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{Februari 4, 2009}  

Sony Handycam HDR-TG1 Review

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For years Sanyo has been without a doubt the largest and strongest player in the Compact Digital Video Camera world, and crushed competitors generation after generation. Now after the Canon TX1, Sony is at the plate with its HDR-TG1, better know in Europe as the HDR-TG3.

A direct challenger to the Sanyo Xacti HD1000, the HDR-TG1 is also a full HD capable device (1080i), but a very expensive one. In Japan it’s twice as expensive, is the TG1 really worth it?

Handling
Similar in appearance to the Canon TX1, the Sony TG1 has a pretty rectangular design with sharp edges and a strange heaviness even though it only weighs 300g with its battery. Housed in smooth, good quality plastic or brushed aluminum, the TG1 offers a nice compromise between style and sturdiness. Thanks to its compact body this new handycam can be easily carried in the front pocket of your trousers, ready to capture anything at anytime. Once in your hand, thanks to its Stand-by mode and “Quick-On,” HD video can be taken in seconds and saved for eternity.

If the design of the TG1 is somehow excellent we were quite puzzle and by its poor user interface, particularly the position of certain buttons sometimes making it impossible to correctly record video. Many times we confused the Video/Photo switch with the Zoom, and inadvertently erased some things we took.

Despite having a large, bright touch screen control panel, all the TG1 menus are a pain in the ass to use. It seems that Sony concentrated more effort on appearance than on their camera’s user interface, sometimes making it impossible to access certain functions.

Video
Once you start recording video you’ll be stunned by how pictures are wonderfully shown on its little LCD. Once plugged to your full HD TV you’ll begin to wonder if you were really recording in 1080. Pictures are without a doubt beautiful, but far from what’s to be expected from a 1080 camera. They’re perfect if you save your video at 720p on your computer.

Like many other compact HD cameras, the TG1 suffers from obvious aliasing on fixed pictures with contrasted lines, or pictures with slow movements. However, these are problems you should expect with something as light and compact as the TG1.

The good news is the TG1 overcomes something that many competitors, Sanyo included, are failing at. Image Stabilization (IS) is amazingly stunning and precise whether or not you are Zooming. As far as Auto Focus (AF) is concerned, the TG1 doesn’t overkill but offers good performance particularly in Macro Mode which, like the IS, is astonishingly impressive.

While the overall video capability of the TG1 is pretty good, as with the UI we had to struggle to save and edit video on our computer. Like Panasonic SD cameras, the TG1 uses the AVCHD codec, a pretty good codec which is based on the H.264. Although we’re NOT strangers to AVCHD, we had the most horrible experience when backing up and saving video to PC…

For a reasons we can’t explain, Sony decided to make simple things like installing a software a real torture…. WHY ON EARTH is it REQUIRED to have the camera plugged into the PC in order to install and operate the companion software? To simplify the process threw away this piece of crap and used Panasonic’s AVCHD to DVCPRO converter software to edit our video on Edius Broadcast… Well done Sony!

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