The Sony HDR-TD20V was a hot product in 2012 because it improved on its predecessor without making any compromises in terms of features. However, the HDR-TD20V had a launch price of $1,499 which may sound a bit excessive for people that are still on the fence in getting a camcorder with 3D features. 3D is the standout feature in this particular camcorder and there are better camcorders out there for less if 3D isn’t your preference. Sony’s camcorders with built-in projectors are a great example here. But back in January 2013 Sony surprised the 3D enthusiasts by releasing the Sony HDR-TD30V which serves as a direct successor to the Sony HDR-TD20Vbut costs $500 cheaper than the original launch price of the HDR-TD20V. The features of the Sony HDR-TD30V are mostly the same as its predecessor so it is only proper for Sony to remove the older version from its website. But other websites may continue to sell the TD20V at a lower price. If priced at the $1,100 to $1,300 range, the TD20V may still be a good purchase as it has some features that are not present in the current model.
The refreshed design of the Sony HDR-TD20V has to be one of the biggest reasons to make the upgrade from an older 3D camcorder. While this camcorder may not be suitable to wear around your neck, the HDR-TD20V is more comfortable to hold with one hand as it weighs lighter and feels less bulky compared to the other 3D camcorders. The added hand strap contributes to the comfort so you can actually record 2D or 3D for longer periods of time.
One particular thing that deserves a mention with the Sony HDR-TD20V is the manual control dial found on the front of the camcorder. This control dial lets you conveniently adjust various parameters like the shutter, aperture and exposure. The cheaper HDR-TD30V has these manual controls too but the manual dial is absent making the TD20V a better choice if you frequently play around with these controls.
Sony’s Xtra Fine LCD display that is featured in many Sony Handycam and camera models makes another appearance in the HDR-TD20V. But this display is in-line with the displays featured in newer cameras like the Sony RX100 with a denser 1229K-dot display. It also uses the TruBlack technology so the brightness and contrast levels look better. This display doubles as a touchscreen and the interface should be easy for first-time users to learn. Finally, the display lets you see recorded 3D visuals complete with the 3D effect even if you are not wearing 3D glasses. It may not be the best way to appreciate the 3D visuals but it is definitely a great attempt by Sony for a glasses-free approach. Since there is no other physical viewfinder present on this camcorder, it is good that Sony outfitted the Sony HDR-TD20V with such a high-quality display.
The main reason as to why the HDR-TD30V is cheaper than the HDR-TD20V is because the TD30V lacks internal flash memory. This means that you will have to buy an SD card or Memory Stick if you don’t have a spare before you can start recording. But with the Sony HDR-TD20V, you have 64 GB worth of internal memory. Unlike smartphones, the internal memory is fully dedicated to storing videos and images as there is no operating system or apps that take up space. Plus, you can still use SD cards or Memory Sticks to increase the storage capacity to numbers that cannot be attained by camcorders that lack internal memory. 64 GB is already enough for 5 hours of 3D video at 1080i and you can record even longer videos if you stick to 2D or use lower quality settings. Transferring videos to the PC is also easy since the camcorder has its USB cable permanently attached.
With dual wide angle G lenses that can each record HD video, you can create 3D videos with this camcorder without adding any special attachments. It eliminates the need of calibrating and you won’t have to add extra bulk whenever you feel like recording in 3D. However, activating the 3D mode locks some functions so you won’t be able to do things like take 3D pictures, record in slow motion, use the Golf Shot feature or adjust the manual controls. Fortunately, the Optical SteadyShot feature which serves as Sony’s image stabilization technology can be used in both 2D and 3D modes so camera shakes shouldn’t affect the smoothness of the video recording.
The back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor is responsible for decent low light performance. But if you want the best frame rate possible, it is best to record under brighter lighting conditions. The HDR-TD20V features a built-in flash which can help record dimly lit environments.
Video quality in general is pretty good and the Intelligent Auto mode contributes to that. The Sony HDR-TD20V features 10 scene modes along with wind noise reduction and these modes can be combined to improve the video quality so the camcorder will choose the best possible setting out of 180 different scene combinations. Optical zoom is just limited to 10x but there is also an available 17x extended zoom.
Like many other Handycam models, the HDR-TD20V is also capable of recording slow motion videos using the Smooth Slow Record feature. But if you prefer taking a series of still images, you can try the newer Golf Shot mode. The Sony HDR-TD20V also has a built-in GPS receiver allowing you to add location data to videos.
The Sony HDR-TD20V is a versatile camcorder if you stick with 2D although there are several sub-$1,000 2D camcorders that are better. But the 3D video performance is very good making the price more reasonable especially since it includes 64 GB of internal memory. The Sony HDR-TD20V is only recommended if you really intend to record lots of 3D video because a combination of internal and external memory really makes it possible. Otherwise, go for the HDR-TD30V because you get the same video recording performance and feature set.