Back in 2011, Sony launched a trio of game-changing Handycam camcorders with each camcorder having a built-in projector. The idea sounds like the kind of thing that only a niche audience would appreciate but it turned out to be a success as Sony followed up with some successors the following year. Still without any serious competition in the projector camcorder market, Sony continues the streak with their third-generation Sony HDR-PJ series. Like the 2012 family of Sony HDR-PJ camcorders, there are 5 different models to choose from with the Sony HDR-PJ650V leaning towards the high-end. To address the shrinking camcorder market, the HDR-PJ650V has a couple of unique features that set it apart from the entry-level and mid-range Handycam camcorders.
The Sony HDR-PJ650V is a lot like the 2012 flagship model in terms of physical appearance. But one of the new additions that this camcorder is getting is a multi-control wheel located on the front of the camcorder. This has actually been featured in Sony’s high-end camcorders but it is nice to know that the HDR-PJ650V is getting it too because this camcorder isn’t as expensive.
Another welcome addition that has been pushed down to the Sony HDR-PJ650V is the electronic viewfinder. Setting up the viewfinder involves pulling it out and tilting it upward which is neat because you can keep the camera compact whenever you don’t need the viewfinder.
The viewfinder has a low resolution with average color reproduction so the LCD display may still be the primary display as a viewfinder.The 3-inch Xtra Fine LCD display may not bring anything new to the table compared to past models but the 921K-resolution display is still great to look especially when reviewing videos. The images look sharp and vivid and the touchscreen is quite responsive allowing you to touch subjects to put them into focus or operate the menus.
The HDR-PJ650V also boasts an improved projector built in to the back of the display. But unlike the current flagship model, the display remains thin which is nice since not everyone enjoys having a weighty camcorder with flagship features.
The projector still remains as the one of the selling points of the Sony HDR-PJ650V but understand that it is featured in other HDR-PJ models too including the most affordable ones released in 2012. Fortunately, the HDR-PJ650V features a slightly improved projector that bumps the lumen count from 13 to 20. This specification still puts the digital camcorder well behind traditional home theater projectors when it comes to brightness. But an improvement like this is always welcome.
The Sony HDR-PJ650V is a little bit like the pricey HDR-PJ790 too under the hood. For instance, if you are looking for a camcorder with a built-in micro-HDMI port, the HDR-PJ650V can serve as the more affordable model. This input can be used by any modern laptops and portable devices with an HDMI output.
The recording experience is led by a powerful Exmor R CMOS sensor that is capable of taking full 1080p video at 24 and 60 fps. The ability to record in 24 frames per second is part of the CinemaTone feature which is nice if you want to add a cinema zest to your home movies. Still image performance is also very good with support for taking a maximum resolution of 20.4 megapixels. Image quality not only looks good but the image clarity has been increased thanks to a new algorithm that better handles image graininess.
Another nice thing featured in the Sony HDR-PJ650V is the ability to choose the video file format. With 32 GB of available space, you can really maximize the amount of space available if you choose the right mode for the right situation. For instance, if you plan on recording a video for other people on the Internet to see, it would be best to go with the optimized MP4 format. MP4 boasts better compression levels to keep the file size down but the quality looks pretty good and resembles most of the other homemade videos featured on sites like YouTube. But if you want to watch the video on a very large HD display, the AVCHD format is more suitable. Frequently using this feature may also highlight the need in increasing the storage capacity. The SD card slot lets you go beyond the usual 11-hour limitation for HD video if you have a spare SD/SDHC/SDXC card or memory stick. It is best to go with those Class 10 memory cards to attain the best performance.
The HDR-PJ650V also offers more ways to manipulate the overall quality of the video by offering several advanced controls. Controls like zebra, peaking and manual focus are the kind of things that professional cinematographers like on their professional cameras. These controls are present in the Sony HDR-PJ650V and do not require the use of the touchscreen if you wish to tinker with these settings.
Another big change present in the HDR-PJ650V comes in the form of a redesigned hot shoe which forgoes the compatibility with older Sony add-ons in exchange for some compatibility with newer accessories including XLR modules. An external flash might not be needed since the camcorder already features one but one of the more useful accessories that you can add is a Wi-Fi adapter (ADP-WL1M1). With wireless support, it is easy to guess that transferring files to a computer is faster and easier but this support also opens up the possibility for controlling the camcorder remotely. There is a special app that can be installed on smartphones and tablets so you can do things like start or stop the recording or switch to another recording mode.
The Sony HDR-PJ650V is currently priced at around $1,100 which is fantastic for a camcorder that has a lot of flagship features. Of course, there are other good camcorders to consider if you have $1,000 to spare as well but chances are none of these non-Sony camcorders have a built-in projector. Sony may look like it is running out of ideas but these projector camcorders continue to improve and the HDR-PJ650Vhas a great deal of polish.