The Sony HDR-TG1 Videocamera Review – You gotta get one of these…

by | Jul 21, 2008 | jahlberg

This is darn near the perfect videocamera for me. It is ultra portable, light, and takes great video. There are videocamera’s with better specs and maybe less expensive, but then again these camera’s are not nearly as portable and the quality is just marginally better (and some not nearly as good). I needed a videocamera that was small, light, worked as a digital still camera if ever needed, and took really good HD video (I didn’t need perfect quality, but it had to be really good). I was willing to pay for the portability and sacrifice some image quality if need be, but the image quality is stupendous so that was not a problem.

I picked the camera up a few weeks ago along with the travel kit accessory set that comes with an extra battery, portable charger, and travel case to fit it all. I also got an 8 gig memory stick to go along with the included 4 gig stick. I take video in small chunks so the 4 gig card, providing 28 minutes of the highest quality HD video, is enough for me for a normal day or two of video recording, but it is always a good idea to have an extra memory card. The 8 gig card can hold just shy of an hour of full HD video. If you need more space you can get a 16 gig card (expensive) or just lower the HD quality (bitrate) and pack more HD video on the card. You can also record SD video and get hours of video on a 4 gig card.

Specifications

  • 10 ounces including the battery
  • 4.7 ” High, 2.5″ Deep, and 1.3″ Wide
  • 2.7″ LCD screen
  • Media Type – Memory stick pro duo
  • 1920×1080 full HD
  • Pure titanium body with scratch resistant hard coated areas
  • 10x Carl Zeiss Vario-Tesser lens
  • List for $899 but you can pick one up for the low $700’s on the Internet

Cool Features

  • No tapes needed – this camera is one of the new breed of machines that only use memory cards for storage. This helps with the size and weight of the camera since you can pack an hour or more of HD video on something smaller than a postage stamp.
  • Touch screen LCD – although not novel or new, it does help getting around the user interface and it is pretty responsive with not a lot of re-presses to get something activated.
  • Face detection – While taking video’s and still pictures, the camera will automatically highlight faces (up to 8) with moving boxes on the LCD screen with the boxes jumping around tracking people. While this can get a bit annoying (the feature can be turned off) it is amazing to see it recognize all of the faces. The system does this to accentuate face detail on the recording and will ensure they all remain in focus. The really cool feature for this is that it keeps an index of faces allowing you to pull up a screen of faces and touch one and it takes you to that scene of video.
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound – Yes this little camera has 5 microphones and records in surround sound. It also has a zoom microphone, which in theory, will zoom in the sounds as you zoom in the picture.
  • Comes with everything you need (almost) – The camera includes a 4 gig memory card (which can store 28 minutes of the highest quality HD video), s-video cable, component video cables, usb cable, AC adaptor, and a cool little convenient docking station. The only thing that is missing is a micro HDMI cable.
  • Super Slow Motion Mode – There is a simple setting that allows you to take 240 frames per second SD video for a short burst (several seconds) providing a super slow motion video. Not very practical but interesting and allows you to check out your gold swing.

What I really like

  • Size – This camera is small enough to put in your pocket and light enough to not be too bothered by it.
  • Power on/off – Just open the LCD screen and the unit powers on and when you close the lid, it powers off. Very intuitive.
  • Instant on – You can set a feature so that when you close the LCD to power the camera off, it goes in to a very low power state so that when you open the LCD again, it is ready to record almost instantly.
  • LCD display – The 2.7 inch screen looks great from all angles and even in direct sunlight.
  • Fit and finish – Being that is is made out of pure titanium, it feels very solid and looks good. Closing the LCD screen feels solid like closing a car door. The entire unit exudes quality.
  • One button DVD recording – The unit comes with a small docking station. You can pop it in and press the DVD button and it will automatically convert the HD video to DVD and burn a disk. It works great, although there are not a lot of features to customize. You do get the menu’s and can jump to specific sections are just watch the whole DVD.
  • Auto lens cap – Seems like a simple thing, but my other videocamera had a flopping lens cap that hand to be taken off and placed back on whenever the camera was used. The TG1 has a built-in cover that auto opens and closes which is a small thing but a big plus.
  • Battery life – the battery will last easily long enough for most video needs. The rated time is 120 minutes, but expect to get about 60 minutes with normal start/stop video recording.

What could use some improvement

  • Memory sticks – Although not a huge deal, the camera uses Sony memory sticks rather than the ubiquitous SD cards. The only real downside is cost since a new memory stick will cost about twice what a SD card costs.
  • Digital camera usage – it works, but is not the best quality being that it is 2 megs, but uses a 4 meg interpolation. It is not terrible, but then again I do not rely on the device being my full time digital camera.
  • Low light – since the videocamera is so small it uses a smaller image CMOS so it is to be expected that in low light conditions, it may struggle. It tries hard and does a good job in low light but I wish it did a better job. Nothing to really complain about though, but it is noticeable.
  • AVCHD – This is the standard that this camera and other flash memory camcorders use. Although not just related to this camcorder, there are some drawbacks to this new format. Being that AVCHD uses a high level of compression, it takes a lot of PC horsepower to edit the video’s and convert them to DVD or Blueray. Be prepared to wait a long time unless you have a new PC with a lot of RAM and processor. You will also need to purchase a 3rd party software to fully edit your video’s.

What I don’t like There is very little that I do not like about the camera. I do not like the fact that it comes with every cable needed under the sun, except a micro HDMI cable to plug it in your TV. What’s up with that.

Pictures

The pictures below show the TG1 compared to my Verizon XV6800 phone/PDA.

 

John Ahlberg, CEO, Waident Technology Solutions

John Ahlberg
CEO, Waident

CIO in the corporate world and now for Waident clients. John injects order and technology into business process to keep employees productive, enterprises running, and data safe.

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