Sony HDR-CX100

Ultra-compact flash memory camcorder with 1920x1080i video resolution

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Sony HDR-CX100
  • Sony HDR-CX100
  • Sony HDR-CX100
  • Sony HDR-CX100

Pros

  • Good low-light performance, 8GB inbuilt memory, attractive and lightweight design, lots of features for the asking price

Cons

  • No external audio options, shake-free video takes practice

Bottom Line

The Sony HDR-CX100 is an impressive flash memory handycam that offers a solid performance across the board. If you're looking for an affordable high-definition camcorder, it will not disappoint.

Would you buy this?

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The advent of flash memory technology has caused camcorders to shrink to previously unimaginable proportions. With no bulky mechanical parts weighing things down, it’s now possible to own a Full HD video camera that fits in the palm of your hand. The Sony HDR-CX100 (which replaces the HDR-CX7 in the company’s flash memory line-up) is one such model.

At just 330g, its one of the lightest — and smallest — high-definition models we’re ever tested. With 8GB of internal memory, a 1920x1080i video resolution, a redesigned Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens with 10x optical zoom and Sony’s celebrated Bionz processing chip, it improves on its CX7 predecessor in almost every area. For the asking price, it’s one of the best equipped high-def options on the market — particularly if you happen to have a few spare Memory Sticks lying around.

The Sony HDR-CX100 is the bottom-rung model in the company’s new HD handycam line-up. While the other new units benefit from shiny Exmor-R CMOS chipsets, the HDR-CX100 makes do with a 1/5in ClearVid CMOS sensor — the same chip found in the HDR-CX7. It also lacks some of the advanced specifications found on its bigger brother, the Sony HDR-CX12. On the plus side, it’s significantly cheaper than any of these other models and arguably strikes a better balance between price and performance.

One of the criticisms we levelled at the Sony HDR-CX7 was the exorbitant price of removable flash memory. While still quite expensive compared to other forms of recordable media, the technology has definitely become more affordable in recent times — an 8GB card will currently set you back around $100, compared to the $350 asking price two years ago. The inclusion of 8GB of embedded memory is also a big plus. This allows you to record up to three hours of video directly onto the camcorder. By contrast, the Sony HDR-CX7 had no onboard storage.

Like all of Sony’s recent high-def handycams, the HDR-CX100 benefits from the inclusion of an Exmor imager. This is the same award-winning technology found in the professional-level Sony PMW-EX1, offering cleaner images in dim lighting with significantly diminished noise. Consequently, the Sony HDR-CX100 is capable of punching well above its weight when it comes to image quality, despite a somewhat paltry pixel-count of just 2360k. We found the Sony HDR-CX100 to work exceptionally well in almost any environment, with a sustained palate of rich and vibrant colours.

Unfortunately, the HDR-CX100's audio capabilities fail to match its visual prowess. With no external microphone options, you're stuck with the 2-channel stereo microphone mounted to the front of the device. While it doesn't do a bad job, we would have liked to have seen a 3.5mm jack included — something that many cheaper models offer.

With no optical image stabiliser, the unit proved difficult to hold steady at higher zoom magnifications, leading to occasionally shaky footage. Novice users should therefore get plenty of practice in before they embark on any important video ventures, such as a family wedding. That said, the trade-off is definitely worth it — there’s nothing more convenient than a camcorder that fits in your handbag and the Sony HDR-CX100 fits better than most.

Taking a leaf from Sanyo’s Xacti range, the Sony HDR-CH100 comes in a range of colours, including polished silver and a deep red. We reviewed the obligatory black version, which looked virtually identical to every other black handycam we’ve reviewed over the past year. But that’s not to say it isn’t stylish. The dark glossy finish combined with the miniaturised, barrel-like shape is both head-turning and adorably cute.

Menu navigation is achieved via Sony’s familiar touch-screen LCD. Some people have a real problem with this interface (personally we love it), so it might be an idea to have a bit of a fiddle in the store. The usual array of Sony features are present and accounted for, including X.V Colour, manual white balance, nine exposure settings, adjustable shutter speeds, a Tele Macro and Spot Focus mode, assorted digital and picture effects, Smooth Slow Recording, touch-screen calibration options, a Smile Shutter mode (which automatically takes a still image when someone smiles) and face detection technology (for up to eight faces). As ever, a big fat Easy button takes centre stage on the camcorder’s body, which saves beginners from having to access the menu at all.

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