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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Sony Handycam NEX-VG10 (with 18-200mm Lens) review:

Sony Handycam NEX-VG10 (with 18-200mm Lens)

0 .43x magnification LCD 3-inch articulated 921,000 pixels Primary media 0GB flash; SDXC HD recording AVCHD:
1080/60i @ 24, 17Mbps
1440x1080/60i @ 9Mbps Manual shutter speed 1/4-1/4,000 sec Accessory shoe Yes
Hot shoe Yes Audio recording Stereo Audio connections 3.5mm mic jack, headphone jack Video connections Mini HDMI Photo: ISO sensitivity ISO 200 - ISO 12800 Photo: Continuous shooting 7fps (frames n/a) Body dimensions (WHD, inches) 3.9x5.3x11.5 Operating weight (ounces) 25.5 Mfr. Price $1,999.99 Ship date October 2010

The VG10 certainly looks the part of a pro camcorder, with a big, comfortable handle that houses a hot shoe, accessory shoe, and 3.5mm mic jack on its side. It also features a huge, comfortable eye-level viewfinder. But you can't really shoot using the handle; there's no record control on it, and if you've got an external mic attached, it will probably interfere with your grip.

A big, textured side makes the camera comfortable to grip when shooting at eye level, even with the heavy lens mounted on the camcorder. However, I found that while shooting I frequently counterbalanced the lens by pressing down with my forefinger--right on the photo button.

Inside the recess of the relatively small LCD are the direct-access controls: menu, white balance, focus (AF, MF, DMF), exposure compensation, gain, playback, display, LCD/EVF toggle, and a large jog dial for making adjustments. I can't pin down why I'm not crazy about them. Maybe it's because I always have to look at them to see what I'm doing and because my finger keeps hitting the sides of the jog-dial enclosure.

The interface issues are compounded by the lack of important features like peaking assist for manual focus. Despite the big, high-quality microphone there are no mixing or levels controls--just volume. No color bars. No ability to define how fast or slow the autofocus or exposure changes. Though it has a broad array of still photo capabilities, including Sony's multishot modes, such as Handheld Twilight, the lack of raw support is a bit of a disappointment.

Some may make a big deal about the large sensor in this camcorder, but it's a large sensor crammed with pixels unnecessary for shooting 1080 HD video. As with a dSLR, however, the larger sensor provides advantages when trying to achieve shallow depth of field on close subjects. But Sony confounds that by trying to compete with lower-end camcorders on zoom range, burdening the camcorder with an expensive, relatively narrow-aperture, narrow-angle lens and thus an uncompetitive price.

I wouldn't say that there's no audience for this camcorder, but it wouldn't be my recommended choice for many people. It just seems like there's a lot of conceptual work that needs to happen.

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