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Sony NEX-VG20H Interchangeable Lens Camera Review

Sony NEX-VG20H Interchangeable Lens Camera Review

For this price you get a solid camera with many available interchangeable lenses and more on the way.

Upon first glance the NEX-VG20H looks as if someone attached the lens of a DSLR onto the body of a Sony Handycam. The shiny metal lens is a great contrast to the black matte body of the camera. With a huge zoom ring and a good size focus ring on the lens, you know this camera means business. When you get the camera into your hands you can feel the camera body is perfectly balanced without the lens on it, then you add the lens and you'll find that it is obviously front heavy. The lens weighs 19.1oz. and the camera body weighs 22.8oz. Our wrists started to ache with the anticipation of holding it during a shoot.

Quality and Flexibility

This small-bodied camcorder is a perfect grab if you want a high quality shoot on the go. When you put your hand through the camera strap you feel the rubbery gripping texture of the camera that will resist slippage. The record button is conveniently placed right at thumb level so you can start and stop easily. Just above the record button is a mode button so you can easily switch between the picture and video modes of this camera. Awkwardly, right where you put your pointer finger on the top of the camera is the photo button, which gets easily confused with the record button. If you have great pinky dexterity you can reach the expanded focus and record buttons closer towards the lens.

When you open the 3-inch 16:9 viewfinder you will find six helpful buttons; iris, playback, shutter speed, display, program AE, and finder/LCD. These buttons provide easy access to the more important functions that you will be changing often. Other items such as the white balance, zebra, and peaking switches could be found in the camera menu. The best feature about this camera is the interchangeable lens that can give you more of a DSLR look. With the inclusion of a remote you can be the star in the shots as you record them. The image quality that we saw in the playback was very rich with colors in bright light. When shooting people, their skin color was very true to life while the details in facial wrinkles were crisp and clear.

Features

The NEX-VG20 works with the Sony E-mount lenses. With the launch of this camera came a few new lenses and the E-mount variety is scheduled to amount to 13 total lenses by the end of 2013, this is a great camera to get your hands on. This is the second generation of the NEX camcorder series with the inner components of the NEX and the frame of a traditional camera.

Upgrades

While comparing the NEX-VG10 to the VG20 you'll see some great upgrades. The frame rate for shooting video from the VG10 is only 30p but the VG20 adds three, 24p, 60p and 60i. The focus and audio features have also been improved from the VG10. First, the auto focus has been sped up and a manual focus assist function has been added to allow for magnified display. Second, the audio can now record 5.1 channel surround sound and includes a full audio level control. The CMOS chip set has been increased to 16.1MP for higher resolution photos with the camcorder. The pictures can be captured in the RAW or JPEG format and saved on either a Memory Stick PRO Duo or SD cards.

The included lens kit comes with an optical zoom ratio of 18-200mm with optical steady shot capability to get nice depth of field shots. The focus can be automatic or adjusted via a manual ring that moves quite smoothly. The focus goes from 1 to 1,932-feet and is very sensitive to the ring movement. The faster you move the ring the faster it will focus and it will actually skip numbers to focus faster, too. The auto focus is a bit slow to respond especially if you are in a low light situation. It is nearly impossible to switch the focus between foreground and background items in the automatic focus setting.

We found we shook the camera a lot when doing hand-held shooting while zooming in because the ring seems harder to turn the more you zoom in. Zooming out is a bit easier but still shaky. We had to use one hand to hold the front-heavy camera while rotating the wheel. Those quirks would be eliminated with a tripod.

Audio

The only mic on the camera is the 5.1 onboard mic which picks up a lot of sound from the surrounding environment. In the onboard camera menu you can switch between 5.1 channel surround and the 2 channel stereo. There are three options in the audio menu: wind noise reduction, audio mode, and audio record level; that means that you need to go to the menu every time you want to change the level of the audio you are capturing. While shooting with this camera we did notice that the mic was picking up the noise of the zoom ring as it moved. The playback did reveal that the audio picked up a good mix of high and low audio tones. There is a jack for headphones and jack for an 1/8-inch mic which is a stereo. It also has hot and cold shoes so you can add a couple attachments.

After running this camera through a variety of tests and different shooting scenarios we believe this camera would be a very good choice for your advanced shooting needs. The strength definitely lies in the lens and high-end inner components, which makes the video a beautiful version of the real world. The hand-holding weaknesses can be mostly eliminated when you put the camera on a tripod. With the new lenses coming out, this camera is perfect for the medium to high-end buyer who wants the functions of a camcorder with the look that you get from a DSLR camera.

Tech Specs

Storage Media: Memory Stick PRO Duo/Pro-HG Duo/PRO-HG HX Duo media, SD/SDHC/SDXC
Sensor: large Exmor APS HD CMOS
Effective Pixels: Effective Picture Resolution: Approx. 16.1 megapixels(3:2 Still)/Approx. 13.6 megapixels(16.9 movie)
HD Modes: AVCHD, 1920x1080; 60p/60i/24p (FX/FH); FX- 24Mbps, FH - 17Mbps; 1440x1080: 60I, HQ - 9Mbps
File Format: JPEG/JPEG+RAW/RAW, HD: AVCHD 2.0 (MPEG-4 AVC (H.264)), STD:MPEG2-PS
Video Resolution: 1920x1080 captured @ 30p (29.97p), recorded in AVCHD 60i (59.95i)
Focus: Auto/Manual
Iris: 9 lux (Shutter speed: 1/60, Iris: F3.5, Gain: Auto)
Shutter Speed Range: Auto: 1/30 - 1/4000 (Movie) , 30 seconds - 1/4000 (Still); Manual: 1/4 - 1/4000 (Movie) , 30 seconds - 1/4000 (Still)
White Balance: Auto/Manual/Onepush/Presets
LCD Monitor Dimensions: 3"
Video Out: SD: Composite, Component, S-Video(not included)
Internal Microphone: Quad Capsule Spatial Array stereo mic
Microphone In: Yes
Headphone Jack: Yes
Speaker: Yes
Battery Type: InfoLITHIUMwith AccuPower Meter System (V Series) NP-FV70/FV100
Accessory Shoe: hot and cold
Dimensions (body only): Approx. 8.75" x 3.50" x 5.25"
Weight: 2.9lbs. (with battery and SEL18200 LENS)

Strengths

  • Great interchangeable lenses
  • Small/powerful body
  • 5.1 channel surround audio capturing

Weaknesses

  • Front heavy
  • Not so smooth zoom ring
  • Not the best in low light

Summary

For this price you get a solid camera with many available interchangeable lenses and more on the way.

Sony Electronics Inc.
www.sony.com
Price: $2,200

Andy Scheblein is a freelance graphic designer, videographer, and animator.

Tags:  May 2012
Andy
Scheblein
Tue, 05/01/2012 - 12:00am

Comments

Hakim Benkrid's picture

Hello Andy, Thaks for the revue since I am thinking of upgrading from my NEX-VG10. One thing I want to point out that would help me a great deal: I shoot with the VG10 FUll HD and edit in FCPX. My first frame info in FCPX says 29.97i. Can you confirm that the VG10 shoots actually progressive? and if this is the case, should then I ought to change the project properties to 1080/29.97p? thanks for the help. Hakim NEX-VG10, FCPX, iMac i5 8GB RAM, 27"
Orpheus's picture

One of my friend's owns this camera and he helped me shoot a short video. I couldn't figure out why my footage looked so bad. I was using Adobe Premiere Pro CS 5.5 and After effects 5.5. It turned out, I had to set the output settings to progressive, and it finally de-interlaced the video and looked good. I still can't figure out why Premiere had so many problems with outputting the video properly, or why after effects would put the video in a 4:3 aspect ratio, which premiere would have to correct every time I pulled in an effects shot, but alas, I got it to work "good enough" for the project.