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Sony HDR-CX115E review

Ben Pitt
20 Apr 2010
Sony HDR-CX115E
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
400
inc VAT

A well balanced, attractively priced AVCHD camera, but pipped to the post by the slightly better Panasonic HDC-SD60

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Specifications

1/4in CMOS sensor, 1,920x1,080, 1,440x1,080, 720x576, 25.0x zoom, 210g

Solid-state AVCHD cameras tend to be small but the CX115 is absolutely tiny. It’s still comfortable to hold and use, though, with a familiar layout of buttons and touchscreen controls. The black finish looks smart, but it’s also available in blue or red.

It’s surprisingly well specified considering that this is Sony’s cheapest AVCHD camera. The 1/4in sensor diagonal is typical for the price but the 25x zoom range is impressive. So, too, is the inclusion of optical stabilisation to avoid wobbly camerawork, especially when zoomed right in. The 124-minute battery life is welcome, and charging is reasonably quick at 84 minutes.

There’s no memory on board – if that’s important, buy the CX155, which includes 16GB and costs £448 inc VAT. One feature we don’t appreciate is the use of Memory Stick Pro Duo cards. Whereas a 16GB SDHC card costs around £25, 16GB of Sony’s proprietary format costs twice as much. Each 16GB card stores a couple of hours of footage, so if you need two or three, the price really starts to rocket.

There are some smart design flourishes in the touchscreen menu system, such as how clip thumbnails are grouped by date as they’re browsed for playback. There’s even an option to show all the faces that appear in each clip, and jump directly to the relevant section. We found the revamped shooting menu, where everything appears in one long list, to be slower to navigate than the tabbed layout in Sony’s older video cameras.

The default recording mode captured video at 1,440x1,080 pixels per frame rather than the top quality 1,920x1,080 setting. We strongly recommend switching from HD HQ to HD FH or the top quality HD FX setting as soon as you get the camera out of the box. The HD FX mode is a new option for Sony AVCHD cameras, and records at 24Mbit/s. The resulting files are huge and hard work for PCs to edit, but they provide a welcome boost in image quality in fast-moving scenes.

Those who like to experiment with advanced settings will be disappointed by the lack of progressive scan shooting. Manual focus and exposure are controlled either by touching part of the screen or by adjusting up and down using on-screen buttons, but there’s no independent control of shutter speed and iris. There’s a good helping of features aimed at casual users, though, such as the ability to record short slow-motion clips and smile detection for the camera function.

The CX115 performed well in our video quality tests, with pleasing colours and lots of detail in well-lit conditions and reasonably low noise in low light. However, when we conducted further tests alongside its closest competitor, the Panasonic SD60, it was the Panasonic that edged into the lead.

The CX115's autofocus wasn’t quite as responsive, its face detection wasn’t as effective at coping with a strong backlight and it suffered more from lens flare in sunlight. Both cameras have an impressive 25x zoom range, but the Panasonic extends further towards wide-angle shooting, making it more versatile. It also has an LED lamp for video and a flash for photos in low light, while the Sony has neither.

We’d be very happy to own the CX115, but there’s nothing here that the Panasonic SD60 can’t do, and often that little bit better.

Basic Specifications

Rating****

Recording

Optical zoom25.0x
Digital zoom300x
Sensor1/4in CMOS
Sensor pixels4,200,000
Widescreen modenative
LCD screen size2.7in
Viewfinder typenone
Video lampNo
Video recording formatAVCHD
Video recording mediaMemory Stick Pro Duo
SoundDolby Digital Stereo
Video resolutions1,920x1,080, 1,440x1,080, 720x576
Maximum image resolution2,048x1,536
Memory slotMemory Stick Pro Duo
Mermory suppliednone
Flashno

Physical

Digital inputs/outputsUSB Hi-speed
Analogue inputs/outputsAV out, component out, mini HDMI out
Other connectionscharge jack
Battery type7V 1,000mAh Li-ion
Battery life2h 4m
Battery charging positioncamcorder
Size56x50x106mm
Weight210g

Buying Information

Warrantyone-year RTB
Price£400
Supplierhttp://www.amazon.co.uk
Detailswww.sony.co.uk

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