Sony is one of those big technology companies that like to show off tons of new stuff at CES and January 2015 was no exception. 4K was once again the theme as the ultra-high-resolution screen technology is more polished than ever and pretty much ready for mainstream adoption. However, current 4K TV owners and those that plan on buying a hot new Sony 4K display don’t have to wait for all the cool 4K content. Sony’s action camera and camcorder lineups are ready for the task. One of the latest models is even cheaper than its predecessor making the dream of creating 4K videos far more attainable. Apparently, Sony concentrated on the two 4K camcorder models and made its other camcorder model a mere footnote. The Sony HDR-CX405 is also part of the 2015 lineup and it looks a lot like the older Sony HDR-CX330 model. What makes the HDR-CX405 intriguing is its attractively low price. It is confusing enough for the CX405 to have a higher number than the CX330 but ends up with fewer features. What is left is determining if Sony made the right cuts to reach that $229 price.
The Sony HDR-CX405 looks like a Sony camcorder that should have been part of last year’s lineup. That’s because the HDR-CX405 looks exactly like the CX330 retaining both the dimensions and weight. But that shouldn’t deter casual consumers since the 6.7-ounce weight is good enough for easy mobility. The camcorder has a nice handstrap and feels more natural to hold for recording purposes than a smartphone. Being a Sony camcorder, the Sony HDR-CX405 retains the main characteristics of a typical modern consumer camcorder including the mighty useful built-in USB cable which you can either use to transfer data or charge the unit. As long as you are contented in leaving the camcorder charged close to the power source, you shouldn’t have to bring a separate USB cable.
Because of the camcorder’s small size and lack of touchscreen capabilities, Sony only managed to fit in a small 2.7-inch display. It does use the Clear Photo tech to improve the look of video previews but it looks very primitive when compared to higher-end camcorders and smartphones. Just next to the display is a joystick and preview button making the HDR-CX405 pretty simple to use.¬ There are no buttons on the side of the camcorder itself even with the display door open as it only reveals a micro HDMI port and a memory card slot. On the back, you will find the very common record button while the top features the zoom lever and other common buttons. Also like the previous entry-level models, lens cover is manual so make sure you close the lens when not in use.
The Sony HDR-CX405 makes a good impression by not downgrading or eliminating the essential features that would affect the video recording experience. It supports both the MP4 and AVCHD codecs as well as Sony’s own XAVC S format enabling you to record 50Mbps 1080p video at 60p. With the 26.8 wide angle ZEISS lens, video quality is more than decent and you have a great deal of control on the zoom end. 30x optical zoom may sound a bit lackluster but the HDR-CX405 also offers the Clear Image Zoom which uses special algorithms to allow zooming up to 60x. Optical zoom is still best but Clear Image Zoom performs a lot better than the standard digital zoom since the processor actually makes new pixels to make the images appear sharper. It is very youth friendly with 7 picture effects available to enhance videos and still photos. It also has face detection so the Sony HDR-PJ670 can selectivity improve the video quality of scenes involving people. It is pretty intelligent too as it can distinguish between adults and children. Up to eight people can be detected in a scene and the adjust the focus, exposure and white balance of each. Voice enhancements and noise reduction are applied when Face Detection is used too.
Most of the time, you shouldn’t have to worry about picking the right mode with the HDR-PJ670 since the Intelligent Auto does a good enough job in obtaining the appropriate scene setting. It starts off with 10 scene modes including Portrait, Tripod, Baby, Backlight, Walk, Spotlight, Macro, Low Light, Twilight and Landscape. The actual number of combinations extend to 60 since it also applies various degrees of wind noise reduction and other optimizations depending on the scene the camcorder detects. You may not even need to make any edits to the video either since the Sony HDR-CX405 is also capable of creating a highlight video out of several videos in MP4 format.
The HDR-CX405 also comes with SteadyShot image stabilization to help make video captures a lot smoother. Even if you have a steady hand, the feature is quite useful when shooting at telephoto levels. Sony also implemented this extra technology called 3-Way Shake Cancelling which adds electronic roll stability. This lets you achieve smoother video capture results.
When pitting the Sony HDR-CX405 and Sony HDR-CX330 against each other, the lack of Wi-Fi capabilities on the CX405 model become apparent. You are trading wireless remote control and the ease of wirelessly transferring recorded content for a $50 savings if you consider the CX405. Dual recording is noticeably absent on the CX405 too. Wi-Fi should be built into every camcorder but it is good for Sony to offer options to people on a tight budget. Overall, the HDR-CX405 is a fine little compact camera that may be powered by last year’s hardware but gives you far better results than the recording features a modern high-end smartphone can offer. Just buy a speedy SD card and you are good to go. Since this camcorder is so cheap, you can actually pick a high-capacity SDXC card and still end up with a camcorder that is cheaper than most other Sony camcorders while having far more space to capture tons of 1080p video.