[CES 2012] Sony unveiled its new Handycam camcorder lineup at CES during its press conference. The Japanese manufacturer came up with some significant improvements on the image side, including an Extended Zoom, a 4X higher megapixels post- processing for still photos, more powerful sensors with higher megapixel counts across the whole lineup, and a very interesting new Balanced Optical SteadyShot technology that provides up to 13 times better stability than the regular Optical SteadyShot (offered only in the high-end lineup which includes the Handycam PJ760V- picture above).
Other new features include enhanced audio capture, an improved embedded projector for the PJ series (included in the Handycam HDR-PJ760V- picture above) with an optional 360 degree speaker, and highly practical features such as Quick Charging, Direct Copy and HighLight Playback.
Sony launched thirteen new Handycam, we have covered the PJ Series (high-end and mid-range), the CX760V equipped with the balanced optical SteadyShot , and the TD 20, the successor of the 3D Handycam TD10 launched last year at CES.
Read the complete article to get an overview of the new features offered in the whole lineup.
The Extended Zoom provides a 20% zoom boost without using magnification. To put things in context, digital imaging devices often offer “optical” and “digital” zoom. The optical zoom one is simply the maximum zoom that the lens is capable of. Digital zoom can extend the optical zoom is usually created by “taking the optically-zoomed image and magnifying it further, thus created noticeably bigger pixels which decrease the image sharpness. Extended Zoom is different from digital zoom because it does not make pixels bigger. Extended zoom is possible because the sensor used in the new camcorders have significantly more pixels than the 1920×1080 that the 1080p requires. In this case, it’s probably about 20%. Thanks to that extra area on the sensor, the camcorder can “zoom” in, without loss of quality.
Super Resolution via Pixel creation
The 4X higher megapixel capture is an internal software processing feature that quadruples the number of pixels from the original image, and applies a software algorithm to literally “create” missing data. Sony doesn’t go in-depth about their algorithm, but they say that the software does a good job at adding details to the photo. The samples that we have seen showed good results. We suspect that Sony is using some techniques that were originally developed for video forensics and surveillance. You may be surprised by what they can do to enhance an image.
EXMOR R sensors with more megapixels across the product line
Back in 2009, Sony introduced its new EXMOR R, back-illuminated CMOS sensor, featured in two Handycam camcorders. According to Sony, EXMOR R is approximately twice as sensitive as a conventional front-illuminated CMOS sensor, offering good performance in low light condition. The new Handycam camcorders’ sensors capture more pixels both for still images and for video than their predecessors.
The list below provides a breakdown of the sensors and zooming capabilities across the product categories:
– The super entry level lineup went from 3.1 megapixels (still image) to 5.3 megapixels (still image) with 25x Optical/30x Extended Zoom, 1080p video capture, and includes the new HDR-CX190 ($300), HDR-CX200 ($340), HDR-CX210 ($370), and HDR-PJ200 ($440).
– The entry level lineup went from 7 megapixels (still image) to 8.9 megapixels (still image) with 30x Optical/25x Extended Zoom, 1080p video capture, and includes the new HDR-CX260V ($550), HDR-PJ260V ($650), and HDR-XR260V ($700).
– The mid-range lineup went from 7.1 megapixels (still image) to 20.4 megapixels (still image) with 12x Optical/20x Extended Zoom, 1080p video capture, and includes the new HDR-CX580V ($800) and HDR-PJ580V ($900)
– The high-end lineup went from 12.3megapixels (still image) to 24.1 megapixels (still image) with 10x Optical/17x Extended Zoom, 1080p video capture, and includes the new HDR-CX760V, HDR-PJ760V and HDR-PJ710V.
– The 3D camcorder went from 7.1 megapixels (still image – 2D) to 20 megapixels (still image) with the new HDR-TD20V.
Balanced Optical SteadyShot – only in HDR-CX760V, HDR-PJ760V and HDR-PJ710V
Good Image stabilization is always a sought after feature, and hard to deliver in compact consumer camcorder for a reasonable price. Expensive professional products provide state-of-the art image stabilization in enormous bodies for equally enormous prices.
One of the innovation highlight of the Sony new lineup is its balanced optical SteadyShot featured in the CX760V that provides up to thirteen times more stability than the standard Optical SteadyShot. Basically the camcorder is encased in a second body equipped with a motor that compensates the motion in real time and maintains the inner body still.
Enhanced audio capture with new Wind Noise Reduction (WNR) and Closer Voice
According to the company, the sound quality has been enhanced with a brand new wind noise reduction feature added to the existing iAuto technology. iAuto stands for Intelligent Auto, it analyzes your shot and automatically selects settings from 9 distinct scene modes combining for 60 optimized scene options. The new iAuto reduces wind noise automatically when it detects it.
The feature is available for the entry-level, mid-range and high-end categories of product (refer to the EXMOR R sensors paragraph for specific product names)
By combining face detection with noise reduction, Sony is able to provide background noise reduction by automatically separating it from the voice tracks.
Enhanced embedded projector for the PJ Series
The projector embedded in the Handycam PJ Series models has been improved to offer up to a 100-inch wide projected image at 5 meters (before it was 60 inches at 3 meters), a better focus and brightness (15 lumen) and a friendlier user interface. An optional portable 360 degree sound speaker is also available for purchase.
Quick Charging, Direct Copy with built-in 1.A USB connector
Operating a camcorder has been quite a struggle in the past, especially when it came to file transfer and conversion, and, thanks to the huge success of the defunct Flip, manufacturers have since put more efforts in making users’ lives easier.
Sony came up with the brilliant idea to add a built-in USB connector with Quick Charging and Direct Copy to some of its Handycam models, it enables users to directly copy video files on a Sony compatible hard drive (optional) or burn them on a DVD burner (optional) without the need of a PC. Quick Charging via the built-in 1.5 A USB connector allows getting 20 minutes of recording time after a 10 minutes charge, it offers up to 2.5x faster charging time than using the standard 0.5 A USB.
Highlight Playback, a feature that extracts scene highlights from the movies, and additional apps are part of the new offering as well.
Enhanced maps for geolocation with built-in GPS
Geolocation being a hot trend in technology these days, Sony improved the GPS-based geolocation feature by providing more detailed maps, directly available from the camcorder.
The new Handycam camcorders will be available in March 2012. Please note – the pricing provided in this article is the MRSP.