Sony Handycam HDR-CX130-160 review: Sony Handycam HDR-CX130-160

Compare These
3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars 1 user review

The Good A wide-angle lens, built-in USB cable, and consistently good automated behavior highlight the otherwise no-frills Sony Handycam HDR-CX130, CX160, and XR160 camcorders.

The Bad The sub-HD resolution sensor on these camcorders produces merely satisfactory video.

The Bottom Line Typical for their price class, the no-frills Sony Handycam HDR-CX130, CX160, and XR160 produce generally subpar HD video, but if you're not picky you'll probably be fine. The CX130 is the best buy of the three, as long as you go cheap on the memory card.

6.8 Overall
  • Design 7.0
  • Features 6.0
  • Performance 8.0
  • Image quality 6.0

There's not a lot to say about Sony's 2011 entry-level camcorders, the Handycam HDR-CX130, CX160, and XR160. With their no-frills design and feature set, I'd expect them to be a little cheaper, but they're definitely an improvement over last year's still-available-and-cheap CX110. The three models differ mostly by storage: the CX130 has no internal memory, the CX160 has 16GB built in, and the XR160 incorporates a 160GB hard disk and 5.1-channel audio. This review covers the CX130. (There's a fourth model, the PJ10, which is identical to the CX160 but incorporates a built-in projector; we plan to review that separately.)

In sunlight, with the subject filling the frame, the camcorder produces good-looking video that passes for full HD. But in many other circumstances, especially when there's a lot of background detail and motion such as grass or trees waving in the breeze, the low-resolution (in this case, less than the native 2.07 megapixels required for HD) sensor simply isn't up to the task of resolving all that and you'll start to see artifacts from the interpolation and video compression, despite the relatively high bit rates.

The colors look pleasing and sufficiently saturated, if a bit coolly white-balanced, and while bright highlights get blown out, that's an acceptable trade-off for the price that most users probably won't mind.

Moderately low-light video looks decent, albeit a bit soft and noisy, and in very dim living-room shadow-level light, the camcorder trades off color for visibility and sharpness, producing usable video with a not-unpleasant graininess reminiscent of black-and-white.

While the still photos are serviceable, you probably don't want to count on the camcorder as a camera. Photos are bright and colorful, but have that smeary, processed look of a cheap digital camera because they're scaled up from the native resolution of 1.67 megapixels to 1.9MP.


  Sony Handycam HDR-CX110 Sony Handycam HDR-CX130/CX160 Sony Handycam HDR-XR160 Sony Handycam HDR-PJ10
Sensor (effective resolution) 1.35 megapixels 1.49 megapixels 1.49 megapixels 1.49 megapixels
1/4-inch 1/4-inch 1/4-inch 1/4-inch
Lens 25x
f1.8-3.2
37-1075mm
30x
f1.8-3.4
29.8-894mm
(31.2-531mm
17x with Active Steady Shot)
30x
f1.8-3.4
29.8-894mm
(31.2-531mm
17x with Active Steady Shot)
30x
f1.8-3.4
29.8-894mm
(31.2-531mm
17x with Active Steady Shot)
Closest focus (inches) N/A 0.4 0.4 0.4
Min illumination (lux) recommended: N/A
standard: N/A
low light: 5
recommended: N/A
standard: 11
low light: 3
recommended: N/A
standard: 11
low light: 3
recommended: N/A
standard: 11
low light: 3

EVF

None None None None
LCD 2.7-inch 230,000 pixels 3-inch 230,000 pixels 3-inch 230,000 pixels 3-inch 230,000 pixels
Primary media 1 x SDXC 0GB/16GB internal; 1 x SDXC 160GB hard drive; 1 x SDXC 16GB internal; 1 x SDXC
HD recording AVCHD:
1080/60i @ 24, 17Mbps; 1,440x1,080/60i @ 9, 5Mbps
AVCHD: 1,080/60p @ 28Mbps (nonstandard); 1,080/60i @ 24, 17Mbps; 1,440x1,080/60i @ 9, 5Mbps AVCHD: 1,080/60p @ 28Mbps (nonstandard); 1,080/60i @ 24, 1 Mbps; 1,440x1,080/60i @ 9, 5Mbps AVCHD: 1,080/60p @ 28Mbps (nonstandard); 1,80/60i @ 24,17Mbps; 1,440x1,080/60i @ 9, 5Mbps
Manual shutter speed No No No No
Manual iris No No No No
Accessory shoe No No No No
Audio 2 channels 2 channels 5.1 channels; mic and headphone jacks 5.1 channels; mic and headphone jacks
Body dimensions (WHD, inches) 2x2.3x4.5 2.1x2.3x4.9 2.4x2.6x5.1 2.4x2.6x5.1
Operating weight (pounds) 8 (est) 10.5 14.1 (est) 12.9 (est)
Mfr. price $399.99 $449.99/$499.99 $599.99 $699.99
Ship date January 2010 March 2011 April 2011 March 2011

Editors' Top PicksSee All

 

Discuss Sony Handycam HDR-XR160 (Black)

Conversation powered by Livefyre