By >Daimaou - G.G-B
[Review] Sony NEX-VG10, Video with style and performance
We had been using a “professional” broadcast P2 camera for a very long period of time at AkihabaraNews, but with the Canon 5D MKII, we have ditched these bulky and expensive cameras and now get along with cheaper and more versatile DLSRs.
Unfortunately, while DLSR cost vs. performance outshines any broadcast camera, the lack of really basic “Video Camera” features make us wish that one day someone will stick a DSLR into a camcorder or video camera body.
Well my friend, this day has come. Behold, the new Sony NEX-VG10, the first DLSR fitted into a camcorder body.
This is, by far, the most beautiful video camera we have seen! The NEX-VG10 just looks like one of these gorgeous design concepts that we often see during shows or event but that never get built. Honestly, I will understand anyone who buys an NEX-VG10 just because of how gorgeous it is, rather than concentrating on the camera specs.
Sold with a stock E-mount 18-200mm lens, the NEX-VG10 is not only aesthetically well balanced but also perfectly ergonomic when used with both hands.
Also, the rather unique top handle with a viewfinder on one end, and Sony’s Quad Capsule Spatial Array Microphone on the other are nice features.
Being the most beautiful camera on the planet does not necessary make it the most practical though. Sure, once in your hands, the NEX-VG10 extremely easy to carry and will offer you an almost perfectly stable position to shoot videos, but once you want to use your camera, it will take a sharp mind and will power to struggle through Sony’s awkward menus and buttons.
The NEX-VG10 is in fact nothing but an NEX-5 in the body of a camcorder. They are both technically similar, being as such, Sony did not even bother to do much adaptation to the camera UI and the way you interact with it.
The first surprise, or should I say disappointment, is the NEX-VG10 3” LCD lack of “Touch” capabilities. Featured with the least ergonomic button setup, not having a touchscreen on the NEX-VG10, makes it almost unusable if not fitted on a tripod.
Add to this a badly designed UI (the Very same as the NEX-5) and the worst dial known to mankind, makes having to quickly change setting on-the-fly almost impossible.
Another odd thing about the NEX-VG10 LCD is its incapacity of being tilted more than 90 degrees in each direction. This makes it impossible for people shooting to be able to see themselves.
Many will disapprove of my rant about the NEX-3, NEX-5 and NEX-VG10 UI, but while I find it elegant and pleasant to look at, the UI has never been made to consider performance, but rather to impress with a camera that is gorgeous and has detailed icons.
II. Let’s Shoot Baby.
Being the child of a Camcorder and a DSLR, the NEX-VG10 gives the best of both worlds, almost. Yes, almost since the NEX-VG10 still has one flaw that Sony was not capable to resolve yet.
Now if you have ever tried a Full HD Camcorder before and then swapped to a DSLR like Canon, Nikon HD Capable cameras, Panasonic GH1 or like Sony’s NEX-3, NEX-5 cameras, you surely have realized that there is no turning back when it comes to video quality.
Shooting with the NEX-VG10 gives us JUST with that: the same amazing sharpness, mind blowing color range and gorgeous sound. Thanks to the camera Quad Capsule Spatial Array Microphone, offered for the first time on a camcorder, the on-board recording setup is the best ever.
It will be difficult for us to show you how impressive this camera is with a simple video, and keep in mind that the video bellow has been compressed using DivX (20Mbps 1920×1080) in order to be uploaded on Vimeo, with the obvious video compression artifact in certain setups (Starting at 2 Minutes 45 sec on the video timeline).
But straight from the camera on Final Cut Pro, and once exported in ProRes 422, the videos are almost flawless, with breathtaking sharpness and quality.
Not only is the NEX-VG10 a gorgeous camera to look at but it also offers gorgeous video to watch. It is definitively the best “Hybrid Camcorder” ever made and the best compact “Handycam” made by Sony so far.
III. The Not So “Cool” Stuff.
Now that we are clear on the video quality, I have actually nothing to complain about it, it is time however to explain my earlier statement about the NEX-V10 to offer “almost” the best of both world.
My major complaint about every video capable camera and DSLR is their lack of “Camcorder” like Zoom capabilities. Despite Sony’s effort, the NEX-VG10 does not come with an automatic zoom solution or manual fast zoom. Fitting with DSLR like lenses, the NEX-VG10 makes it very difficult to offer smooth and fast In/Out Zoom. So unless you are planning to shoot “static” scenes and can avoid zooming at all costs, the NEX-VG10 is just perfect. Now on the other hand, if you need to adjust the zoom of your camera often, the NEX-VG10 is, as far as I am concerned, a “No Go.”
Another complaint that I have with the NEX-VG10 is something that I gave-up fighting with on any DSLR when shooting video. With the exception of Panasonic GH1, all DSRL like cameras capable of shooting video are susceptible to moiré, those annoying overlapping line patterns, and the NEX-VG10 is as susceptible to moiré are a Canon 5D MK II for example.
Is the NEX-VG10 also susceptible to the “Jello Effect” or rolling shutter? Well, I have to admit that I completely forget about checking this during my tests. I am sorry for this omission, but as far as I recall I did not see any such distortions when panning fast with a tripod. The next time I get an NEX-VG10, I swear I will check this for you and update this review.
Finally, beware of dust! Built like an NEX-5, the NEX-VG10, a mirror-less camera, it has a CMOS sensor immediately accessible, so be careful to check your sensor each time to avoid any dust that will ruin your video. I wish that Sony would come up with some kind of CMOS protector equivalent to the ones we can purchase to protect lenses from scratches.
Despite its painful UI, control button layout, its incapacity to smoothly and quickly zoom in and out as well as many other small drawbacks, the NEX-VG10 is a fantastic camera. Once you understand what your camera limitations are, and learn how to overcome them, you will quickly fall in-love with this camera. Like a Sigma DP1 or Ricoh GRX, for example, the NEX-VG10 is not everyone’s camera, but rather the perfect toy for the person passionate about video who has a lot of time on their hands and is ready to make some sacrifices to work around the NEX-VG10’s limitation. As far as I am concerned, I am convinced that Sony has the first True Camcorder Hybrid with the NEX-VG10. Sure there is room for improvement, but the NEX-VG10 is exactly where manufacturers should now focus their effort when it comes to compact camcorders.