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Sony Handycam HDR-XR520VE: GPS camcorder tells you where to stick it

The Sony Handycam HDR-XR520VE is a high-end, hi-def, hard-drive camcorder with GPS to stick a pin in the map for your films

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Richard Trenholm
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It's a little-known fact that even the most the bleary-eyed and pasty-faced Craver scrubs up all right when the mood strikes us. And so it was last week, when Crave got suited and booted to rub shoulders with the great and the good of the camera world at the Sony World Photography Awards. Our gadget-sense was soon tingling, and among the stunning snaps on show in Cannes we also got our hands on a raft of Sony products, including the GPS-enabled HDR-XR520VE camcorder.

The XR520 shoots 1080i video at 16Mbps. Once you've filmed, inbuilt GPS automatically geotags your clips, baking location information into the file. This means you can later add your clips to maps, handy if you're taking it away on your 'olidays.

We first saw the GPS shooter at CES earlier this year, and we've also recently seen the company's TG7 Handycam, which features location awareness too. The technology takes a few minutes to find you, but once it has there's the satisfaction of watching the little dot meander around -- in our case, along the French Riviera. Where it was raining. Typical.

Also inside the camera is a 1/2.9-inch Exmor R CMOS Sensor and a Bionz image chip. There's a 12x optical zoom and a 240GB hard disk drive. 9-megapixel stills can be captured to Sony's proprietary Memory Stick Duo. Other features include face detection and smile shutter.

Click through the images for more on the Sony XR520, and to decide if GPS and high-end features justify the whopping price tag.

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The XR520 sports an 81mm (3.2-inch) LCD touchscreen.
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The screen well and the screen itself are packed with controls, including a toggle for the GPS and secondary controls.
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At the top there's an accessory shoe with a sliding cover. You also get a three-channel zoom microphone and mic input.
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The covers are satisfyingly sturdy, especially the forward-sliding hatch for the USB and HDMI connections.
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The viewfinder can be angled upwards, while the stills button at the top captures photos even while filming.
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Manual focus is possible using the little silver knob on the front. That's just one of the high-end features Sony is using to justify the eye-watering £1,300 price tag. Fear not -- it's available online now for just north of £900.

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