/> ED I T O R S C H O I C E IN N O V A T IO N A W A R D
X

CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

Sony Handycam HDR-PJ10 review: Sony Handycam HDR-PJ10

LoriGruninNewHeadshot.jpg

When I first saw Sony's PJ series of camcorders, with their built-in projectors, I flashed back to all the times I sat waiting for certain friends of mine to hook up their various devices to the TV in order to share their vacation videos. They eventually just left the necessary cables hanging off the TV, but for a lot of people, that's a suboptimal solution. The small projector in the Sony Handycam HDR-PJ10 is a far more elegant option.

Sony HDR-PJ10
7.0

Sony Handycam HDR-PJ10

The Good

The <b>Sony Handycam HDR-PJ10's</b> built-in projector and stereo speakers are very convenient for sharing home movies. Plus, the HD camcorder has the same wide-angle lens, built-in USB cable, and good automated performance as its projector-free siblings.

The Bad

If you don't plan to use the projector, the rest of the camcorder's performance and feature set are a bit underpowered for the money.

The Bottom Line

You're paying a couple hundred extra for the projector in the otherwise frills-free Sony Handycam HDR-PJ10 over its identical twin, the CX160. But if you regularly show off your vacation videos in the homes of friends and family then it's worth it.

Essentially the same camcorder as the Sony Handycam CX160, the HDR-PJ10 gets its usefulness quotient increased quite a bit by a pico projector. (Much of this review is based on that of the CX130/CX160.) In part because the just-OK video quality matters a lot less when you're viewing it via the projector, and I'm assuming that if you bought this model it's because you're going to be projecting rather than connecting to a TV.

In sunlight, with the subject filling the frame, the camcorder produces good-looking video that passes for full HD. But in many other circumstances, especially when there's a lot of background detail and motion such as grass or trees waving in the breeze, the low-resolution (in this case, less than the native 2.07 megapixels required for HD) sensor simply isn't up to the task of resolving all that and you'll start to see artifacts from the interpolation and video compression, despite the relatively high bit rates.

As with the CX130/CX160, the colors look pleasing and sufficiently saturated, if a bit coolly white-balanced, and while bright highlights get blown out, that's an acceptable trade-off for the price that most people probably won't mind. Moderately low-light video looks decent, albeit a bit soft and noisy, and in very dim living-room light, the camcorder trades off color for visibility and sharpness, producing usable video with a not-unpleasant graininess reminiscent of black-and-white.

While the still photos are serviceable, you probably don't want to count on the camcorder as a camera. Photos are bright and colorful, but have that smeary, processed look of a cheap digital camera because they're scaled up from the native resolution of 1.67MP to 1.9MP.


  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: 1,080/60p @ 28Mbps; 1,080/60i @ 24, 17Mbps; 1,440x1,080/60i @ 9, 5Mbps AVCHD: 1,080/60p @ 28Mbps; 1,080/60i @ 24,17Mbps; 1,440x1,080/60i @ 9, 5Mbps
AVCHD: 1,080/60p @ 28Mbps; 1,080/60i/24p @ 24,17Mbps; 1,440x1,080/60i @ 9, 5Mbps AVCHD: 1,080/60p @ 28Mbps; 1,080/60i/24p @ 24,17Mbps; 1,440x1,080/60i @ 9, 5Mbps AVCHD: 1,080/60p @ 28Mbps; 1,080/60i/24p @ 24,17Mbps; 1,440x1,080/60i @ 9, 5Mbps
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) 2.1x2.3x4.9/ 2.1x2.3x4.9/ 2.4x2.6x5.1 2.4x2.6x5.1 2.4x2.6x5.1 2.4x2.6x5.1/ 2.4x2.6x5.1 2.5x2.8x5.4
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 $699.99 $849.99/$899.99 $999.99
Ship date March 2011/April 2011 March 2011 March 2011 April 2011 March 2011

The camcorder autofocuses quickly and accurately, even in dim light, though like all camcorders it occasionally chooses the wrong subject or jumps into face-detection mode when you don't want it to. Its metering and exposure decisions are mostly correct. You can always turn IA off and use touch focus or touch exposure to force it, though I rarely found the need to. If you find yourself working out in the last 90 percent of the zoom range or tend to hold the camcorder with outstretched arms, you probably want to keep the camcorder set on Active Steady Shot all the time, but overall the standard image stabilization seems to work pretty well.

The LCD is on the small side--as befits the compactness of the camcorder--and like many is hard to see in direct sunlight. It's serviceable as a touch screen; not wonderfully responsive, but there's so little to navigate that I didn't mind too much.

The most notable feature of the camcorder is, of course, the small projector built into the LCD door. It delivers enough throw and brightness for casual home viewing, and the slider on top of the door makes it easy to focus. While I would have liked the touch screen to function during projection--you have to set everything up in advance, because you have limited navigation in projection mode--it's straightforward enough to use. You don't notice the relatively low-quality video while viewing this way rather than on a big-screen TV, in part because the resolution of the projector is only 640x360 pixels. (Other specs: up to 10 lumens, 10 to 60 inches of coverage, throw about 20 inches to 10 feet.)


  Canon Vixia HF M400/M40/M41 Panasonic HDC-TM90/SD90 Sony Handycam HDR-PJ10
Sensor (effective video resolution) 2.07-megapixel HD CMOS Pro 1.9-2.6-megapixel CMOS
(depends on zoom)
1.49 megapixels
1/3 inch 1/4.1 inch 1/4 inch
Lens 10x
f1.8-3.0
43.6-436mm
21x
f1.8-3.5
28-729mm (16:9)
30x
f1.8-3.4
29.8-894mm
Closest focus (inches) 0.4 n/a 0.4
Min illumination (lux) recommended: 100
standard: 1.5
low light: 0.1
standard: 1,400
low light: 4
Color Night View: 1
recommended: n/a
standard: 11
low light: 3

EVF

None/None/ 0.24-inch 260,000 dots None None
LCD 3-inch 230,000 dots 3-inch 230,400 dots 3-inch 230,000 pixels
Primary media 0GB/16GB/32GB internal; 2 x SDXC 16GB/0GB flash; SDXC 16GB internal; 1 x SDXC
HD recording AVCHD: 1,080/60i @ 24, 17Mbps; 1,440x1,080/60i @ 12, 7, 5Mbps
(also encodes 30p and 24p as 60i)
AVCHD: 1,080/60p 28Mbps;
1,080/60i @ 17, 13, 9, 5Mbps
AVCHD: 1,080/60p @ 28Mbps; 1,080/60i @ 24,17Mbps; 1,440x1,080/60i @ 9, 5Mbps
Manual shutter speed 1/6 - 1/2,000 sec Yes No
Manual iris f1.8-f8 Yes No
Accessory shoe Yes Yes No
Audio 2 channels (5.1 via optional mic);
mic, headphone jacks
2 channels 5.1 channels; mic and headphone jacks
Body dimensions (WHD, inches) 2.9x2.8x5.2 3.1x2.3x4.4 2.4x2.6x5.1
Operating weight (pounds) 14.3 7.7 (est) 12.9 (est)
Mfr. price $649.99/$699.99/$799.99 $599.99/$549.99 $699.99
Ship date April 2011 March 2011 March 2011

On top of the camcorder are the mode and photo buttons, which feel too close together. The zoom switch wasn't nearly as loose on this model as on the CX130, which leads me to think there's inconsistency across the products. A tiny captive USB cable tucks into the strap and comes in handy when you're on the road.

While not fully automatic, the camcorder comes close. You have a choice of four shooting modes: movie, photo, Smooth Slow Record (3 seconds of motion played back at 25 percent speed), and Golf Shot (2 seconds of motion captured as multiple frames). The "manual" settings are white balance, spot meter/focus, and exposure compensation. But they're in the menu system and not accessible enough to be very useful. The camcorder is really intended to be used in auto, and it fares pretty well from that perspective. Its other notable feature is the relatively wide-angle lens, which starts around 30mm-equivalent.

Conclusion
Though more expensive than its projectorless siblings, if you're one of those folks who like to share their vacation vids and school graduations with everyone--and if you have the bad habit of leaving all your videos in the camcorder--the built-in projector provides a nifty way to do so, and using it is easier than hooking up to strange TVs. But if you don't think you're going to use it that way, you're better off saving money and opting for the CX130, or spending it on a better camcorder, like the Canon Vixia HF M400.

Sony HDR-PJ10
7.0

Sony Handycam HDR-PJ10

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7Image quality 7