Sony HDR-CX700V Camcorder Review
Lens & Imaging System
The lens and sensor on the HDR-CX700V is _slightly_different than the setup on the previous flagship Handycam from Sony, the HDR-CX550V. The new camcorder has the same amount of optical zoom (10x), and its lens still has a widest aperture setting of f/1.8, but the focal length has been altered slightly (see the table below for exact details). Sony also increased the pixel count of the image sensor on the HDR-CX700V, but the sensor is still the same size as what was inside last year's HDR-CX550V.
The camcorder comes with a large lens hood that can be attached to the front of the camcorder. The hood isn't all that durable, but it is a good thing to have if you're shooting in a space with lots of glare. Attaching the hood does make the CX700V less portable, however, so don't bring it along unless you're comfortable with the extra bulk.
LCD & Viewfinder
Here's something we haven't seen before: the HDR-CX700V has a smaller LCD than its predecessor, the HDC-CX550V. Yes, Sony reduced the size of the screen by 1/2 an inch, but, in Sony's defense, the CX700V is quite a bit thinner than the CX550V. Still, we don't personally mind having a bit more bulk if it means the LCD is half an inch larger, but that's just us. Maybe there are users out there who don't care if the LCD is only 3 inches in size. After all, it was only a few years ago that the standard LCD was a measly 2.7-inches (and this is still the norm for low-end and mid-range models).
At least Sony did something smart by retaining the 921,000-pixel resolution of the LCD. This means the LCD still delivers clarity and detail, which are necessities when you're trying to make precise adjustments to things like focus or exposure. The LCD has two brightness options (normal and bright), and it uses a touchscreen interface. It is when you use this touchscreen system that you really start to miss the larger screen space on the LCD. A smaller screen means there's more clutter and touch-buttons take up more space.
The HDR-CX700V is Sony's flagship model for 2011, and that means it comes with a tiny viewfinder. Viewfinders, which were a staple of the camcorder industry many years ago, have been phased out on all but the top camcorders from each manufacturers. In all honesty, the viewfinder on the back of the CX700V barely deserves to be called viewfinder at all. It has a terrible hard-plastic eyepiece, it offers a meager 0.2-inch screen inside, and it does not pivot or tilt. It does extend about a 1/2 inch out from the camcorder, and it has a respectable resolution of 201,600 pixels, but that's about all the praise we're willing to give it. Oh, it also has a diopter adjustment dial on its right side.
We don't want to give you the impression that the HDR-CX700V's viewfinder is that much worse than what the competition offers. The viewfinder on the Panasonic TM900 is slightly better, only because its eyepiece offers a tiny bit more cover. Same goes with the Canon HF G10's viewfinder. Frankly, we haven't seen a consumer camcorder with a "good" viewfinder in many years. You'll have to upgrade to a pro model if you want that kind of luxury!
The CX700V is outfitted with several crafty port covers, most of which slide open in a smooth manner to reveal assorted terminals, jacks, and other connectivity features. Let's start on the right side of the camcorder, where the CX700 plays host to a number of enticing ports. For starters, there's the sly USB cable that tucks into the side of the camcorder's hand strap. This built-in cable means you don't have to remember to pack a bulky USB connector with you when you take the CX700V on vacation. The built-in USB cable isn't perfect—it is too short and it makes the hand strap a bit rigid—but it is certainly a boon to portability.
Also on the right side are two port covers, the larger of which is a sliding door near the back of the camcorder. We like that this cover is well labeled (Sony does a good job with labels all-around), and it slides open with ease to reveal the 3.5mm mic jack, 3.5mm headphone jack, and the multi-AV port. The AV port has a Sony-proprietary connector, but it works with the provided AV/Component cable and it can be used with Sony-accessory wired remotes.
Towards the front of the camcorder is a small door that flips upward to show off the DC-input port. This port cover opens decently, but it doesn't feel as strong as the sliding port cover near the back. It sticks out from the camcorder, which makes it uncomfortable to leave open, and it looks like it could snap off if you push it with excessive force.
More ports are inside the LCD cavity behind a thin sliding door. This is where the memory card slot, HDMI, and USB ports are. We're happy to see the USB terminal here in addition to the built-in USB cable. It simply gives you more options for connecting the CX700V to a computer, and in this case more options is a good thing. One thing to note: the HDR-CX700V doesn't come with a USB cable that connects to this USB terminal. The cable that ships with the camcorder is a USB extender that can attach to the built-in USB cable on the right side of the camcorder. This doesn't bother us too much, though. If you're anything like us, you probably have a bunch of USB cables laying around that you can use with the HDR-CX700V.
Finally, there is a powered accessory shoe on the top of the HDR-CX700V, and it is also positioned behind a sliding cover. The shoe is proprietary (just like the multi-AV port), so it only will fit Sony-made accessories. Third-party adapters are available, but Sony won't guarantee their success (or even admit that they exist).
As with most high-end camcorders, the CX700V has an open battery compartment that can accommodate larger battery packs. So, if the 133-minute performance isn't good enough for you, you can always go and purchase a larger battery from Sony to use as a backup. Find out how the performed in our battery life test./r:link_to_content
If you've got a thing for flash memory, then you'll love the Sony HDR-CX700V. The camcorder is loaded with 96GB of internal flash memory, and a dual-format memory card slot that works with both SD and Memory Stick cards. To be specific, the card slot works with Memory Stick PRO Duo and Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo cards, as well as SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards. The card slot is located inside the LCD cavity, behind a sliding door that also covers the USB and HDMI ports.
This gives you a ton of media options to work with, and, honestly, the 96GB of internal flash memory will take you a while to fill unless you're shooting tons of HD video at the highest quality settings. If you're the kind of person who doesn't like to backup your footage to disc, computer, or hard drive, the HDR-CX700V's multitude of media settings may be right up your alley. Read more about the advantages and disadvantages of various media types.