Sony's Handycam HDR-CX360V should be the company's $599 camcorder offering, but I suspect is priced about $200 higher in order to rationalize the too-crowded product line. The good news is that if you work a little, you can find it for under $600, at which price it's a pretty good deal. Because for $800, it delivers solid, but not great, video quality, and an interesting but incomplete feature set.
At its best, the video looks very good. In bright light, in scenes without a lot of detailed motion, it's sharp, relatively free of artifacts, with good color accuracy and exposure. But in scenes at midrange distances the video looks a bit soft overall, and there's generally clipping in the highlights. Like many cameras and camcorders, saturated reds don't render very accurately, and there's frequently significant blooming on the edges of very saturated colors. Despite a relatively high bit rate, you can see some blocking artifacts in highly detailed scenes. However, shooting progressive mode--in 60p or 24p--makes a significant improvement over 60i when it comes to edge aliasing (jaggies).
The camcorder also does a solid job of maintaining exposure and color in low-ish light. There's some noise and the video is soft, but overall it's acceptable. In dim light the video looks noisy and soft, though the camcorder does a decent job preserving color saturation and exposure. The lens distortion isn't bad given the camcorder's minimum focal length of approximately 29mm.
In addition, the audio sounds fairly good for its class, warmer compared to the somewhat bright tone you generally get on cheap camcorders.
Still photos rank about the same as a camera phone or budget camcorder--okay for viewing or printing at small sizes but smeary, with compression and interpolation artifacts, when viewed at 100 percent.
Overall, I was happy with the CX360V's performance. It autoexposes most moderately backlit scenes well, and the autofocus operates quickly and with what feels like better-than-average accuracy. As usual, Sony's optical Steady Shot stabilization works well under typical circumstances, even out to the end of the zoom range. One big drawback here: the LCD gets really difficult to see in bright sunlight. Battery life isn't great, but it's not unusually bad; keep in mind that because of the GPS this model will use more power than competing models.