Sony HDR-TG5 HD camcorder

An ultra-stylish and ultra-compact Sony handycam with inbuilt GPS

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Sony HDR-TG5
  • Sony HDR-TG5
  • Sony HDR-TG5

Pros

  • Beautiful titanium casing, highly compact, intelligent Easy mode, inbuilt GPS

Cons

  • Below average low-light performance, too similar to HDR-TG1, unconventional shape won’t please everyone

Bottom Line

The Sony HDR-TG5 is a minor evolution of the TG1 that adds some useful features but addresses none of its predecessor’s faults. Nevertheless, if you can get used to the unconventional shape it won’t disappoint.

Would you buy this?

The Sony HDR-TG5 is a flash memory–based high-definition camcorder aimed at the casual and the fashion-conscious. (Sounds like a TV soap opera, doesn’t it?) Unlike other models in Sony’s handycam range, it has an unusual pistol-grip body reminiscent of a Sanyo Xacti camcorder. It also comes with an inbuilt GPS receiver complete with geotagging functionality. Otherwise, this is pretty standard fare from Sony. It looks good, takes good video, has a good set of features and is reasonably good value for money — in other words, it’s not bad.

The Sony HDR-TG5 is an upgraded version of the Sony HDR-TG1, which we reviewed back in July last year. To be honest, it’s more of a subtle refresh than a full-blown replacement, with most specifications remaining intact. Both models sport the same 1/5in CMOS sensor, 10x optical zoom lens, 2.7in LCD touch screen and 1920x1080 AVCHD recording capabilities. Thankfully, Sony has added a few extra bells and whistles to make the upgrade (kind of) worthwhile.

The most significant addition to the HDR-TG5 is probably GPS functionality — a feature that has become standard across all Sony HD handycams. The GPS receiver incorporates a 2D Navteq map that shows your current location in Australia, along with options to zoom in and out. Unfortunately, there’s no option to set destinations or calculate travel routes, which kind of rules the HDR-TG5 out as a navigation device. Nevertheless, it remains a fun (if gimmicky) tool to impress your friends with. Slightly more useful is the addition of geotagging. This keeps a record of where your footage was shot via the included Picture Motion Browser software — handy for meandering road trips or fuzzy pub crawls!

The Sony HDR-TG5 also comes with 16GB of inbuilt storage (up from 8GB on the HDR-TG1). This will net you 115 minutes of video at the highest possible setting, or 715 minutes in standard-definition LP mode. Naturally, a Memory Stick slot is included for additional recordings, though you’ll need to buy the MS media separately.

As mentioned above, the Sony HDR-TG5 sports a vertical, upright design that vaguely resembles a Sanyo Xacti or an electric razor. If you’re used to more conventional camcorders, the lack of a handstrap may take some getting used to; it means you need to keep a sturdy grip on the base at all times (a wristband is included for cautious, or clumsy, users). While we won’t be giving up our traditional camcorders any time soon, we found the HDR-TG5 to be surprisingly intuitive. The onboard controls — consisting of a zoom ring, record button and camera/movie modes — are all within easy reach of the thumb. This makes one-handed operation a breeze, while the scarcity of buttons keeps things nice and simple for novices.

We were also impressed by the touch-screen LCD menu, which boasts responsive controls and a user-friendly interface. There are plenty of manual modes on offer, including adjustable white balance, focus and exposure, spot metering, smooth slow recording, 10 scene selection modes and a telemacro mode. At heart, however, this is a point-and-shoot model at heart. Most users will subsequently stick to the Easy mode, which does an excellent job of adjusting focus and exposure on the fly.

One of the things we loved about the original HDR-TG1 was its attractive titanium casing, and time has done nothing to diminish its appeal. If anything, the TG5 looks even sexier than its predecessor, with the champagne finish adding an extra dash of class. As we noted in our TG1 review, the camcorder’s compact dimensions mean it could almost pass for a digital still camera, which allows you to keep recordings discreet and informal.

When it came to video image quality, the HDR-TG5 delivered a similar performance to its older sibling (i.e. good but not great). Although Sony claims to have tweaked the HDR-TG5’s image processing, we couldn’t really spot the difference. When compared to Sony’s premium high-def offerings, such as the HDR-XR520, the HDR-TG5 unfortunately comes up short. Although colours were sharp and accurate in our outdoor test shots, things took a sharp nosedive in dim lighting: the bane of every consumer-level camcorder. This is one area we were hoping Sony would address when it upgraded the HDR-TG1, but our footage remained just as noisy. That said, the camcorder performed ably in most situations and will certainly satisfy its intended audience of casual users. All in all, a fairly impressive offering.

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