Every year, Sony unveils a new lineup of consumer and prosumer digital camcorders and they actually sell pretty well because there will always be people that prefer the comfort of using a real camcorder that can perform far better than other devices that video recording as a secondary or extra feature. When it comes to easy editing and social media sharing, smartphones and some point-and-shoot digital cameras have the advantage but Sony is trying to close that gap with its new 2014 camcorders and the Sony HDR-CX330 is one of the cheapest camcorders to offer a new set of crucial features.
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The HDR-CX330 looks quite similar to the other 2014 entry-level model, the HDR-CX240 and that is good for beginners because it doesn’t make an intimidating first impression. It weighs less than 8 ounces and has a nice hand strap to make video recording a far more pleasant experience than something that doesn’t have the compact camcorder form factor. But unlike other camcorders made by other brands, the Sony HDR-CX330 handstrap also houses a hidden built-in USB cable that you can use to charge the camcorder or connect to a computer for transferring purposes. Like any standard simple camcorder, the record button is placed on the back while the snapshot button is on top along with a multi-purpose lever so you can do things like zooming.
The 2.7-inch screen with a 230k dot resolution can be seen as a weakness as smartphone users are spoiled with the extra-large HD screens they use as viewfinders but Sony’s camcorder at least uses a Clear Photo LCD display to make it more reliable for use outdoors. It is also not a touchscreen which is more of a good thing because people can use the more traditional and familiar joystick and button configuration that is more responsive than a cheap touchscreen.
The HDR-CX330 highlights Sony’s desire to reshuffle its camcorder lineup to make it more accessible to more people. But because this new model isn’t a direct successor to an older model, some folks might believe the Sony HDR-CX330 to be a less impressive version of last year’s HDR-CX380. The HDR-CX380 is still priced at $379 while the HDR-CX330 is under $350 but there is one key addition that easily makes the Sony HDR-CX330 better on a value perspective and that is the fact that it has built-in wireless LAN. Built-in Wi-Fi is increasingly becoming a standard feature in digital camcorders and it is something that can be considered essential too even if you don’t think you need it. Starting with the obvious bits, Wi-Fi makes it easy to transfer stored photos and videos to a computer in the same network. If the router is connected to the Internet, you can share videos and photos online too.
What makes the built-in Wi-Fi even more interesting is how well it integrates with Sony’s existing PlayMemories Mobile app for Android and iOS. Currently at its 5th major version, this app supports numerous Handycam, Cyber-shot, Alpha and Action Cam models. The app lets you control the HDR-CX330 remotely effectively bypassing the small screen disadvantage and you can send stored multimedia to the smartphone or tablet you are using to control the camcorder. While the Android support covers a lot of smartphones and tablets, you get the best integration if you are using a recent Sony Xperia model or any mobile device that supports NFC because the Sony HDR-CX330 has built-in NFC as well making the pairing process easy.
The wireless connectivity could be the best reason to pick the HDR-CX330 over the much more affordable HDR-CX240 but the Sony HDR-CX330 has a few other nice improvements over that model too. The HDR-CX330 looks the same as the HDR-CX240 but the former uses a superior Sony G lens, which offers a better zoom range maxing out at 30x optical zoom with a Clear Image zoom of 60x. This is not your average extended zoom either because it maintains the high-definition quality even if you are zoomed in all way. On top of that, the Sony HDR-CX330 is better for wide-angle shooting because the 35mm lens has a wider equivalent focal length of 26.8mm. Basically, you get the same lens benefit as the HDR-CX380 while enjoying better zoom functionality. It can even shoot better still images than the HDR-CX380 (9.2mp vs 8.9mp).
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. To make the Sony HDR-CX330 more appealing those who love sharing stuff on social media sites, Sony also added more picture effects. Smartphones still have a huge app ecosystem that can do wonders videos but it is good to see Sony adding more fun stuff to its camcorders.
Other areas of the HDR-CX330 are very much the same with previous models like the back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor for optimal low light performance, Optical SteadyShot image stabilization for smoother video and support for recording up to 1080p 60p. You can also choose to record in MP4 format to make it easier to share videos or you can maximize the quality by going for the AVCHD format. The older entry-level Sony models did not allow simultaneous recording for both formats but the Sony HDR-CX330 finally adds this feature.
The HDR-CX380 may have a larger touchscreen and 16 GB of onboard flash memory but the HDR-CX330 is a huge upgrade while being priced at just $329. It is definitely worth considering over any non-Wi-Fi models and should render your smartphone’s camera useless for video recording especially since it is easy to link both devices together to form a very powerful duo.
Update: There is a newer model > Sony HDR-CX405