Today is a big day for fans of Sony's camcorders, because in addition to its two new Bloggie models, the company has unveiled a whopping 13 new models being added to its Handycam line of camcorders.
Though there are a wealth of new Handycams being introduced in 2012, all 13 of them share some common features, including built-in GPS and maps (intended primarily for geotagging), highlight playback(a playback mode in which automatically extracted "highlights" from clips are played), improved wind noise reduction, and Closer Voice recording.
Closer Voice recording works in conjunction with the camcorder's face detection to isolate the voices of the subjects in the shot. So whoever currently has their face detected by the camcorder will have their voices focused on while Closer Voice automatically reduces the background noise.
Other shared features on the new Handycams include 4 times higher megapixel count for photos, built-in USB dongles, and the ability to do "quick charging." Quick charges grant users 20 minutes of recording time off of a 10 minute charge via the built-in USB cable, which also includes Sony's transfer software. However, should you rather transfer your movies directly to an external HDD or to a DVD via a burner without the need for a PC all of the new Handycams will allow you to do so, thanks to their Direct Copy and DVDirect features.
There are also two other new types of technology developed by Sony that will be incorporated into the new Handycam models. The first is "super resolution" via pixel creation; essentially, images have a higher pixel count, which is achieved by the camera referencing 100s of sample photos in its built-in database. So for example, during a press briefing a couple months back, a Sony rep showed how a reddish-pink tone would be filled out using a reference photo of a flower from the camcorder's database. By using this kind of pattern matching and pixel expansion, the camcorder was able to generate pixels to improve the quality of the image.
The second new technology is an improved, extended zoom which, according to Sony, is 20% more powerful. Zooming is made smoother, faster, and generates less noise from the gears within the camcorder, with improved processing from the BIONZ processor to generate clearer images.
The Entry-Level HD Camcorders
Many of the camcorders that Sony announced today are entry-level HD models, which include the CX190, CX200, CX210, CX260V, XR260V, PJ200, and the PJ260V. Technically, the CX190, CX200, CX210, and the PJ200 are all part of what Sony referred to as "super" (or "new") entry-HD camcorders and, featuring very basic feature sets, they lack most of the aforementioned features that the rest of the new Handycams share. They do, however, sport modest price tags, going for $299, $339, $369, and $439, respectively.
Meanwhile, the CX260V, XR260V, and PJ260V which will set you back $549, $699, and $649, respectively do have the new features that are shared over all 13 new Handycams, as well as an improved zoom of 55x (as opposed to the previous 42x) and an 8.9/2.2M Exmor R CMOS Sensor. All three models also come equipped with onboard storage, with the CX260V and the PJ260V sporting 16 GB of storage space, while the XR260V features a 160 GB HDD. As for microphones, the CX260V has a mic jack, while the XR260V has an HQ 5.1ch built-in microphone in addition to a built-in stereo speaker. Finally, the PJ260V serves as a projector cousin to the CX260V, sporting the same feature set with the one major exception of a built-in projector on the outside of its flip-out LCD screen.
In fact, many of the new Handycam models that were introduced today by Sony specifically, any camcorder with "PJ" in the model name are projector cousins in that they have the same specs as one of the other camcorders in their class, just with the added bonus of a picoprojector built into their LCD screens. Considering how diminutive the projectors themselves are they take up roughly a square inch of space on the outside of the LCD screen it's actually quite impressive how powerful they are. We got to see a demonstration of one of them during the press briefing and, at a distance of approximately four meters or so, it projected a gargantuan 80-inch picture. It's worth noting that this wasn't even the maximum size display that the projectors are capable of; they can create up to a 100-inch display at five meters, which is nothing to sneeze at.
The sharpness of the picture was surprisingly solid, though it was a bit on the dim side, meaning that, in my opinion, Sony only lived up to half of its promise of "improved brightness and focus" for the projector models. But combine the projectors with the built-in stereo speakers on some of the new Handycam models and you've got a pretty great little mobile theater for watching your movies on the go…assuming you have a wall on which to project.
And for the models that aren't boasting built-in speakers (or at least ones powerful enough to output enough sound for larger-scale viewing sessions), there is the Cam-Around speaker peripheral, which will be available in April of 2012 for $69.99. A small, 360-degree speaker that plugs into the hot shoe of the camcorder, the Cam-Around speaker was probably the most impressive part of the mobile theater demonstration. It put out an incredible amount of sound for something so small, enough so that the entire room roughly 25' x 35' of press attendees could easily enjoy the awful corny music that was being played during the demonstration video.
The Mid-Level HD Camcorders
Beyond the entry level models, there are also two new mid-level camcorders being added to Handycam lineup: the CX580V and its projector cousin, the PJ580V, which will be going for $799 and $899, respectively. Like the entry-level HD camcorders, the CX580V features an improved zoom over its predecessor (20x, as opposed to the previous 17x). Some of its other upgrades include a 26.8mm Wide G Lens, a 20.0/5.0M Exmor R CMOS Sensor, cinema tone shooting, improved zebra/peaking indicators, an included lens hood, and an improved 3-inch XtraFine LCD screen (921K).
Like the projector cousins of the entry-level HD models, the PJ580V is identical to the CX580V, just with the addition of the built-in projector.
The High-End HD Models
And then for the real digital imaging fanatics, there are the three new high-end Handycams: the CX760 and its projector cousin, the PJ760V, and the standalone PJ710V. All three models include a lens hood and improvements like a 10x optical/17x extended zoom, a 26.0mm Wide CZ lens, and a 24.5M/6.1M Exmor R CMOS Sensor. They also feature AGC (automatic gain control) limit for shooting in dark lighting, a 3-inch XtraFine LCD screen (921K), and Sony's new Balanced Optical SteadyShot technology, in which the lens unit itself is controlled for a steady shot, as opposed to just the lens within the unit.
PJ710V, which will have a price tag of $1299, will have an electric viewfinder with a magnified view, letting users get a more accurate idea of what they're shooting rather than making it seem like they're looking down a hallway at the picture. The rest of its specs are the same as its predecessor, the CX560V, including 32 GB of built-in storage, the ability to shoot in 24p with Cinematone, and an HQ 5.1 Mic and stereo speaker.
The CX760 will have a similar feature set as the PJ710V, save for the lack of an EVF. Also, it will pack more storage space, with 96 GB of onboard memory. And of course, the PJ760V, its projector cousin, will have the same exact specs as the CX760V. The CX760V and PJ760V will go for $1499 and $1599, respectively.
The New 3D Handycam
Finally, if you're really looking to embrace 3D technology, there is the TD20V Handycam, which will take over for the TD10 as Sony's flagship 3D camcorder. As you can see from the picture, the TD20V is much smaller than its predecessor 34% smaller, to be precise due in part to the fact that its "eyes" (the two lenses needed to achieve the 3D effect) are closer together. This also allows the user to shoot form closer distances and generate videos that are much easier on the eyes. Overall, the smaller form factor makes it much more comfortable to hold with one hand, and the TD20V is not nearly as heavy as its predecessor.
Another improvement that the TD20V has over the TD 10 is that it has a new 20.0M/5.0M, 1/4 Exmor R Sensor. Shooting in the new AVCHD 2.0 format, the TD20V also sports a 3.5-inch, glasses-free 3D LCD screen so you can view your 3D videos right on the camcorder.
Though no official release dates have been set in stone for each of the individual models, Sony reps at the press briefing said that the new Handycams would begin to ship by the end of January, with the intent of having all models released by the end of March.