Shooting with any Sony product is usually a treat. Their devices are very well built and always offer a handful of unique features and design choices to keep things interesting. The CX110 is no exception, and while nothing is radically different from other cameras in its class, the Handycam is very sleek and stylish.
I was extremely impressed with the CX110's 25x optical zoom. The zoom toggle worked nicely for both quick and prolonged zooms, and the optical image stabilization kept my footage steady. The auto focus also did a fine job of keeping things clear; the same applies for the auto exposure, which quickly compensated for any lighting condition changes.
There are manual focus and exposure settings buried in the CX110 menu, but they must be controlled through the touchscreen, making them both tough to access and impractical. I suppose if you were using a tripod and staging a scene, the manual controls could work to fine tune the picture, but for day-to-day shooting, it's best to stick with the auto controls.
The CX110 has four white balance controls: Auto, Indoor, Outdoor and One Push (manual). For the most part, the CX110 worked well to identify the scene with Auto, but setting the manual white balance only required a couple of taps on the touchscreen in the odd instance it did not. Sony claims the CX110 can shoot at the highest resolution for 125 minutes with the supplied battery. I actually stretched it out to 135 minutes shooting moderately active footage. Time will vary depending on a host of factors and extra batteries are available for purchase from Sony. The company also claims the highest resolution footage requires about one gigabyte per five minutes of shooting, which I found to be about right.
I'm impressed with the video quality, considering the CX110's small size. The colors are vibrant and balanced, no one hue stands out brighter than the others. However, zooming in on the highest resolution footage reveals some blurry edges and digital artifacts.
Switch down to the HD HQ or HD LP mode and there is a distinct difference in video quality. The edges are much softer and digital artifacts are more pronounced. Unless you are cramped for storage space, I would avoid those settings and stick with the higher resolutions.
The CX110 holds up well in low light when compared to other camcorders in its class. The footage actually appears soft rather than grainy, probably the result of the Sony Bionz image processor that the company claims improves camera response time and screens out noise to help ensure that the signal from each pixel is as pure as possible in marketing materials.
The CX110 has the same 1/4-inch Exmor R CMOS Sensor found in many Sony products, which does a good job resisting the rolling-shutter effect that plagues so many other CMOS devices. I still noticed a hint of skewing in my CX110 test footage, but it was not severe.
The maximum stills resolution is 3.1 megapixels, which is less than the output offered by many smartphones. The photos had the same strengths and weaknesses I noticed in the video. The colors looked great, but the images were soft on the edges, almost blurry. I did like the tele macro option for shooting small objects up close (just over a foot of space is required for focus). When enabled, it blurs out the background while keeping the small object in focus.
The CX110 records Dolby Digtal 2-channel sound (stereo) from its built-in zoom microphone. It also offers a small set of controls including zoom mic (microphone sensitivity increases when zooming) and the reference level (either records sound faithfully or adjusts levels to filter out ambient noises).
The on-board mic definitely impressed. Conversations picked up nicely, sounding crystal clear on playback, but the microphone was very sensitive to wind noise. A wind noise canceller would have been nice addition because a stiff breeze overwhelmed the reference level setting. A dedicated external mic jack, which the CX110 lacks, would have been even better.
Operation and Extras
The CX110 Handycam comes packed with an AC adapter, AV cable, Component cable, USB cable, removable battery, battery pack and Sonys PMB software CD ROM. Missing is the mini-HDMI cable, which Sony is happy to sell on its website for $50. Stay away if you're in the market. You can find a mini-HDMI cable on Amazon for less than $5.
The PMB software is the same that came packaged with the Sony bloggie. I liked it then and I still think its the best of the bad bunch of packaged camcorder software. It's not Mac compatible, so Apple fans will have to use iMovie to extract their clips.
The HD videos are MPEG4 AVC/H.264 and take the form of .m2ts files. This is standard in higher-end camcorders, but the .m2ts file type can present playback problems on popular media players without the proper codec.
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