on December 7, 2011
This camera has a well-documented design defect that others have commented on, in particular, a very noticeable "clicking" noise in the audio track when you do video recording. The defect does not affect the picture quality of still images or video, but it does make the video recording feature unusable as the clicking noise is very noticeable. It appears to be a mechanical defect inside the unit. The problem was first discovered and acknowledged immediately after the unit first began shipping in September 2011.
Sony acknowledged the defect and issued a weasel-like statement on its website saying that the "phenomenon" only occurs "if the camera undergoes sudden motion while recording; motion generally inconsistent with smooth video recording." An artful way of basically saying it's the user's fault for not holding the camera still during video recording. This is untrue, of course, as the clicking problem occurs if you move the camera at all during video recording. The only way to avoid the clicking sound is to record on a tripod; if you use it as a handheld at all, it will click. There are a ton of videos on YouTube showing examples of the clicking and how easily it can be triggered, even from a slow horizontal sweep of a landscape. Sony has offered what they call a "performance improvement" (translation: repair) that they say reduces the clicking sound resulting from motion during movie recording.
After calling Sony support, I learned that I had to send my brand new camera back to Sony, wait several business days for them to fix it and ship it back. They only do ground shipment (to/from Laredo, Texas), which means that my brand new camera will probably be out of service for quite a while.
To say the least, I'm disappointed with Sony. Any reasonable testing suite would have uncovered this defect before the units were shipped, so the only logical conclusion is that Sony knew of the defect but decided to ship it anyway. And then later, when the camera was released, the company played dumb, blamed its customers, and offered a "performance improvement" to pretend that it was doing them a favor. Wow, what a voyage Sony has traveled since its status as the iconic consumer electronics company it was in the 1980s and 1990s, and it is no surprise that today its most profitable business unit is from one of its subsidiaries that sells insurance.
I purchased the camera in December 2011, figuring that because the problem had been diagnosed many months ago, the company would have addressed the problem with all units in the channel that had not yet reached customers. But no, Sony is doing nothing to fix the problem on units that haven't reached customers -- they're just playing the numbers, hoping to save money because some percentage of customers may not use the video or demand that the defect be fixed.
*** UPDATE 01/16/2012 ***
This is an excellent camera when it comes to picture quality, so in the end, I did end up going through the Sony "support" program to get my "improvement" for the camera rather than returning it for a refund. But video recording is a major feature of this camera, and the clicking sound makes video recording largely useless, so keeping the camera in its current form was not an option for me.
I sent the camera to Sony's service center in Laredo, Texas, and it came back from Sony in a nice brown box, professionally packaged. The total turnaround was a couple of weeks, but I had to pay the shipping to Sony. It's the same unit (same serial number). A dust cap was placed over the sensor opening for shipment, but otherwise, as far as I can tell nothing was done to it. The clicking problem persists and I'm not sure the camera case was even opened. (I left the shoulder attached to the unit when I shipped it, and it was still attached to the camera in the exact same place, which makes me suspect the case wasn't even opened.) You can still hear the clicking even from outside the unit if you move it, even if it's not on, which confirms there's still some mechanical problem in there. Maybe a mix-up in Laredo. Who knows, and at this point, who cares.
After one more call to Sony, they said they would have a technician call me, but so far, no one has called. But back it goes to Sony for repair, since I'm now out of the return period. One star.
*** FURTHER UPDATE ***
After dodging my calls, I finally gave up on Sony support. Craigslist, here I come! My next camera will probably be a Nikon or a Canon, from a company that actually takes pride in their cameras.