Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V Review
The HX20V is one of very few compact cameras that can record Full HD video (that's 1920 x 1080) at 60p. It does this using the AVCHD Progressive format, which may not be supported by all devices or video editing suites. Sound is recorded in Dolby Digital Stereo, as you'd expect. If you don't need 1080/60p video (along with its 28 MBps bit rate), you can also choose from 1080/60i (at 17 or 24 MBps) or 1440 x 1080 @ 60i. The maximum recording time for all of those is around 29 minutes.
While AVCHD movies look great on your HDTV, editing and sharing them isn't so easy. Heck, just finding them on your memory card is a pain. Thankfully, Sony also supports the MPEG-4 codec, which is much easier to work with. Choose from 1440 x 1080, 1280 x 720, or 640 x 480 resolutions, all at 30 frames/second. Recording will stop when the file size reaches 2GB, which takes about 15 minutes at the highest quality setting.
The HX20V allows you to use the optical zoom during movie recording. The lens moves smoothly and quietly, to keep the motor noise from being picked up by the stereo microphones. Continuous autofocus will handle movie subjects fairly well, and the optical image stabilizer is also available, complete with an 'active' mode that provides more shake reduction than standard IS.
Movie recording is totally point-and-shoot on the HX20V. You can turn on a wind filter and adjust the mic level, but that's about it. You can take 13 Megapixel stills while you're recording a movie, but not at the 1080/60p setting. While you can take a movie in any shooting mode, there is a dedicated spot on the mode dial where you can let the camera pick a movie scene for you, or you can select one for yourself. Most of the camera's Picture Effects can be used for movies as well as stills.
Sony uses two different codecs for video recording on the DSC-HX20V: AVCHD and MPEG-4. The PlayMemories software can be used to view all videos produced by the camera, and it can remove unwanted footage from your clip, or save a frame as a still image. While it can convert videos to WMV format, they'll be VGA quality. PMH can also burn videos to Blu-ray or DVD discs. If you want to use a commercial product to edit your videos and plan on using the AVCHD Progressive (1080/60p) mode, check with your software manufacturer to make sure you can actually edit the video.
Good news on the video front for Mac users: you can now import AVCHD Progressive video directly into Final Cut Pro X or iMovie '11, without the need for a middleman. The only negative I could find is that playback in FCP was rather choppy (the movie itself played fine once exported).
Sample Video 1
Below is a sample movie that I took at the 1080/60p setting. I converted it using Final Cut Pro X into a QuickTime movie, but don't worry: the original MTS file is available for download, too.
|Download original MTS file 1920 x 1080, 60 fps, 41.9 MB, QuickTime/H.264 format|
Sample Video 2
Another sample video taken at the HX20V's highest quality video setting, and you can see, there's bags of detail in this footage. This clip also demonstrates another of the HX20V's strengths - its capable sensor-based image stabilization system, which has kept this footage relatively wobble-free, despite being shot at the long end of the camera's zoom, hand-held, on a windy day.
|Download original movie 1920 x 1080, 60 fps, 45.1 MB, QuickTime/H.264 format|
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