Whether you rely on auto-pilot, or take control yourself, picture quality is of a very high standard. We took the HDR-XR350VE for a stroll among the autumn leaves and, at top quality, we were highly impressed by the bold, striking colours and remarkable level of detail. Even indoors, the Handycam performs well, bravely holding on to clarity and colours in the face of diminished natural light.
There's no option for progressive filming, and it's harder to pull off the kind of professional-looking depth-of-field effects we've seen more expensive models on the market achieve recently. But make no mistake, the HDR-XR350VE is an extremely capable camcorder, and you're unlikely to find yourself complaining about the device from a video-quality point of view. Photos are quite good, too. Perhaps not up to dSLR standard, colours are just as vibrant and edges are just as sharp as they are in movie mode. A flash is available, and it's possible to frame your snaps in proper 4:3 photo format before you take your shot.
Where in the world?
One slightly left-field feature of the HDR-XR350VE is its built-in GPS system. Why would you want a camcorder with its own sat-nav, we hear you ask? The main benefit is that you can add geo-positional data to all your recordings and photos, tagging your clips with the exact location of where you were when you recorded them. If you do plenty of travelling and want to share your voyages with others, this is a pretty cool extra. But if you're only going to be filming your kids mucking about in the back garden, the geotagging feature probably isn't going to come in handy. Since its GPS capabilities are likely to account for a significant slice of the HDR-XR350VE's asking price, you'll need to consider carefully whether it's something you really need, as you'll almost certainly be able to save money by opting for a non-GPS-enabled camcorder of roughly the same calibre.
Having all that technology crammed in does have a knock-on effect. The HDR-XR350VE is a surprisingly heavy little fellow. Its weight distribution combined with its lopsided design means it doesn't fit in your palm all that well. This can result in either some minor discomfort or slightly wonky framing (or both).
From a performance point of view, we have absolutely no argument with the Sony Handycam HDR-XR350VE. Picture quality is excellent, and its low-light sensitivity is much appreciated. It is, however, a tad on the pricey side. While there are probably lots of people who will find the camera's advanced GPS features highly useful, we would warn against paying for features you don't really need.
Edited by Emma Bayly