Sony makes some of the best camcorders and cameras in the world so you can always count on the Japanese giant in making new hardware every year. This 2015, Sony’s new focus is on action cams and affordable camcorders for those folks who can’t afford the almighty Sony FDR-AX100 4K camcorder. But it isn’t just the $1,399 price of the 4K camcorder that is putting people off. Some people just don’t see the need of 4K camcorders. 4K video files are too big to share with others and they are practically useless for personal consumption if you don’t have a 4K display. In 2014, Sony introduced a number of affordable camcorders but many of them had built-in projectors. These projectors were cool but not everyone needed them. Fortunately, part of Sony’s 2015 lineup goes back to basics with the Sony HDR-CX440 being the one to look out for.
About the Sony HDR-CX440
The Sony HDR-CX440 marks a return to the entry-level CX series alongside the more affordable HDR-CX405. It is a compact and light Handycam with a 2.7-inch LCD that flips and has physical controls next to it. It comes equipped with the standard Exmor R CMOS sensor and Carl-Zeiss lens with 30x optical zoom. There is nothing particularly innovative about this camcorder but it has a lot to offer and manages to be $100 cheaper than the HDR-PJ275 – Sony’s cheapest projector camcorder.
Multi Camera Control is the main new addition to all 2015 wireless camcorders including the Sony HDR-CX440. In order to use it though, you will need one or more extra Sony wireless cameras that support Multi Camera Control. This new feature links these cameras through Wi-Fi allowing your iOS or Android device to remotely control them all using the PlayMemories Mobile app. You can have all connected cameras trigger a snapshot or start a recording session to get different angles on a subject. Even if you can’t take advantage of Multi Camera Control, the Wi-Fi functionality opens up the many other features offered by the PlayMemories Mobile app like remote shooting and easy sharing to your smartphone or tablet. Prop up the camcorder on a tripod and you can take some fairly decent 9.2-megapixel selfie pictures using the remote shooting feature. NFC is onboard too so it is easy to pair the camcorder to certain Android phones like Sony’s own Xperia devices. Take note that the HDR-CX405 omits these wireless features completely.
Like the pricier HDR-PJ275, the HDR-CX440 comes with 8 GB of onboard storage space but it is best to just ignore that and get an SD card. In fact, the price of a Sony HDR-CX440 and a 64 GB Class 10 SDXC card should still be cheaper than an HDR-PJ275. All that free space lets you record several hours of high quality XAVC S video, which is Sony’s newest codec. With this mode, the HDR-CX440 can record 1080p/60p video at a nice 50 Mb/s. Treat the onboard 8 GB as if it is for emergencies where you need to record something important but forgot to clear space on your memory card. 8 GB should be enough for 2 hours of high-quality video.
You also have the option to record a video and save it in both AVCHD and MP4 formats. This dual recording technology is useful for instances if you want to show off your video on the big screen and then later share it on your favorite social networking site. Without the dual recording feature, you would have to record it on AVCHD format so the quality looks good on the TV and then later convert it to MP4 for the Web, which takes time and knowhow. If you have plenty of available space on the Sony HDR-CX440, this recording mode gives you the best of both worlds.
Like just about all Sony camcorders in recent memory, the camera strap hides that convenient USB 2.0 cable that can be used to charge the camcorder. Charge it for just an hour and you can already shoot 30 minutes of video.
“Fun” is the best word to describe the HDR-CX440 because you know you didn’t spend so much on it but you can do plenty of neat things with it. The Intelligent Auto mode is a fantastic mode to use for beginners because it does the scene selection work for you. It picks from 10 different scene modes and adds a few other optimizations depending on what the camcorder sees. The Exmor R CMOS sensor also does a good job in handling scenes with lower lighting. The 26.8mm wide-angle lens is good for traveling and you can zoom up to 30x without suffering from distortion.
If your hand isn’t very steady, the SteadyShot Image Stabilization with Active Mode can compensate for that. Even if you are confident with your video recording skills, the stabilization can still prove to be useful when shooting at full zoom.
You won’t get much freedom on the manual control side but you can still add a little bit of fun by trying out some of the neat picture effects. These effects include Monochrome, High Contrast, Posterization, Partial Color, Toy Camera, Pop Color and Soft High Key. The neat thing is that any of these effects can be applied to still images and videos. Remember, adding filters to videos using mobile apps isn’t exactly simple and can take time.
• Good 1080p quality.
• Easy to use.
• Plays nice with other Sony devices.
• Multi camera control expands the possibilities.
• Only $299.
• Doesn’t break any new grounds.
• No slow-motion video recording support.
Although the Sony HDR-CX440 might not seem like a slam-dunk, you have to remember that attractive $299 price tag. For the price of a single 4K camcorder, you can get three HDR-CX440 camcorders and a few cheap memory cards and enjoy a nice three-way multi recording session. Of course, you don’t have to do that and simply enjoy casual 1080p recording instead because that’s the main point of the Sony HDR-CX440 and it delivers far better results than even the best smartphones today.