Friday 23 March 2018

Digital Life: The camcorder strikes back

Ronan Price

Ronan Price

The mobile phone has been an aggressive colonist, elbowing its way into many an adjacent field such as photography and music. Even your average digital camera has developed ideas above its station, trying to muscle in on video recording.

Just as stand-alone satnavs will go the way of the dodo, is there any room left for dedicated camcorders? Or will the "just good enough" video capabilities of phones and cameras send them to the knacker's yard too?

My feeling is that only the high end will survive.

Of course, camcorder makers are acutely aware of the conundrum and are predictably fighting back by making their machines masters of multitasking.

Take Sony's new CX350V, a compact fistful of technology with a few tricks up its lens. Videotapes of all kinds are obsolete and even hard-drive recording is fading fast. So the Sony uses large-capacity flash memory to store its high-definition footage, up to 13 hours, in fact -- and handily expandable via memory card.

You could gripe about how most controls can be accessed only via the small touch-screen but, admittedly, most users won't need to venture beyond the well-placed record and zoom buttons.

The knockout video quality is well beyond anything you'd get from a phone or still camera and the CX350V's remarkable prowess in low light gives it a leg-up over rival camcorders.

If you feel the need for still rather moving images, the seven-megapixel sensor makes an adequate substitute for a separate camera.

The GPS function -- tracking where you recorded footage and snapshots -- is handy too but really slugs the battery.

But. And it's a big but. As lovable as the CX350V can be, you pay handsomely for the privilege -- €1,050 puts it in a category all its own.

Still in the Sony stable, the Cybershot HX5V may look a fairly non-descript pocket camera but sneakily conceals a 10x zoom.

Like all recent Sonys, it excels in several areas, performing well in murky light and making shooting panoramas a piece of cake.

Like its camcorder brother, it sports GPS but again the battery life suffers terribly unless you switch it off.

The 10x zoom is invaluable, but picture quality is merely good rather the usual excellent you'd expect from Sony. At €380, it's a big ask.

The winners of the Crackdown 2 competition were Jenny Lynch, John Donnelly and Kieran Crane.

Irish Independent

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