Upper midrange camcorders are becoming more of a niche every passing month. This is because in the very low-end, people are very satisfied with the latest smartphones and thanks to carriers, smartphone owners can upgrade every couple of years enjoying even better imaging technologies in the process. The fact that many flagship smartphones can record 4K videos gives off the illusion that dedicated digital camcorders are on the way out. However, budget camcorders are still proving to be useful due to great price-to-performance ratio, better optics and superior ergonomics. Those that need more manual oomph will go for the larger, heavier and more feature-rich camcorders. This puts upper midrange camcorders like the Sony HDR-CX675 in a pretty precarious spot. Sure they are less expensive than the prosumer camcorders which go from $800 to $1,000 and higher but a sizable audience may prefer saving money knowing that they can still push beyond the limitations of a great smartphone. The HDR-CX675 tries it’s very best to make its case by combining a powerful lens with the familiarity of a basic model.
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About the Sony HDR-CX675
The HDR-CX675 is a $549 Sony digital camcorder designed for people who need to record extra high-quality video while not needing some of the extra prosumer bulk that often makes these camcorders less portable. Not everybody needs a camcorder with manual controls so this is where the Sony HDR-CX675 looks more like a cost-effective alternative with the superior video quality to boot. Being part of the CX series, the HDR-CX675 doesn’t come with a projector which is something that a sizable audience sees as a solution looking for a problem.
The key feature that makes the Sony HDR-CX675 really stand out from its lower priced siblings is its Sony G Lens. It may use the same BIONZ X image processor and Exmor R CMOS sensor as the $399 Sony HDR-CX455 but this 46 mm makes all the difference when it comes to raw video quality. One of the nice things about this lens is that it doesn’t come with any tradeoffs compared with the ZEISS lens featured in entry-level models – you get the same 26.8mm wide angle specification and you can optically zoom as far as 30x.
The second feature that puts the HDR-CX675 in the high-end zone is Sony’s Balanced Optical SteadyShot image stabilization. The word “balanced” isn’t just an extra adjective but it is really a new high-end improvement to keeping the footage steady. On the technical side of things, the way this image stabilization technology is set up is that the lens housing in its entirety is moved as you move the camera. You can experience considerable improvement when recording scenes on a rocking boat for instance. With the aid of the Intelligent Active mode, it is possible to shoot fairly stable video while running with the camcorder too.
The final differentiator is the flash memory capacity built into the camcorder. Right out of the box, you have 32 GB of memory to play around with and since this camcorder cannot record 4K video you should be able to record hours’ worth of 1080p before you need to buy a Memory Stick Micro or microSD card. You can store even more footage if you decide to lower the bitrate or dial the resolution down to 720p.
Other Features and Performance
Sony’s imaging products and camcorders have generally been doing well over the past couple of years because of their exclusive technologies making the Sony HDR-CX675 a great pick over other brands. The most exclusive feature is the availability of the XAVC S format. This proprietary format is a high-efficiency format boasting a high max bitrate of 50 Mbps while being smaller overall than the AVCHD format in terms of file size. Details look clearer and uploading it to sites like YouTube result to noticeably fewer compression artifacts. The format plays nicer with Sony’s editing software as well. The MP4 format isn’t left behind either as it remains the best format to use when sharing video. In fact, you can use the Dual Video Recording feature to have both an XAVC S (or AVCHD) copy alongside an MP4 video if you have some extra storage space.
Another big strength of the HDR-CX675 is its autofocus performance. Using a special AF algorithm, autofocus speeds are very fast and keeps the subject focused with incredible precision. You can even lock on to a moving subject by simply tapping on the subject on the 2.95-inch Clear Photo LCD display and adjust the size of the box to ensure the camcorder properly focuses on the subject.
The Sony HDR-CX675 has the same user interface as the entry-level models so you also get to play around with the same extras including the highlight movie maker feature which makes it easy to create highlight movies complete with background music based on the stored videos. Time lapses can be made with the camcorder too though it isn’t as straight-forward as a smartphone. Wi-Fi and NFC are onboard too.
• Prosumer-like image quality and stabilization.
• Consumer-like presentation.
• Excellent auto-focus.
• Plenty of internal memory.
• Could be a bit pricey for folks that expect more features like slow motion recording.
If you can imagine an entry-level camcorder equipped with a very good lens and image stabilization system, that is where the HDR-CX675 fits in and it is a pretty bold move by Sony as not many companies care about this crowd. It is nice to see an option existing.