[Review] Sony CX700V Camcorder
Let me first start this review by stating that my background mostly lies in photography and that the usage I have of video cameras is limited to the Canon 5D mark 2. While it provides remarkable performance, one has to admit that it is far from compact and for that reason I wanted to give a camcorder a try, namely the Sony CX700V. What first attracted me in the Sony CX700V is the build quality: when comparing it with its main competitors from Canon, JVC and Sanyo it was the only one in that price range that did not feel like a cheap toy. Thanks to Sony and Akihabara News, I was able to play with one for a few days and here is what I think of it.
1920 x 1080 Full HD 60p/60i/24p recording, 12MP still images, wide angle G lens (26.3mm in the lower range), back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor (which increases low-light sensitivity), optical SteadyShot image stabilization with Active Mode, enhanced manual controls, CinemaTone presets, advanced controls with touch screen (3.0” 921k), GPS receiver, 5.1ch Surround mic, 96GB embedded Flash Memory for up to 40 hours of recording, built-in USB cable and flash.
No fancy packaging – say like Apple – and the cardboard box serves no other purpose but to securely store the different components: camcorder, AV and USB cables, charger, battery, lens hood, remote control, CDs and manual. I was pleased to see that a lens hood was included by default as I thought it would be an optional item. Oh and if you first think like me that a USB cable is missing to connect the Sony CX700V to your computer, check the handle: that’s where the cable is stored !
As said in the introduction, what first attracted me in the Sony CX700V is the build quality. Unlike most of its competitors from Canon, JVC and Sanyo in the same price range, it does not feel like a cheap toy. The plastic feels like something between rubber and leather, and as a result, the camera is very comfortable to hold, even in the hot and humid conditions we can experience in Tokyo. Another plus is that all connectors are hidden behind panels that can be slid open at the touch of a finger instead of using rubber covers which are often cumbersome to manipulate.
The touch screen is clear, bright and easy to use. The menus are well laid out and even with my limited Japanese skills I was able to find and adjust all the settings I wanted. Note that you can customise the function of the dial next to the lens at the front of the camera: exposure, speed, focus… something very useful in theory (more on that later).
The GPS receiver works well and I was able to spot on a map where I was (even though none of the software I have make use of the GPS tagging feature).
In full automatic mode, the Sony CX700V is fast, responsive and does exactly what is supposed to do. The image stabilisation works nicely except perhaps at the longer end of the focal (when zooming most). Unfortunately, as it is often the case with Sony products, as soon as you want to gain a bit more control over what you’re doing (another typical example would be the NEX digital cameras), things often get quite complicated and you find yourself having to navigate through multiple menus to adjust what you want. Yes, there is a dial at the front that be customised to adjust various settings (e.g. exposure) but because it spins freely and is too sensitive, accurate changes are hard to perform when using it.
A bit of a mix feeling on the quality of the videos produced by the Sony CX700V. In low light situations, the result is good: the noise level is low, the colours are close to accurate and the overall contrast satisfying. In broad day light however, the contrast is in my opinion too low and the colours dull. Since I have the very same problems with my digital compact cameras (Canon S95), I would be tempted to say that this is the price to pay for having something compact.
Also please be aware that the sensitivity and maximum aperture does not really allow shooting in 24p without an ND filter. Indeed for an ideal filmic look, your shutter angle should be of 180 degree i.e. when shooting at 24p your shutter speed should to 1/48 but this was impossible to achieve in day light with the Sony CX700V. No problem at dusk or at night but during the day, it was difficult to go below 1/200 with shutter speeds often oscillating around 1/2000, which get you the harsh style used in Saving Private Ryan.
Here you are a few screenshot taken from our test video that will give you a descent idea of the CX700V Video quality and how Good/Bad the camera handle colors.
In conclusion, the Sony CX700V is a good camcorder but a not-so-good video camera. It is nicely built, contains useful features is easy to use in automatic mode and produces reasonably good quality videos. Unfortunately, operating it manually is cumbersome and an ND filter is required for an 180 degreee shutter angle in broad day light.