The projector camcorder is a niche category of camcorders that Sony practically invented a few years back and it looks like Sony isn’t discontinuing this category for the unforeseeable future as its new 2014 lineup of camcorders shows some love to the PJ series. While in the camcorder world, minor updates are normally expected, most of the Sony camcorders in this lineup have a long-awaited feature – built-in Wi-Fi. This highly useful feature trickled down to the entry-level Sony HDR-PJ275 too and it has a few other welcome improvements that make this a highly desirable projector camcorder.
The HDR-PJ275 takes the framework of the HDR-CX240, which launched aside this camcorder. The main difference is that extra 13-lumen projector component placed on the center part of the camcorder’s display door. Just above the door is a convenient control that adjusts the projector focus. The door can open up and swivel to reveal a pretty standard 2.7-inch Clear Photo LCD display with 230K resolution. It certainly won’t be surprise to all those folks that were accustomed to Handycam camcorders in the past but new users may find the Clear Photo display surprisingly useful even under sunlight which is crucial since the camcorder doesn’t have any other viewfinder.
Because the projector is priced to attract those on a budget, you won’t find many physical controls on the Sony HDR-PJ275. In fact, the main physical controls are the ones that you won’t find on the higher-end models because the HDR-PJ275 does not have a touchscreen. This makes operation pretty simple as there is a simple directional joystick and a typical preview button for easy reviewing of stored content. Finally, there is a blue projector button for switching to the projector mode, which is obviously exclusive to the PJ series. As for the rest of the controls, there is a zoom lever on top along with a quick photo shoot button and the usual record button on the back. Like many other recent Sony camcorder models, the fairly comfortable handstrap has a neat little trick; it hides a small USB data cable so you can still charge the Sony HDR-PJ275 or transfer data to a computer even if you forgot to bring the standard cable.
While the HDR-PJ275 will replace the older HDR-PJ230 model, Sony didn’t bother making any improvements to the projector specs. It still outputs 13 lumens and can project a screen up to 100 inches big. But the real improvement is the additional HDMI micro port that serves as an input so the Sony HDR-PJ275 effectively becomes a standalone portable projector where you can connect any device that uses HDMI with the proper cable. It might not have the best display quality for watching full-length movies but it does open up the possibility for other devices to present photos and other content.
The other big feature, as mentioned earlier is the built-in Wi-Fi and it is sure to excite owners of Android and iOS-powered smartphones and tablets because the Sony PlayMemories app is available in their respective app stores. With the app installed, your mobile device becomes a remote control and viewfinder where you can let the camcorder perform operations remotely or transfer recorded content to the device for easy sharing. Users of more recent Android smartphones can use the NFC functionality to pair the device to the camcorder via tapping so it takes far less time to enjoy all the neat networking features.
Yet another useful new addition to the HDR-PJ275 is the ability to record two different formats simultaneously. Sony’s exclusive XAVC-S format is not supported with this camcorder but you can record both MP4 and AVCHD formats simultaneously so you can keep that very high-quality backup for playback on a TV without the need to use video converter to make uploading to the cloud easier. The Sony HDR-PJ275 only has 8 GB onboard, which is actually okay since most of the other new camcorders do not even have onboard storage but there is a small memory card slot that can accept microSD or Sony M2 card formats for additional storage space.
Even with its entry-level specs, the Sony HDR-PJ275 is still a pretty compelling package for people that are more used to recording videos using their smartphones. You can go straight to the top with full HD 1080p 60p video and take high quality 9.2-megapixel pictures as well. It uses the same back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor as several other Sony compact cameras that are well versed in low light conditions.
Another big advantage that entry-level Sony camcorders have over smartphones and even most prosumer camcorders is the impressive zoom range of the wide angle Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens. The HDR-PJ275 is improved over its predecessor boasting 27x optical zoom and a special 54x digital zoom, which Sony refers to as “Clear Image” zoom. When exceeding 27x, the camcorder uses special optimization techniques to magnify the area a bit further while retaining a great amount of detail. With SteadyShot Image Stabilization onboard as well, you don’t have to try very hard to keep the camcorder still because its cheap build is lightweight and the 3-way shake-cancelling does the rest in making video captures smooth even while walking.
The Sony HDR-PJ275 is a good camcorder to use during parties too because it can detect as many as eight faces in the same scene and apply all sorts of focus, exposure and other enhancements to make each individual look great. It has special algorithms for both children and adult faces too. Video editing software isn’t so necessary either if you are a fan of filters because the HDR-PJ275 offers 7 effects that can be applied to both videos and photos. You won’t have many manual controls to play with on the Sony HDR-PJ275 but the Intelligent Auto mode should suffice for most casual users because the camcorder chooses from several different scene modes to get the best video quality automatically.
For the recording features that you get, the $399 might leave a sour impression but the HDR-PJ275 does have the projector functionality and that game-changing HDMI input making it a far more versatile gadget to take on a vacation. What is great is that Sony offers plenty of choices if there is something you dislike. You can save more than $100 and get the HDR-CX240 but lose the projector functionality or step up to the HDR-PJ340, which offers more onboard storage and a superior lens. When you take a look at Sony’s entire lineup, the Sony HDR-PJ275 is well-priced and has no direct competitor.
It looks like Sony isn’t discontinuing this category for the unforeseeable future as its new 2014 lineup of camcorders shows some love to the PJ series. While in the camcorder world, minor updates are normally expected, most of the Sony camcorders in this lineup have a long-awaited feature – built-in Wi-Fi. This highly useful feature trickled down to the entry-level Sony HDR-PJ275 too and it has a few other welcome improvements that make this a highly desirable projector camcorder.
Update: There is a newer model > Sony HDR-PJ440