My parents used to drag a tank of a camcorder to the memorable events of my childhood. It was bulky, could barely focus, and the audio had a distinct Darth Vader quality.
The mess of cables from the camcorder to the television created an impenetrable web of confusion, making the playback a unique adventure. Fortunately, Sony has made video capture and playback a breeze with the new Handycam HDR-PJ650V. It has a built-in projector in a versatile LCD screen for instant playback and allows you to project images and videos from your computer or smartphone.
The Handycam's features are impressive. When recording, you can either use the LCD touchscreen or the viewfinder with the LCD screen giving easier access to switching between features on the menu. The Smile Shutter setting on the Handycam allows for a photo to be taken automatically during a recording when a smile is detected. This feature became a game in our house as we competed to see who could get the most auto photos taken of a fake smile. You can take photos anytime while you record by simply pressing the Photo button when you spot a memorable moment.
The Balanced Optical SteadyShot feature has taken away the Blair Witch effect from home movies. When I watch my son's recorded soccer games, I usually have to pop a Dramamine to combat the motion sickness from the bouncing picture. However, this key feature eliminates the shakiness and offers smooth, aesthetically pleasing images. With the GPS function on, your movies and pictures will be automatically labeled with the location information. Even if you don't know where you are, the camera does. You can also playback your videos and images based on a map view. For example, you may only want to show someone your home videos from Cancun. Select the map view, and the photos and videos taken at that specific location are grouped together. You can even find your location with the Handycam. The next time you find yourself far from camp while the camera will provide the map view along with the latitude and longitude coordinates of your location. Not only will you be able to find your way through the forest, but you can try your luck at Geocaching.
One of the most interesting features in the Sony Handycam is the built-in projector located in the LCD screen. You can playback your recordings and images almost immediately as long as you have a flat, white surface and dim lighting. If you prefer to view the images on your television, you also have the option of connecting the camera to your TV with the provided HDMI cable. However, I am more of a no-strings attached kind of girl, so this projector fits my needs. With a resolution of 640 x 360, the projected images are reasonably crisp and detailed, even up to 100 inches diagonal, but it does not reproduce the full HD resolution that the Handycam captures. If you want to see the results of your movie-making in full resolution, you can play it back on a high def TV, or better yet display it on a super large screen with one of today's amazing home theater projectors.
Despite it's low resolution, the on-board projector was invaluable when it came to my son's training. If he was struggling with a particular move, we would playback the video on the concrete floor in a dark section of the facility to assess it with his coach for immediate correction. Since I was projecting onto the ground while I was standing, the largest image produced was 30 inches diagonal. This size was ideal for the trace amount of light filling the corner and the clarity of the recorded images allowed me to read the brand name on my son's cleats.
The Handycam's built-in projector will not only display videos and images taken by the camera, but you can hook up your computer or smartphone to it as well. Using my Apple digital AV adapter (sold separately), I was able to connect the Handycam to my iPhone 4s with the provided HDMI cable. My youngest found a dark corner and was able to entertain himself and a couple of friends by projecting Adventure Time with the Handycam via Netflix on my phone.
Setting up the Handycam was relatively easy; it's a matter of attaching the battery pack and connecting it to your wall socket via the included AC adapter. It has a short, built-in USB cable that nestles nicely into the hand strap, which also gives you the option of charging through your laptop. If the built-in cable is too short, Sony provides a USB support cable that simply extends the length. The only disadvantage is that charging through your computer takes roughly double the time (2 hours versus 4 hours). After the battery has charged, you are ready to start your double life as a semi-professional camera person.
The Handycam's built-in projector only puts out 20 lumens, so a well-lit area is your enemy if you want to use it. This poses an interesting dilemma since most of the time you are using this Handycam in the daylight or bright spaces. To overcome this issue, I found that keeping the projected image between 12 and 16 inches diagonal helped in the fight against light. If you want to enjoy a larger image, you will need a darker viewing area.
After two weeks with the Sony Handycam HDR-PJ650V, I have only encountered a few issues. First, when you use the projector, the LCD touchscreen goes black. If you do touch the screen, then the projector will automatically turn off. I would prefer being able to use the touchscreen over the provided remote control. The touchscreen is easy to navigate as you simply touch the feature you are trying to adjust. With the remote, I felt I had to click through the entire menu. Trust me, no one has time for that. Also, using the projector drains the battery faster. If you are away from a power source, then you have about 90 minutes of battery life if you don't use the projector. When recording my son's soccer session, I only got 60 minutes of operation due to the stop and start recording coupled with the intermittent projections. You absolutely must remember to bring your AC adapter or USB cable as back up.
The Sony Handycam HDR-PJ650V is packed full of features and options. The built-in projector proves to be more than just a novelty. You are no longer restricted to immediate playback on the tiny LCD screen. On a dark night if the streetlights are off, you can broadcast your child's first steps across your garage door at 100 inches for the entire neighborhood to applaud. For a retail price of $1100, you can perform the trifecta of family fun: recording moments, taking photos, and projecting everything on a life-size scale. Sony has taken the best of its technology and used it to create a camera that is multi-functional and, more importantly, easy to use.