Top positive review
150 people found this helpful
Great video quality, iffy UI & controls
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