The Good Sony's entry-level Handycams, the HDR-CX190, CX200 and CX210 are small, lightweight and cheap. A captive USB cable that enables charging while connected to your computer is one of the few perks.
The Bad You can't really call the video HD quality, the camcorder feels flimsy and the lens is prone to fringing.
The Bottom Line They're cheap and capture video, but don't buy the Sony Handycam HDR-CX190, CX200 or CX210 thinking that you're getting a great bargain on a real HD camcorder. If you're going to buy one, get the cheapest; nothing on any of these is really worth the extra bucks.
Sony Handycam HDR-CX200
Sony's trio of entry-level camcorders -- the Handycam HDR-CX190, CX200 and CX210 -- seem amazingly, aggressively priced. But they're priced like standard-definition camcorders because they use SD-level components to produce video in HD format but not HD quality. Sony's not alone in this: both Canon and Panasonic play the same game to various degrees with their entry-level models. All of them use low-resolution sensors and interpolate the video up to HD resolution. In this case, Sony actually is using a sensor that's even smaller and lower-resolution than the 2-year-old CX110.
The three camcorders differ from each other in a few ways. The CX200 and CX210 incorporate touch screens; the CX190 has a small joystick and playback button on the LCD bezel for operation. In addition, the CX210 has 8GB of internal memory -- keep in mind when comparing prices between the CX200 and CX210 that an 8GB flash card costs less than $10. This review is based on testing of the CX190. (There's also a version of the camcorder with a built-in projector, the PJ200.)
As far as I can tell, the video quality doesn't look any worse than predecessors like the CX130, which many folks consider acceptable. If you view your video scaled down and played on a computer, or like to shoot close-ups, which usually deliver the best results for both cameras and camcorders, it looks good. But for typical tourist and home-video type shooting of middle distances and viewed at actual size or on a large-screen TV, I found it extremely soft and mushy. The combination of sensor and optics seem prone to fringing, and can produce an overall purplish cast on the video rather than just on edges. In low light -- say, early dusk -- it's even softer and quite noisy. The audio is typical for its class; a little too bright-sounding, but the mic picks up the sounds you want.
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