holiday season), I figured I had nothing to lose and gave it a go. Honestly, I'd say when I bought it, I felt like there might have been a 25% chance of me keeping it, mainly because of the steep price with the lens ($2300 + tax). But now using it for 2 weeks, I'm figuring out ways to justify the expense.

I think it should first be said that if you're a pro (or "more than a pro" as some might say) and shooting high-budget commercials, movies, or whatever and you expect a PRO camera, buy/rent a pro camera - at the end of the day, this is still a Sony Handycam.
At $1600 for the camcorder itself (without a lens), I am coming to feel like this is a more fair price. Still a little steep, but as others have pointed out, there's really no competition right now.

I'll speak from my own experience and how I've come to appreciate this camera. As I mentioned, if I'm on a commercial job, I'm renting a camera and not using equipment that I own myself, so I'm writing this review more from a consumer perspective, who also happens to work professionally.
Before this camera I switched between my Panasonic HDC-TM700, my Nikon D7000 (with attached Zoom H4N) , and my Panasonic DMC-GF2.

The GF2 was handy in that it was so small and had a nice 14mm lens on it, and I could put my Nikon lens' on it as well, but certainly wasn't the leader in video picture quality. I found I used that camera less and less.

The TM700 was and is great for a small camcorder. The 1080p60 video is impressive and it was convenient carrying the camera around anywhere since it is so small. However, with that built in lens you're just not going to get a nice depth of field look. It was convenient when I just wanted to grab the quickest camera to capture video, but if I had a little bit more time I found I often reached for one of my other cameras with a more sophisticated lens.

I love my Nikon D7000 for still photography, and it's shot some great looking footage. The big disadvantage here was just the opposite of the TM700 camcorder - the setup was so much more complicated that it wasn't good for quick captures. My footage was always shaky even with the VR lens' that I used, so I got a nice monopod to help. That helped, but the audio also was poor, so I got the Zoom H4N and a hot shoe mount.
But then there I was, DSLR connected to a monopod with a big H4N audio recorder attached to the top, all to get a shot at my nieces birthday party. Not an ideal setup, even if the footage/audio did turn out nice.

So in comes the NEX-VG20. For me, it has the quality I was aiming for with my DSRL camera, but in a much more convenient package. The microphone also is quite good so I don't have to worry about capturing separate audio with my H4N and syncing it to the footage later.
The optical image stabilization does a very good job, and of course the top "pro style" grip also aids in smoother shots as well.
I've found while the camera+lens is quite a bit larger than other camcorders, like my TM700, it's not too large to carry around casually and also breaks down nicely when you take the lens off the body.
The colors are great, and as many have pointed out, this camera does very well in low light conditions.
Having options between 1080p24 and 60 is great.
And finally, the stills that I've gotten from the camera are also pretty good if it's the only camera I'm carrying at the moment and want to get a picture. My only gripe right now is that the raw image format isn't recognized by Adobe Lightroom or CameraRAW. In time I'm sure.

True the user manual isn't great - you kind of have to just use the camera a bunch and figure out all its characteristics. Kind of like when hitting the Auto A/E button and you get a message about brightness on the screen. I too thought this was a bug. It's not, it's actually just telling you that it's setting it to auto in a less than intuitive way. But these few quirks for me do not take away from what the camera can actually do.
I've been extremely pleased working with the footage that I've gotten from it. So again, I wouldn't bring this camera onto set suggesting that we use it for a commercial shoot, but by golly, I'm getting the best looking footage from it for my own personal recordings and am thrilled with it.

Nice move Sony. I thought I'd buy your expensive camera, use it over the holidays with the assurance that I could return it if I wasn't totally sold on it, but you've clearly won in the prosumer camcorder market and I'm keeping the NEX-VG20H.
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Comments

Tracked by 4 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 12 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 18, 2012 11:59:42 AM PST
Edward Chen says:
Thanks for the comparative review. About your comment, "I wouldn't bring this camera onto set suggesting that we use it for a commercial shoot" -- what is it about the NEX-VG20 that would keep it off the set? Is it something about the image quality or features of the camera?

Posted on Aug 1, 2012 7:51:47 AM PDT
I know it has been a while since you wrote this review but just wanted to complement you on providing an accurate idea on who would want to use this camera. I like you have a DSLR and camcorder that I use. I find myself using my camcorder more because of the ease of use elements you mentioned. I would like to have something that could do shots like my Canon T3i without the hassles and this sounds like a good choice at this price point. Most cameras that can do what this can do are significantly more expensive granted with more advanced features. If the goal is to get DSLR style shallow depth of field with relative ease this seems like a great choice.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 6, 2012 2:45:41 PM PDT
I think you're right. A convenient and relatively inexpensive video camera that achieves DSLR-like imagery from the various lenses you can put on the body.
I will say, after having it now for about 9 months, my only gripe now is that, while it's a very small camera, I sometimes wish it was even a little more portable.. and I think the solution would be if the handle/mic on top was removable or something. I've found that I almost always want my DSLR with me (which is now Nikon's D800), but when I want to record video, even while having the D800, I want to use my Sony VG20 because it focuses better, is more stable, and is easier to use in daylight because I can look through the viewfinder (as opposed to the LCD with Liveview on the Nikon). But, carrying both around with me isn't ideal.
My son's birthday was this past weekend and for his party, and the following day at Disneyland, I was carrying both the D800 and the VG20, which is a lot of gear for walking around and also having to hold your 1 year old! But I understand - there's more compact solutions out there for dads that just want to remember a birthday. But I'm so happy with the quality I get from both cameras that I'm not willing to sacrifice quality for portability.

Posted on Sep 12, 2012 6:46:15 PM PDT
P. Stripling says:
Chris, what format do you export your video to? What software do you use? I'm having trouble finding OS X software that edits 1080p60, and what plays 1080p60?

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 12, 2012 7:34:18 PM PDT
I am also working in OS X (10.8.1) and I use either Final Cut Pro X, or if I'm doing real work I'll use Adobe Premiere Pro (CS6). Both ingest my 1080p60 footage perfectly fine.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 12, 2012 8:36:32 PM PDT
P. Stripling says:
Thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 13, 2012 1:17:13 PM PDT
P. Stripling says:
Chris, by the way -- what format(s) do you write out to with your VG20 videos?

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 13, 2012 11:23:20 PM PDT
I'm not sure what exactly you're asking, but the VG20 write's out .MTS files (I don't choose that, that's just how the VG20 works). I personally set my record settings on the camera at 1080p60 most often.

If you're asking what format I export my content as, it depends if I want the movie on my Apple TV, a blu-ray, a quicktime movie on my mac, etc.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 14, 2012 9:32:02 AM PDT
P. Stripling says:
> If you're asking what format I export my content as, it depends if I want the movie on my Apple TV, a blu-ray, a quicktime movie on my mac, etc.

That's what I'm asking; sorry I wasn't clear. Is 1080p60 used anywhere for displaying the video? You record in 1080p60, then what do you do with the files? How do you get that quality out onto displays? What file formats do you use for BluRay, TV, QT, and so on.

Sorry for the detailed questions, but I'm questioning whether the video camera is worth it if I can't actually use the quality. Am I making sense?

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 14, 2012 12:03:52 PM PDT
Oh I see. Okay yes, you'll love 1080p60 my friend. First of all, consider this - with 60 frames per second, in post you can lay that down into a 30 fps sequence and get beautiful slow motion without any frame blending. It's great! I always shoot at 60fps so that I have this option available to me if I want it. But the frame rate discussion has been around for a long long time. Some love the look of 24fps, and I like that the camera has the option for that. I've used it occasionally if I have that specific need, but I'm telling you, the 60fps looks so sharp when played back on your desktop/laptop, and having the slow-mo option is great too. I'd say 75% of the time I'm watching my footage on a computer because normally it's just a few clips from the weekend or something like that, and I haven't taken the time to actually make something substantial enough to burn onto a blu-ray and sit on the couch and watch on my tv. Other times, if I do want to make something more substantial, I'll take my 60fps footage and work it into a 30fps sequence and then for some shots I'll have the extra frames for slow motion. The picture will just simply be sharper with the extra frames, even if your final output gets knocked down to 30. Hope that helps.
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