The Handycam DCR-SX series is Sony's flash-memory-based standard-definition ultracompact camcorder. It's made up of three models that differ only by storage amounts: the SX45 has no internal memory; the SX65 has 4GB built in; and the SX85 has 16GB of internal storage. This review covers the SX65, however the SX85 is the best value. All of them have a 3-inch touch-screen LCD, a 60x optical zoom lens, and few cool features like a built-in USB connector for quick uploads and easy charging by computer. However, none of the features do much to improve video quality.
No, unfortunately, there's apparently no reason to make an excellent standard-def camcorder these days; the SX65's movies are mediocre at best--especially if you're watching them full-screen on a large TV or are used to the sharpness and clear details of high-definition content.
For Web use at small sizes the results are OK, though, and if you're not terribly concerned with video quality in the first place and want a reasonably priced camcorder that's easy to use, has a megazoom lens, and can fit in a coat pocket, this Sony is worth checking out.
|Key specs||Sony Handycam DCR-SX65|
|Dimensions (HWD)||2.1x2.3x3.9 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||9.5 ounces|
|Storage capacity, type||4GB flash memory (3.8GB available); Memory Stick Pro Duo, SD/SDHC/SDXC cards|
|Resolution, sensor size, type||680K pixels, 1/8-inch CCD|
|LCD size, resolution||3-inch LCD, 230K pixels (touch screen)|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||60x, f1.8-6.0, 39-2,340mm (16:9), 44-2,640mm (4:3) (35mm equivalent)|
|Minimum illumination||3 lux (1/30-second shutter speed)|
|File format (video, audio)||MPEG-2 (.MPG), Dolby Digital 2-channel stereo|
|Resolution (video/photo)||720x480 pixels (9Mbps)/640x480 pixels|
|Recording time at highest quality||55 minutes|
|Image stabilization type||Electronic|
|Battery type, rated life (typical)||Li-ion rechargeable, 60 minutes|
|Included software||Sony Picture Motion Browser, PMB Portable (Windows)|
Available in blue, black, silver, and red versions, the SX65 is an attractive little camcorder. Its physical controls are textbook camcorder design with a start/stop button comfortably under the thumb at the back and a zoom rocker up top in front of a shutter release for snapshots in Photo mode. The whole package is roughly the size of a soda can. The hand strap is comfortable if a little low. Interestingly, it also acts as a cap for a full-size USB connector that's attached by a cable to the camcorder's body. This allows you to connect it directly to a computer to offload photos and video and charge the battery. Just above the strap is a small door hiding a power/charging input and AV output (a composite cable is included).
The battery juts out from the back, and above it is a button for changing between photo and video modes. Below the battery on the bottom of the camcorder is a card slot that supports both Memory Stick Pro Duo and SD/SDHC/SDXC cards.
Flip open the touch-screen display (there is no viewfinder) and you'll find four buttons in the body cavity, for power; entering Sony's Intelligent Auto mode; turning on and off an LED lamp under the lens; and changing over to Playback mode. The last of the I/O ports is in this cavity, too: an uncovered Mini-USB port. An optional cable can be used with this port to connect directly to an external USB storage device for quick saves without a computer. You can also copy content from the internal storage to Memory Stick or SD cards.
The touch screen is nice and sharp compared with other models in its class, but it was very difficult to see in direct sunlight. Luckily it rotates, so even if you can't see it you can change the angle. On the left edge of the screen there are virtual buttons for controlling the zoom lens and starting and stopping recordings, very helpful if you're shooting at a low angle or on a tripod. The menu system is good for those who don't make a lot of changes. In other words, it's responsive, but because all of the options are in one long row, it can feel like the list goes on forever. At least Sony lets you configure an opening menu screen with six items you frequently adjust.
For those of you attracted to the megazoom lens, be warned: the camcorder is very difficult to hold still when shooting one-handed and only slightly better with two. To get the best results, it really needs to be on a tripod or some other stable support. Also, Sony went with electronic image stabilization, which is better than nothing, but won't come close to keeping your movies from being a shaky mess when the lens is extended. However, Sony also included an Active mode that we found worked remarkably well when shooting while walking.