1/2.88 CMOS sensor, 1,920x1,080, 10.0x zoom, 645g
Apart from the HDR-TD20VE, which is designed specifically for 3D, the HDR-730XE is the top of Sony's current camcorder range. It's a Full HD camcorder with a 10x optical zoom, 17x zoom, a back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor and plenty of I/O ports, as well as a powered accessory shoe. There's also an electronic viewfinder, and all this puts it up against Panasonic's range-topping HC-X900. There's one big difference; instead of the Panasonic camcorder's separate 1/4.1in sensors for red, green and blue light, the Sony camcorder has a single, large 1/2.88in sensor.
The camcorder's video quality is incredible. Footage looks natural, as if you’re viewing the scene with your own eyes, and the colours are astoundingly well reproduced. Not just the colours of the objects in immediate focus, but the yellow of a van in the distance, the blues, whites and greys of the clouds overhead and the greens of faraway trees. The detail is exquisite too, and the HDR-CX730E captures footage that’s truly worthy of the label Full HD. There are few signs of compression and the clarity with which scenes are rendered is breathtaking.
The little details impressed us even more, such as the clean, smooth edges of shadows dancing across the roof of a moving taxi or the brickwork of an adjacent building. These are things you don’t notice at the time, but nothing escaped the HDR-CX730E's attention.
A prime reason for the HDR-CX730E’s excellent image quality is its image stabilisation system, which is set to Active by default. As soon as you open the touchscreen monitor you can see the image stabiliser working its magic, keeping the camcorder as steady as possible and giving footage smooth, fluid motion. This is one of the best image stabilisers we’ve seen. When filming when walking around, it's even better than Panasonic's image stabilisation at avoiding the shakes.
Of course, the HDR-CX730E isn’t perfect. The camcorder's autofocus sometimes struggled while shooting indoors in relatively enclosed spaces, such as stairwells and our lift, which is something its closest rival – the Panasonic HC-X900 – didn’t do. As with all camcorders there's some noise in footage shot in very low light but, here again, Sony's model trumps the HC-X900 for low-light footage.