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Sony Handycam HDR-CX150 review: Sony Handycam HDR-CX150

Sony Handycam HDR-CX150

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Lori Grunin
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Lori Grunin

Senior Editor / Reviews

I've been writing about and reviewing consumer technology since before the turn of the century. I'm also a photographer and cat herder, frequently at the same time.

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6 min read

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sony-handycam-hdr-cx150-camcorder-high-definition-4-2-mpix-25-x-optical-zoom-carl-zeiss-flash-16-gb-flash-card-red.jpg
6.7

Sony Handycam HDR-CX150

The Good

Compact; lens focuses relatively fast.

The Bad

Merely OK video quality; worse-than-expected lens flare problems in bright sunlight.

The Bottom Line

Its small size and attractive price might draw you to the Sony Handycam HDR-CX150, but this bare-bones camcorder just barely delivers on the promise of HD quality.

A follow-up to the CX100, the Sony Handycam HDR-CX110, CX150, and XR150 represent Sony's budget-priced HD triumvirate. They differ only by color and storage media--the CX110 has no built-in memory, the CX150 has 16GB built in, and the XR150 incorporates a 120GB hard disk (and is therefore necessarily larger than the other two)--and are part of the first generation of Sony camcorders to almost universally support SD cards. (Reviews of all three products are based on our testing of the CX150.) Though the XR150 only comes in black, the CX150 comes in red as well, and the CX110 throws in a blue choice.


  Sony Handycam HDR-CX110/CX150 Sony Handycam HDR-XR150 Sony Handycam HDR-CX300/CX350V Sony Handycam HDR-XR350V
Sensor 3-megapixel Exmor R CMOS 3-megapixel Exmor R CMOS 4-megapixel Exmor R CMOS 4-megapixel Exmor R CMOS
1/4 inch 1/4 inch 1/4 inch 1/4 inch
Lens
(with Active SteadyShot disabled)
25x
f1.8-2.6
37 - 1075mm (16:9)
25x
f1.8-2.6
37 - 1075mm (16:9)
12x
f1.8-3.4
29.8 - 357.6mm (16:9)
12x
f1.8-3.4
29.8 - 357.6mm (16:9)
Min illumination (lux) standard: 11
low light: 3
standard: 11
low light: 3
standard: 11
low light: 3
standard: 11
low light: 3

EVF

No No No Yes
LCD 2.7-inch 230,000-dot touch screen 2.7-inch 230,000-dot touch screen 2.7-inch 230,000-dot touch screen 2.7-inch 230,000-dot touch screen
Primary media SDHC/16GB built in; SDHC 120GB hard disk; SDHC 16GB/32GB flash; SDHC 160GB hard disk; SDHC
HD recording AVCHD:
1080/60i @ 24, 17Mbps; 1440x1080/60i @ 9,5 Mbps
AVCHD:
1080/60i @ 24, 17Mbps; 1440x1080/60i @ 9,5 Mbps
AVCHD:
1080/60i @ 24, 17 Mbps; 1440x1080/60i @ 9,5 Mbps
AVCHD:
1080/60i @ 24, 17 Mbps; 1440x1080/60i @ 9,5 Mbps
Manual shutter speed and iris No No No No
Accessory shoe No No Yes Yes
Audio 2 channels 2 channels 2 channels 2 channels
Body dimensions (WHD, inches) 2.0 x 2.3 x 4.3 2.3 x 2.8 x 4.5 2.1 x 2.6 x 5.0 2.4 x 2.8 x 4.5
Operating weight (ounces) 9.3 12.3 (est) 13.3 (est) 15.3 (est)
Mfr. Price $499.99/$549.99 $699.99 $899.99 $999.99

Like the CX100, the CX150 and CX110 each fit quite comfortably in a jacket pocket. Though more expensive and larger than a minicamcorder, these models have a lot of things those lack, including a 25x zoom lens and the ability to capture 3-megapixel stills. The two flash models are far more attractive than the XR150 with its odd upward projection on the right side, though if you have big hands, that extra bit should make it easier to grip than its smaller, rather slippery siblings. Like many ultracompact models, they really do seem optimized for shooting below eye level, or at least holding the camcorder as if you are; the traditional grip simply isn't comfortable. It is improved over the CX100, though, with a more rounded top.

I think they use the same screen as the CX100, though; small, which is understandable given the unit's size, but it's hard to view in direct sunlight and through all those fingerprints the touch screen accumulates. You'll find the usual set of buttons: direct DVD burn (via software when connected to a PC), playback, Power, and iAuto on the body inside the LCD. Instead of physical buttons from the bezel, they use virtual zoom and record buttons on the touch screen. I don't mind that for record, which is a touch-and-release operation, but I don't like using the touch screen for zooming, where you have to hold it down. There are also the usual touch-screen-enabled niceties, such as spot metering and spot focus.

Beneath a door you'll find the USB and Mini-HDMI connectors; the charging connector and proprietary AV jack are under a door on the outside of the body. To the right side of the lens is a switch for the built-in lens cover. The SD/Memory Stick Duo slot sits in a door right next to the tripod mount, so if you'll be doing a lot of tripod shooting you may want to consider the hard-disk-based XR150.

The zoom control feels very well-balanced, neither too loose nor too tight, and it's very easy to maintain a slow, steady rate. As usual, a stereo mic sits in the front of the camcorder under the lens.

In the menu system, you can put six menu choices on a custom menu that pops up before you enter the full menu listing, with different custom menus appearing for video, still, and playback modes. I still find the straightforward but endless scrolling list confusing and tedious to navigate.


  Sony Handycam HDR-CX110/CX150 Panasonic HDC-SD60/TM55 JVC Everio GZ-HM340
Sensor 3-megapixel Exmor R CMOS 3-megapixel CMOS 1.37-megapixel CMOS
1/4 inch 1/4.1 inch 1/5.8 inch
Lens 25x
f1.8-2.6
37 - 1075mm (16:9)
25x
f1.8-3.3
35.7-893mm (16:9)
20x
f1.8-3.5
46.4mm to 928mm (n/a)
Min illumination (lux) standard: 11
low light: 3
recommended:1400
low light: 4
night: 1
n/a

EVF

No No No
LCD 2.7-inch 230,000-dot touch screen 2.7-inch 230,400 dot 2.7-inch 123,000 dot
Primary media None/16GB built in; SDHC None/8GB built in; SDXC 16GB built in; SDHC
HD recording AVCHD:
1080/60i @ 24, 17Mbps; 1440x1080/60i @ 9,5 Mbps
AVCHD:
1080/60i @ 17, 13, 9; 1440x1080/60i @ 5 Mbps
AVCHD: 1080/60i @ 24, 17, 12, 5 Mbps
Manual shutter speed and iris No No No
Accessory shoe No No No
Audio 2 channels 2 channels 2 channels
Body dimensions (WHD, inches) 2.0 x 2.3 x 4.3 2.0 x 2.6 x 4.4 2.1 x 2.4 x 4.4
Operating weight (ounces) 9.3 12 (est) 9 (est)
Mfr. Price $499.99/$549.99 $499.95/$529.95 $499.95

This year's models have the same basic feature set as last year's CX100. With the exception of the face detection, Smile Shutter, and scene modes, the camcorder has no bells or whistles to speak of. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it could use a wind filter. Like more and more of the Handycam line, it forgoes 5.1-channel surround in favor of more typical 2-channel--no great loss there. Smooth Slow Record is a low-resolution, fast frame-rate buffered recording mode that is good for analyzing golf swings and the like, but because of the long time it takes to save the buffered video, it's not very good for ad-hoc slo-mo shooting.

At its highest quality, the 24-megabit-per-second mode, you can record about 5 minutes of video per gigabyte of storage. At the 17-megabit-per-second mode, that increases to just under 6 minutes per gigabyte. Sony warns you that you won't be able to record AVCHD discs of the 24Mbps video--Blu-ray discs are okay. But I can't imagine what possessed the company to default to the fake HD 1,440x1,080-pixel 9Mbps video quality. (The 17Mbps 1,920x1,080 pixels should be playable on most systems, it's only the higher bitrate stream that may hang you up). It doesn't really matter why, though; all that matters is that if you don't change to a higher quality setting, you'll find yourself wondering why you paid HD prices for only slightly better than standard-definition quality. Regardless of output device, PC or HDTV, the video is soft with various edge artifacts--sometimes glowing, sometimes smeary. It's a bit sharper and better defined, though the edge artifacts remain, when you bump up to the higher resolution and better bitrates. The color rendering and exposures are pretty good, though. And while low-light video isn't great--it looks relatively noisy, soft and smeary--it's pretty typical for its class.


The lens focuses pretty quickly, but it could really use some better coatings; it displays serious lens flare (the diamond-shaped artifacts to which the arrows point) from bright light coming in at oblique angles.

The image stabilization works fine in tandem with the starting-to-play-the-spec-game long lens.

I'll issue my boilerplate advice for choosing among the three: go with the cheapest one. It's never worth paying the premium for the built-in memory. And unless you shoot day-long videos that require a hard disk's worth of capacity, you shouldn't be choosing a model with the intention of leaving all your videos on the camcorder. Like forced savings, smaller capacity removable media keeps you from getting into trouble. That said, while it's hard to get excited about these models, they're pretty competitive in their price class from a feature standpoint (especially since Canon's HF R series interpolates up to 1080i rather than capturing it natively).

sony-handycam-hdr-cx150-camcorder-high-definition-4-2-mpix-25-x-optical-zoom-carl-zeiss-flash-16-gb-flash-card-red.jpg
6.7

Sony Handycam HDR-CX150

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7Image quality 6