Sony HDR-TG7VE review
1/5in CMOS sensor, 1,920x1,080, 1,440x1,080, 720x576, 10.0x zoom, 230g
Consumer video cameras tend to fall into two camps: barrel-shaped ones with advanced features and high prices, and mobile phone-shaped ones with basic features and low prices. The TG7 is a hybrid, with a flat, compact design but a proper zoom lens, advanced features and a high price to match. It’s bulkier than the likes of the Flip UltraHD but at 30mm thick it will fit into most trouser pockets.
The titanium shell looks extremely smart and should prove to be more resilient than the plastic bodies of other video cameras. A docking station is included for easy USB connection and charging, but it’s a shame that the HDMI port is in the dock rather than the camera, as this makes playback on other people’s TVs unlikely.
The compact design still has room for a 2.7in touchscreen LCD and a 10x zoom lens – not a huge zoom range but a considerable improvement on the non-zooming Flip cameras. However, the 1/5in sensor diameter is smaller than the Flip UltraHD's, and also Sony’s cheaper CX115E.
It’s not just the unusual design that helps to justify the TG7’s high price. There’s 16GB of internal memory, which saves around £40 on the cost of a 16GB Memory Stick Pro Duo card. It's a shame the camera doesn’t accept SDHC cards, as these cost half as much. There’s also a GPS receiver for tagging both photos and videos, and even built-in map data to plot videos and photos onto. Europe, USA, Japan, Australia and New Zealand have major roads, tourist attractions and parks included, while the rest of the world is represented by coastlines only.
It’s a startlingly sophisticated feature, but we do wonder whether the cost of implementing it outweighs the benefit it brings. It’s certainly fun, but the limited capacity makes it impossible to keep a globetrotter’s entire video collection permanently stored in the camera. Fortunately, the bundled software integrates Google Maps to plot all the GPS-tagged videos and photos on your PC’s hard disk. Unlike most bundled software, this photo- and video-management program is actually quite pleasant to use, and includes various other useful functions such as the ability to burn DVDs and AVCHD discs.
Geo-tagging aside, using the TG7 is a rewarding experience. The large record/pause button is encircled by a wheel for zooming, which makes single-handed operation easy. There’s a photo capture button, but all other controls are located in the touchscreen interface. The long list of options in the menu can be a little unwieldy to navigate but the most useful shooting functions such as spot focus and manual exposure are located towards the top.
Unfortunately, picture quality is a letdown. In bright light it wasn’t bad, but details weren’t as sharp as in clips from cameras with larger sensors. The 10x zoom range is relatively small and the widest focal length is quite narrow at 42mm (as a 35mm film camera equivalent). Noise was a big problem indoors, not just after dark in artificial light, but also during the day when there was a fair amount of sunlight coming through the window. Sound quality was excellent, though, with a confident, full-bodied tone and plenty of high-frequency crispness.
We can’t deny that we’re quite taken by the TG7, but it’s for gadget lovers more than video enthusiasts. We’d prefer a more conventional design that delivers better picture quality at a lower price.