It is pretty easy to obtain a smartphone these days. You can either get a high-end or flagship smartphone on contract for a reasonable price or you can get something even cheaper that is unlocked. But some folks are not satisfied with the overall performance or features of the camera which is why point-and-shoot cameras still exist today. Point-and-shoot cameras can record video just like smartphones but scope is pretty limited. This is why some companies like Sony are pretty confident in selling a full range of digital camcorders for everyone. The Sony HDR-CX240 is the successor to the HDR-CX220 and it still targets the budget crowd.
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The HDR-CX240 preserves the look and feel of its predecessor weighing a comfortable 6.4 ounces. The dark blue variant makes a comeback if you are not a fan of the original black model. Both variants come with a comfortable hand strap with a built-in USB cable to make data transferring or charging a cinch. Included in the package is an HDMI micro cable for previewing video on TVs as well as a USB AC adapter and USB connection support cable. Sony clearly wants to highlight some of the neat things that just about all point-and-shoot cameras and smartphones don’t have and probably will never get.
No improvements have been made to the screen since the Sony HDR-CX240 retains its budget price tag. It still measures 2.7 inches diagonally and it still relies on physical controls which is fine because touching such a small display would obstruct much of the screen. It is also better to have no touchscreen rather than a cheap and unresponsive one. The physical control layout is quite simplified too with just a typical playback button and a joystick. The joystick can be used as a directional control as well as a physical “OK” button. The display itself is quite impressive though as it employs Sony’s Clear Photo technology to make the visuals vivid and sharp despite the low 230k dot resolution.
All of Sony’s new camcorders in the 2014 feature built-in Wi-Fi except for the HDR-CX240 and while that might make this affordable camcorder less attractive, the Sony HDR-CX240 does have a couple of improvements over last year’s entry-level models. The HDR-CX240 still has a wide angle Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens with a 27x optical zoom but the 32x extended zoom capability has been replaced with a superior Clear Image zoom that doubles the maximum optical zoom level to 54x. It is more than just a higher range because the camcorder uses the processor to perform pattern matching to create better pixels for higher quality zoom results. You can really notice how improved the higher zoom levels are if you use a tripod.
The Sony HDR-CX240 is also a slightly more capable still image shooter as it can now take 9.2-megapixel images rather than 8.9-megapixel ones. Its video recording capabilities stay the same though and that is fine because the back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor still does a pretty good job under low light conditions. The HDR-CX240 does gain an additional video recording mode that should suit those that frequently upload videos on the Web but wish to keep a higher quality video for viewing on HDTVs. It can now record video both in MP4 and AVCHD formats simultaneously so long as there is available memory. The Sony HDR-CX240 does not, however, have built-in flash memory like the HDR-CX230 and at the time of writing, there is still no successor to that model. Fortunately, high-capacity memory is very cheap nowadays.
Finally, the HDR-CX240 adds 7 new picture effects that can be used for both shooting videos and taking stills. These effects include Toy Camera, Soft High Key, Pop Color, Retro Photo, Partial Color, Posterization and High Contrast Monochrome. In an age where lots of people use Instagram and other popular social apps, this is a nice addition. Beginners are still treated with Intelligent Auto mode if you find all the existing modes to be cumbersome. From Portrait and Landscape to Twilight and Low Light, you can either pick a combination of modes yourself or you can let Intelligent Auto Mode select the best mode based on the scene the camcorder is currently witnessing. Because of its ability to record 1080p video at 60p, the Sony HDR-CX240 should outperform most smartphones. You will only need something far more advanced if you need 4K video recording.
The HDR-CX240 also possesses Sony’s SteadyShot Image Stabilization technology to compensate for unwanted camera shake. Though smartphones now possess this technology as well, SteadyShot is still several steps ahead with 3-way shake-cancelling to add electronic roll stability to further smoothen out video captures. This encourages higher zoom usage too.
Another nice feature that casual users will enjoy is face detection. It can detect up to eight separate faces in a scene and properly optimize the focus, white balance and exposure to improve the overall look of a lively scene. It also recognizes adult and children faces and apply its own appropriate optimizations. The technology comes with noise reduction and voice enhancement as well to help out in the audio quality department
On the subject of audio quality, the Sony HDR-CX240 performance similarly to its predecessor. With Intelligent Auto Mode enabled, wind noise reduction is also handled automatically although it works best when you don’t use the optical zoom.
The HDR-CX240 still comes with the PlayMemories Home and Music Transfer Software for PC and Mac so you can do all sorts of things to recorded videos ranging from organizing to editing and uploading to social media sites. It is best to download the latest version from Sony’s official site.
The Sony HDR-CX240 may not be great choice for people upgrading their older camcorder but it is a great and affordable pick if you find your smartphone’s capabilities limited. The extended zoom is a fun function to use when traveling and the enhanced face detection features and various picture effects make it enjoyable for casual settings.