Ever since I bought for my wife the Sanyo HD2000 camcorder, I was smitten by the video bug. As I used the HD2000 more and more, I became less satisfied and wanted something better especially after taking some videos for my church functions. The major disadvantage of the Sanyo HD2000 is of course the poor image stabilisation and the shifting of focus when lighting changes. Thus I began looking for an alternative. I bumped into a Sony Store one day and tried out the latest range of Sony camcorders. I expected the new range to cost higher than the previous range because of many new features and was surprised that they are actually cheaper than last year's models considering the extra features.
I was considering the 150, 350 and 550 series. The 150's were ruled out because they do not have optical image stabilisation and thus may not be much better than the HD2000. The 550's was not considered because of the bulk and I do not need the extra features that came with additional cost. I focused on the 350 range as the price seems to offer the best value for money.
Next to consider was which model in the 350 range. The flash memory or the HDD version? After having gone through the hassle of carrying an external HDD with my HD2000 in my trip to Turkey the last year using the direct transfer to HDD function, I opted for the XR350E that has an internal 160GB HDD as I will be going on a 14 days trip to Germany. (In fact will be leaving tomorrow!) Thus I ended with the Sony HDR-XR350E, to give its full name.
I did not have much time to play with it since I was very busy with a fund raising project for my church. But briefly, below are my first impressions, compared with the Sanyo HD2000.
*Image stabilisation - Sony wins hands down. It is rock steady at normal use and very stable even while walking and also at full zoom.
*Auto focus - Sony wins again, it is faster and does not shifts like in the Sanyo.
*Handling - I find the Sanyo easier to handle with the pistol grip maybe because I am used to it. The Sanyo is both smaller and lighter.
*Menu - The Sanyo's menu is more intuitive and more user friendly and I can reach what I want most of the time without referring to the manual. The Sony menu is more puzzling and even the manual itself is not very clear. Again this may be I have been using the Sanyo for a longer period of time.
*Manual - the Sanyo is again more user friendly. The Sony refers you to another Handbook for more information but it contains a lot of duplicated information from the manual. Might just as well have one combined use manual.
*Lens - Sony G lens is very sharp even at full zoom and it is wide-angled, Sony wins.
*Video quality - Sanyo has 1080p while Sony only 1080i but cannot see the difference on a HDTV. For normal shooting both are adequate unless one does a side by side comparison. The Sony also has less lens flare compared to the Sanyo (from my shooting thus far.)
*Editing - the Sanyo has very simple to use built-in basic editing functions; Sony's are hidden and yet to tried out. Sanyo seems to have more useful visible video information like length of each video clip.
*Connection - The Sanyo uses a normal HDMI cable while Sony needs the mini HDMI version which is more costly and harder to find.
*Media - The Sony at last can take the SDHC card. Previously, I never considers a Sony since it takes only the Sony memory stick.
*Built-in mic - Sanyo seems to sound better but this is not really a side by side test.
*Interface - Sony uses the more trendy touch-screen while Sanyo the more traditional buttons and navigational keys which at times are more positive.
The Sony seems to have more auto features while the Sanyo has more manual settings but I did not have time to test them all but Sanyo appears to be more user-friendly for first time users. I will be using my Sony XR350 while my wife will be using her Sanyo HD2000 on our trip to Germany so when we are back, I will be giving a full shoot-out report later in June. So stay tuned.