Traditionally, still point-and-shoot cameras, not video cameras, were pocket sized. But Sony are out to debunk that theory if the new Sony HDR-TG1 is anything to go by.
The HDR-TG1 is a solid state AVCHD video camera which means it records in Full HD (1920 x 1080) onto solid state memory (Memory Stick Pro Duo), instead of using standard DV tapes.
First, the specs. In the HDR-TG1, Sony have created the smallest full HD camcorder and dressed it in a scratch resistant Titanium body. Like other recent Sony imaging products, the HDR-TG1 has face detection technology so the camera automatically adjusts focus, colour control and brightness when it senses a camera in the shot.
It’s also got a zoom microphone which adjusts the senstivity of the microphone in line with the lens zoom – to focus on the subjects image as well as voice. Other features like Quick On let you start recording in 1 second, and a 4 Mega Pixel still camera, with flash and red-eye reduction, mean that HDR-TG1 is a jack-of-all-trades.
I’m already used to shooting in HD. I’ve had a HDR-HC7 for about a year now. It’s a great camera but because it’s tape based, it’s actually bigger than my old SD camera, an obvious step down in portability. But Sony have changed the game with the HDR-TG1. It only weighs 280 grams and easily fits in one hand. It’s the sort of camera my wife seems happy to carry in her handbag.
I’ve been testing the HDR-TG1 for about a month now and have been genuinely impressed. The picture quality is superb, the battery life is reasonable (I got about 90 minutes out of a charge) and the camera is comfortable in hand.
The zoom controls take a little getting used to, and are mounted on the same control that changes the camera modes. Like other Sony camcorders, the HDR-TG1 also comes with a touch sensitive LCD screen. This is the primary method of interacting with the camera.
Menu controls are logically laid out, and flicking between previously recorded scenes is easy and fast.
The HDR-TG1 records in the AVCHD format. When AVCHD was first released there wasn’t much you could do with it as iMovie ’06 didn’t support the new codec. However, with iLife ’08 Apple introduced full support for the AVCHD codec.
AVCHD makes it much faster and easier to download your video from memory stick to your computer – something you’ll need to do frequently given the relatively high price of flash memory compared to older style DV tapes. Because the camera captures footage in scenes or chapters, you can import individual scenes or the entire card into iMovie.
I didn’t notice a difference between editing HDV and AVCHD footage on my MacBook Pro, and both formats looked superb when viewed on my LG plasma.
The trick for buyers of any flash-based camera is to carefully manage their footage once it’s removed from the memory stick. With tapes it’s easy: you simply stick the tape in a drawer and forget about it. Because solid state memory is still too expensive, you’ll need to carefully consider the backup routines you use to store your footage.
Pricing for the HDR-TG1 is $1399, but you’ll be able to find better deals on sites like eBay. At that price, the HDR-TG1 is a great camera for the tech-savy enthusiast, and cheap and robust enough to survive in any woman’s handbag.
Australian Macworld Buying Advice. The HDR-TG1 is Sony’s smallest full HD camcorder. It’s a pint sized camcorder that can easily fit in any bag and makes a perfect travel companion. The on-board zoom controls take a little getting used to and the lens isn’t wide angle enough. But if you’re confident recording on to flash memory and using your computer to backup your footage, the HDR-TG1 is a great camcorder and a pleasure to use.