Published on May 5th,2008 at 12:23 AM
By >Daimaou - G.G-B

Sony Handycam HDR-TG1 Review

For years Sanyo has been without a doubt the largest and strongest player in the Compact Digital Video Camera world, and crushed competitors generation after generation. Now after the Canon TX1, Sony is at the plate with its HDR-TG1, better know in Europe as the HDR-TG3.

A direct challenger to the Sanyo Xacti HD1000, the HDR-TG1 is also a full HD capable device (1080i), but a very expensive one. In Japan it’s twice as expensive, is the TG1 really worth it?

Similar in appearance to the Canon TX1, the Sony TG1 has a pretty rectangular design with sharp edges and a strange heaviness even though it only weighs 300g with its battery. Housed in smooth, good quality plastic or brushed aluminum, the TG1 offers a nice compromise between style and sturdiness. Thanks to its compact body this new handycam can be easily carried in the front pocket of your trousers, ready to capture anything at anytime. Once in your hand, thanks to its Stand-by mode and “Quick-On,” HD video can be taken in seconds and saved for eternity.

If the design of the TG1 is somehow excellent we were quite puzzle and by its poor user interface, particularly the position of certain buttons sometimes making it impossible to correctly record video. Many times we confused the Video/Photo switch with the Zoom, and inadvertently erased some things we took.

Despite having a large, bright touch screen control panel, all the TG1 menus are a pain in the ass to use. It seems that Sony concentrated more effort on appearance than on their camera’s user interface, sometimes making it impossible to access certain functions.

Once you start recording video you’ll be stunned by how pictures are wonderfully shown on its little LCD. Once plugged to your full HD TV you’ll begin to wonder if you were really recording in 1080. Pictures are without a doubt beautiful, but far from what’s to be expected from a 1080 camera. They’re perfect if you save your video at 720p on your computer.

Like many other compact HD cameras, the TG1 suffers from obvious aliasing on fixed pictures with contrasted lines, or pictures with slow movements. However, these are problems you should expect with something as light and compact as the TG1.

The good news is the TG1 overcomes something that many competitors, Sanyo included, are failing at. Image Stabilization (IS) is amazingly stunning and precise whether or not you are Zooming. As far as Auto Focus (AF) is concerned, the TG1 doesn’t overkill but offers good performance particularly in Macro Mode which, like the IS, is astonishingly impressive.

While the overall video capability of the TG1 is pretty good, as with the UI we had to struggle to save and edit video on our computer. Like Panasonic SD cameras, the TG1 uses the AVCHD codec, a pretty good codec which is based on the H.264. Although we’re NOT strangers to AVCHD, we had the most horrible experience when backing up and saving video to PC…

For a reasons we can’t explain, Sony decided to make simple things like installing a software a real torture…. WHY ON EARTH is it REQUIRED to have the camera plugged into the PC in order to install and operate the companion software? To simplify the process threw away this piece of crap and used Panasonic’s AVCHD to DVCPRO converter software to edit our video on Edius Broadcast… Well done Sony!

Video Sample (Zip file) of a 1080i video taken with the TG1, 368Mb

Photo Mode
Sony makes a decent digital camera as well as video camera, but apparently hasn’t mastered providing both in the same product. Yes video on the TG1 is great if you’re not too picky (like we are, maybe), but lord the Photo Mode is horrible… If you REALLY need to take pictures with the TG1, simply shoot a video and later take a screen capture, you’ll get better results.
Photo samples in 2016x1134px (9Mo)

Compact and Stylish
Good video, once converted in 720p
Good AF even in Low Light
Great IS

Horrible UI
Horrible Photo Mode
Needs Sony proprietary SOftware to edit video on your PC
No optional Wide angle lenses

Compact, Stylish and providing good video once turned in 720p, Sony with the TG1 will definitively attract a lot of potential buyer, but unfortunately for us the TG1 is not mature yet, several UI flaws combined with poor photo quality and a poorly design companion software make us wonder why spending SO much money when the HD1000 form Sanyo offers as good as video as the TG1 for half its price (In Japan)

Category Review
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Sony Handycam HDR-TG1 ReviewSony Handycam HDR-TG1 ReviewSony Handycam HDR-TG1 ReviewSony Handycam HDR-TG1 ReviewSony Handycam HDR-TG1 ReviewSony Handycam HDR-TG1 Review
Sony Handycam HDR-TG1 ReviewSony Handycam HDR-TG1 ReviewSony Handycam HDR-TG1 ReviewSony Handycam HDR-TG1 ReviewSony Handycam HDR-TG1 ReviewSony Handycam HDR-TG1 Review
Sony Handycam HDR-TG1 ReviewSony Handycam HDR-TG1 ReviewSony Handycam HDR-TG1 ReviewSony Handycam HDR-TG1 ReviewSony Handycam HDR-TG1 ReviewSony Handycam HDR-TG1 Review
Sony Handycam HDR-TG1 ReviewSony Handycam HDR-TG1 ReviewSony Handycam HDR-TG1 ReviewSony Handycam HDR-TG1 ReviewSony Handycam HDR-TG1 ReviewSony Handycam HDR-TG1 Review
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  • mechboy

    I too have recently bought the English version of the Sony TG1. The price differential is I guess because it’s just out; when I bought the Sany HD1000 when it came out, it cost me like 18000JPY. The one thing I really bought this for is for it’s size; Sanyo is very small but unfortunately isn’t exactly pocketable with it’s funny shape. Also, the Sanyo experiences great difficulty with focusing in dark and zoomed environments, many a time it cannot distinguish between background and main subject which meant a lot of my vid caps of the main subject were out of focus; Sony seems to excel in this area.

  • Home

    UI is pretty easy for one who ever got sony handycam…

  • PhilippeC

    Does it work with Premiere Elements ?

  • mang

    Its made of Titanium, with an additional hi-gloss coating, not aluminium

  • Jonny5

    I have the new TG1 and am very impressed by the video capability, but the camera is pretty ordinary – typical of Handycam, both in regard to picture quality (which is rather washy) and menu navigation – if they used the cybershot menus it would be so much easier. I was intending to ditch my T200 and use the TG1 as my casual carry round – but no way can I do this with suc quality. Little tip – taking pictures in video mode (you dont have to have it recording) and the pictures are unexplainably better (though fixed in 2mp). Form factor styling is excellent and will turn heads everywhere. I think the physical usage is simplistic – I know what you mean about moving the wrong dial – think thats a bit of practise – it is compact afterall. THe software bit – yep I found that annoying too – I did it and it loads up fine – though I have bought Sony Vegas pro to use. Isnt this evolution from those hybrid cameras that sony brought out – was it the M1 or something

  • dexxx

    Very good review!

  • Paul007

    Not a big fan of that style of camera, clumsy to use in my opinion. I wonder how fast and effective the Sony Software is, drives me crazy when you need proprietary software to use your hardware.

  • AlmostaGeek

    Wow, that looks like something I might have to pick up. Looking for something similar to the FlipVideo but better quality and expandable memory. Great Review!

  • Debudabu

    Take I
    its seems like you guys have a lot of contacts in Sanyo and that is why you also get to review their products before its hit the market. unfortunately, it looks like you are “paying” back by giving biased reviews. the TG1 is way better camera than the HD1000 will ever be, the Sanyo’s price is lower currently but was not so, when the camera was just launched. in few months the Sony will be cheaper than the 128,000 it is selling now for, as well.
    to be continued in the following comment

  • Debudabu

    Take II
    Price aside, those two cameras just cannot be compared, the Sony video is much better in quality, in sharpness, in vivid true colors and very close to much bigger cameras, the Sanyo video suffers from a very slow focus (any changes in light, makes it go crazy). as for the stills quality; if you know what you are doing the Sony (with the inferior pixels) give a better result. all the pictures I took with the Sanyo are full of noise, dull colors and 80% are out of focus. the result with the Sony are far from being perfect, still if you do the right settings, correct matrix, stable your hand (with the digital stabilization feature OFF) you can get reasonable results. again, not perfect, but much better than the results I got from the HD1000, the CG9 or the CA8.

  • newbie

    Thanks for your unbiased opinion.
    On another note, I have heard some very positive reviews on the Canon HD100, and I am curious how do you feel the Sony compares to that camera?

  • Patricio

    Is this handicam compatible with a Mac? Will it run on Imovie or better yet on Final Cut Pro? I bought it already but havent been able to use it yet.

  • wewewawa

    After watching the sample clips I was very impressed with the video quality of this tiny camcorder, especially the flower close up, I was shocked by the details. I haven’t watch any clips of similar products like HD1000, HD100 but I’m really satisfied with TG1′s video quality.

  • smoak5

    what is the difference between the qualtiy of recording (HD/FQ vs HD/HQ vs HD/SD vs HD/LP)?

    seems like hdfq records in 1920×1080 and the rest record in 1440×1080….

  • gb

    Sanyo just came out with a new competitor – with the new Xacti HD1010. Bumped up the resolution to 1080P and whatever else they updated internally..

    I don’t like the grip of the Sony HDR-TG1, it looks to blocky for my hands, while the Xacti looks really comfortable.

  • adam_dachis

    I have a HDR-TG1, moving from a Sanyo HD1000. While the Sanyo HD1000 is easier to use on a number of levels, the image stabilization and auto focus on the TG1 is so good that I can’t ever imagine going back to the HD1000.

    I have to disagree on the UI, though. I really like the UI on the TG1. I thought it was very easy to use. I also like the sound effects . I know that’s silly, but I usually mute every noise the camera makes and didn’t this time because I think they’re so pleasant.

    Aside from the ease of photo mode on the Sanyo HD1000, the only thing I really miss is the ease of transfer. Sanyo’s cameras record to MP4 files rather than transport streams (like the TG1 and most AVCHD cameras), so I can just copy and edit. If Sanyo ever fixes the stabilization and auto focus issues on the HD1000, I’ll probably switch back. Maybe the HD1010 fixes this?

    If only the TG1 saved 720p MP4 files, I would be very happy. I just don’t care about “Full HD” for a camera I use for fun.

  • MAS

    how to play .MTS files to check the quality of the video clips posted?

  • dominic

    TG1 great CAM.
    I see np on the UI. Its actually very handy on the buttons and control.
    Designs and buttons are all created for start-and-shot.

    Perfect TG1 would need a few degrees more on the wide angle range.

  • sko

    I’ve been using the TG1 for a couple of weeks now – on an overseas shoot and at home. The form factor is great and the camera sits well in the hand. The quality of the image is good – I’m using it for some B-roll on cable TV. Low light is not that bad with some careful angling. The UI is no problem and it’s quick to set white balance, focus etc. With an adapter the AV connection allows me to monitor sound through headphones – unusual in a small consumer model.Sum up: great for candid shooting and traveling. Minuses: no mic inputs, lens definitely not wide enough, bad red eye on still photos.

  • JRCX

    I too got the camera and love the size and EASY UI, just play with it for a few mins and its actually almost foolproof. My problem is getting it INTO my computer, no mac app will convert it to something i can edit in (professionally or even in iMovie) and still trying to figure out how to use it on a PC even though i am using SONY Vegas ON a SONY laptop… If anyone knows how to get the full HD into the PC or mac, pls let me know!

    Also, is the reviewer certain 720p video comes out better/clearer than 1080i? This does not make sense to me. Thanx!!

  • JRCX

    To update my previous statement, the footage really does look amazing. I tried shooting the exact same scene, panning left to right, both indoors and outdoors, both in 1080 & 720 and no matter how many times i watched it (up close watching every detail), I can’t honestly say I can see the difference between 1080 and 720, if I were to say 1080 it would only be because I know it was shot in higher resolution, but I agree with the person on this thread that said the lens is not good enough to resolve the higher 1080. Either way, if you have an 8gb stick in there, and you know you won’t shoot more than an hour, use 1080, if you know you need to shoot closer to 2 hours, use 720, in the end I doubt You (or anyone else) will know the difference, I didn’t and I look at and edit video nearly 10 hours each day.

  • Bary

    Yes you’re right about the stupidity of connecting the handy cam to the compter while installing the software, I recently bought a sony SR 11E and although the photo is said to be 10.2 megapixels I dont know how the hell have they maid these low quality photo system the quality is less than three mega pixels photo captured be a Nokia mobile even!!! I’m realy disapointed by this pour quality photoes that camcorders take

  • Jiji

    Bought TG1 last month in the Sony building shop on Ginza. Although the price was 50CHF more than the best on-line price I’ve found in Switzerland, the overall cost was at least 100CHF lower, when I bundled camera with 16GB memory stick pro duo (and a very kind sales person offered a leather case as a gift!)
    My primary use of the camera is for home/travel videos and image stabilizer, compactness and robustness are of my primary concern. TG1 answered those requirements better than any other model on the market. On the points of HD video quality and the choice of codec, they both fit perfectly to my current home equipment Bravia TV with PS3 (I’m not a Sony addict, have other brand too ) The advantage is great when I can only insert memory stick to the PS3 and watch videos or copy them to the hard drive (I’ve added external USB HDD to the PS3). I’ve converted to Mac last year. iLife 08 that is compatible with TG1 camera. For photos I mostly use my Nokia N95.

  • J_Whitt

    Why no Mac support? The creative world is ruled by Apple Mac computers. When will manufacturers like Sony realize they are hurting their sales by not including Mac support.

  • JRCX

    Final Cut Pro 6 has limited support of AVCHD, but no sony application comes with it for mac, why, I don’t know. I still love the camera, the light sensitivity and quality is remarkable for its size. I am very satisfied with this purchase.

  • Bill

    I need to download movies to my Mac. Any suggestions on software. Will Final Cut Pro work?

  • Mia

    hi i have HDR-TG3. I am totally useless with things like this and i was wondering if someone could explain to me in very simple terms how i can capture images from a video i have taken. I would be really grateful x



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