2013 was not exactly a year of 3D technologies compared to previous years. In fact, there were no signs of any 3D-enabled HDTVs from the major manufacturers when the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show came and went. But 3D camcorders are still alive and well at least if you ask Sony. 3D camcorders are not groundbreaking by any means but they were a bit too pricey for the features that you get. There are definitely some 3D HDTV owners who could be happier with their investment if there was more 3D content available. Getting a 3D camcorder could be the one thing that can make you feel proud that you actually own a 3D HDTV. Sony apparently agrees as they decided to release the Sony HDR-TD30V, which is a lot like the model it intends to replace – the HDR-TD20V. The HDR-TD30V can be viewed as a HDR-TD20V with a reduced price tag where Sony made the right cuts to hit the $1,000 mark.
People loved the compact form factor of the HDR-TD20V so Sony didn’t make any changes or improvements to the design. It actually looks and feels like a traditional 2D camcorder as you don’t have to attach a special lens just so you can record in 3D. A camcorder with an attached 3D lens may make the camcorder look cooler and more futuristic to some but the lighter weight certainly helps especially if you want to record video for a few hours.
The one difference that needs to be pointed out on the Sony HDR-TD30V is the lack of a front manual control dial. It is a strange decision on Sony’s part but at least the manual controls can still be used. It is still not so difficult to make simple adjustments to the aperture, exposure and shutter. But when taking the price into consideration, this minor gripe is forgivable.
The Sony HDR-TD30V features the same Sony Xtra Fine LCD display as last year’s model and you don’t have to worry about Sony not coming up with a new display. This impressive display is still being used today by Sony’s latest products like the critically-acclaimed Sony RX100 camera. The 1229K-dot display means that you can see a lot of details and the TruBlack technology really gives the display better contrast and brightness. The 3.5-inch screen is larger than a lot of available consumer camcorders and it helps a lot when it comes to touch inputs. The touch interface is quite easy to learn and is fairly responsive. Play back any 3D videos you recorded and you will immediately notice that you can see the 3D effect even without the 3D glasses. You cannot see the effect from all angles but it is still an impressive technology that makes the camcorder cool enough to show off to friends and relatives. The Sony HDR-TD30V does not feature a viewfinder but the display should be good enough.
In order to create the 3D effect, the HDR-TD30V makes use of 2 lenses. Both of these lenses are wide-angle G lenses and they are capable of recording 1080i video with 3D mode active. You will have to switch to 2D mode if you want to max out at 1080p. Recording in 2D mode is also necessary if you want access to other features like the Golf Shot feature and slow motion feature. But other features are available in both modes such as the Optical SteadyShot feature which does a pretty good job in minimizing the effects of camera shake. You can also make full use of the 10x optical zoom in 2D and 3D modes or go even closer with the 17x Extended Zoom.
One of the minor improvements that the Sony HDR-TD30V has over its predecessor is better overall quality when recording video in low light environments. The frame rate may get affected if the lighting conditions are too dim but these improvements are enough to make the HDR-TD30V a pretty decent camera for recording indoors especially if you have a flashlight or other lighting source.
As for overall video quality, starters can rely on the Intelligent Auto mode and get some impressive results. The Sony HDR-TD30V is capable of recognizing 10 different scenes but there is an interesting twist. The Intelligent Auto mode can combine certain scene modes if necessary to further improve the video quality so you end up with 180 combinations that the camcorder can choose from. One of the modes even helps reduce unwanted noise, which can be useful for windy situations. The S-Master technology works in parallel to make sure the sounds that matter are clear.
Other nice features include the ability to shoot 20.4-megapixel still images and there is a built-in flash in case you need it. Although you cannot take 3D still images, you can use take a series of pictures using the Golf Shot mode. If you want really see what a particular scene looks like in slow motion, you can simply activate the Smooth Slow Record feature and get all the details. Finally, the HDR-TD30V has a geotagging function thanks to the built-in GPS receiver. NAVTEQ maps are preinstalled in the camcorder so you can properly give each video you record a tagged location.
With just about all these features present in the HDR-TD20V, what exactly did Sony do to make the Sony HDR-TD30V $700 cheaper? Aside from the missing control dial on the front, the HDR-TD30V doesn’t have internal flash storage so you won’t be able to record any videos unless you add a Memory Stick or SD card. It isn’t as bad as it sounds because you can buy a speedy Class 10 64 GB memory card for less than $50 and you will essentially match the storage space the HDR-TD20V initially has. The only small downside is that you won’t be able to go beyond that limit unless you buy a higher capacity memory card which has a higher cost per gigabyte.
For $1,000, you can probably find a few 2D camcorders that are have more features. But if you are looking for a solid 3D camcorder with no fuss, the Sony HDR-TD30V is a great and more importantly, affordable choice.