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Sony Handycam HDR-CX360V review: Sony Handycam HDR-CX360V

Sony Handycam HDR-CX360V

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Lori Grunin
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Lori Grunin

Senior Editor / Advice

I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.

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6 min read

Sony Handycam HDR-CX360V
7.8

Sony Handycam HDR-CX360V

The Good

The <b>Sony Handycam HDR-CX360V</b> is attractively designed, with an unusual and nice-feeling brown matte-plastic body. It delivers some unusual features, too, including GPS and built-in stereo speakers.

The Bad

At its best, the video looks too soft and a bit noisier in low light than some competitors. Also, for its price, some people might expect more manual controls.

The Bottom Line

While it's a fine model, the Sony Handycam HDR-CX360V seems too expensive for the video quality and features it delivers.

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.


  Sony Handycam HDR-CX130/ CX160/ XR160 Sony Handycam HDR-PJ10 Sony Handycam HDR-CX360V Sony Handycam HDR-PJ30V/ PJ50V Sony Handycam HDR-CX560V
Sensor (effective video resolution) 1.49 megapixels 1.49 megapixels 2.65 megapixels 2.65 megapixels 6.1 megapixels
1/4-inch 1/4-inch 1/4-inch 1/4-inch 1/2.88
Lens 30x
f1.8-3.4
29.8-894mm
30x
f1.8-3.4
29.8-894mm
12x
f1.8-3.4
29.8-357.6mm
12x
f1.8-3.4
29.8-357.6mm
10x
f1.8-3.4
26.3-263mm
Closest focus (inches) 0.4 0.4 0.4 0.4 0.4
Min. illumination (lux) recommended: n/a
standard: 11
low light: 3
recommended: n/a
standard: 11
low light: 3
recommended: n/a
standard: 11
low light: 3
recommended: n/a
standard: 11
low light: 3
recommended: n/a
standard: 11
low light: 3

EVF

None None None None None
LCD 3-inch 230,000 pixels 3-inch 230,000 pixels 3-inch 230,000 pixels 3-inch 230,000 pixels 3-inch 921,000 pixels
Primary media 0GB/16GB internal/160GB hard drive; 1 x SDXC 16GB internal; 1 x SDXC 32GB internal; 1 x SDXC 32GB internal/220GB; 1 x SDXC 64GB internal; 1 x SDXC
HD recording AVCHD: 1080/60p @ 28 Mbps; 1080/60i @ 24, 17 Mbps; 1440 x 1080/60i @ 9, 5 Mbps AVCHD: 1080/60p @ 28 Mbps; 1080/60i @ 24,17 Mbps; 1440 x 1080/60i @ 9, 5 Mbps
AVCHD: 1080/60p @ 28 Mbps; 1080/60i/24p @ 24,17 Mbps; 1440 x 1080/60i @ 9, 5 Mbps AVCHD: 1080/60p @ 28 Mbps; 1080/60i/24p @ 24,17 Mbps; 1440 x 1080/60i @ 9, 5 Mbps AVCHD: 1080/60p @ 28 Mbps; 1080/60i/24p @ 24,17 Mbps; 1440 x 1080/60i @ 9, 5 Mbps
Manual shutter speed No No No No Yes
Manual iris No No No No Yes
Accessory shoe No No Yes Yes Yes
Audio 2 channels/2 channels/5.1 channels, mic and headphone jacks 5.1 channels; mic and headphone jacks 5.1 channels; mic and headphone jacks 5.1 channels; mic and headphone jacks 5.1 channels; mic and headphone jacks
Body dimensions (WHD, inches) 2.1 x 2.3 x 4.9/ 2.1 x 2.3 x 4.9/ 2.4 x 2.6 x 5.1 2.4 x 2.6 x 5.1 2.4 x 2.6 x 5.1 2.4 x 2.6 x 5.1/ 2.4 x 2.6 x 5.1 2.5 x 2.8 x 5.4
Operating weight (pounds) 10.5/10.5/14.1 (est) 12.9 (est) 13.1 (est) 13.9/15.9 (est) 15 (est)
Mfr. price $449.99/ $499.99/ $599.99 $699.99 $799.99 $849.99/ $899.99 $999.99
Ship date March 2011/ April 2011 March 2011 March 2011 April 2011 March 2011

The GPS seems to work much better than the last similar model I tested, last year's CX550V. Though it faced the typical signal problems posed by NYC's buildings, it did obtain a lock more frequently (last time it failed unless I sat in an open area for 20 minutes) and a lot more quickly. However, there are still no geotagging metadata standards for video, so you're restricted to in-camcorder geographical organization for playback and whatever tools the bundled Picture Motion Browser software supplies. And that means the video geotagging is useless on the Mac (since PMB isn't supported).

Though brown isn't the first color I'd choose for a camcorder, the CX360V's matte plastic body looks attractive and feels comfortable and well-built. It's not tiny, but it's reasonably small given its capabilities. The large microphone underneath the lens supports 5.1-channel recording, though given the mic's placement, surround sound is moot. If you want to use that, you really should get an add-on mic for the accessory shoe. There's also an LED video light on the front of the camcorder, but be careful about pointing that at a person's eyes.

Inside the LCD enclosure the CX360V includes headphone, mic, HDMI and USB connectors, while the AC jack and composite video output are under a hatch beneath the grip strap. There's also a short, captive USB cable that tucks into the strap for added convenience; you can use it to charge the battery.


  Panasonic HDC-TM90/SD90 Sony Handycam HDR-CX360V Canon Vixia HF M400/M40/M41
Sensor (effective video resolution) 2.6-megapixel CMOS 2.65-megapixel Exmor R 2.07-megapixel HD CMOS Pro
1/4.1 inch 1/4-inch 1/3-inch
Lens 21x
f1.8-3.5
28 - 729mm
12x
f1.8-3.4
29.8-357.6mm
10x
f1.8-3.0
43.6-43.6mm
Closest focus (inches) n/a 0.4 0.4
Min illumination (lux) standard: 1400
low light: 4
Color Night View: 1
recommended: n/a
standard: 11
low light: 3
recommended: n/a
standard: 1.5
low light: 0.1

EVF

No No No/No/Yes
LCD 3-inch 230,400 dots 3-inch 230,000 pixels 3-inch 230,000 pixels
Primary media 16GB/0GB flash; SDXC 32GB internal; 1 x SDXC 0/16/32GB internal; 2 x SDXC
HD recording AVCHD: 1080/60p 28Mbps;
1080/60i @ 17, 13, 9 ,5 Mbps
AVCHD: 1080/60p @ 28 Mbps; 1080/60i/24p @ 24,17 Mbps; 1440 x 1080/60i @ 9, 5 Mbps AVCHD: 1080/60i/24p @ 24,17 Mbps; 1440 x 1080/60i @ 12, 7, 5 Mbps
Manual shutter speed Yes No Yes
Manual iris Yes No Yes
Accessory shoe Yes Yes Yes
Audio 2 channels 5.1 channels; mic and headphone jacks 5.1 channels; mic and headphone jacks
Body dimensions (WHD, inches) 2.0 x 2.5 x 4.7 2.4 x 2.6 x 5.1 2.9 x 2.8 x 5.2/ 2.9 x 2.8 x 5.2/ 2.9 x 2.8 x 5.4
Operating weight (pounds) 10.1 (est) 13.1 (est) 14.5/14.5/14.8 (est)
Mfr. Price $539.99/$494.99 $799.99 $649.99/$699.99/ $799.99
Ship date March 2011 March 2011 March 2011

Except for zooming, snapping photos, and switching between video and photo modes, as well as power, playback and the video light, the camcorder's operation is touch-screen driven. Though it doesn't offer many truly manual controls, including shutter speed and aperture, it does provide the usual touch-screen-facilitated options such as touch focus and touch spot meter. Unfortunately, they're in the menu system, which is straightforward to navigate but just a little too cramped on the smallish LCD, and it takes too long to get to them when you need to.

And while I recommend shooting in 60p (as opposed to 60i), you have to go through three warning screens, which is really annoying. That's because 60p support was nonstandard when the camcorder was released, but is now standard under the recently announced AVCHD 2.0 spec. A firmware update to get rid of that would be mighty nice.

The relatively high-quality stereo speakers are a nice touch for users who like to share via in-camcorder playback.

Conclusion
The Sony Handycam HDR-CX360V is a competent, attractive camcorder with some unusual features like stereo speakers and geotagging. But it's also pretty expensive compared to competitors which offer manual controls and possibly better video quality.

Sony Handycam HDR-CX360V
7.8

Sony Handycam HDR-CX360V

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8Image quality 7
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