Sony Handycam HDR-XR350V Camcorder Review
Lens & Imaging System
The lens on the HDR-XR350V has one of the widest recording angles we've seen on a consumer camcorder. It records at an even wider angle than the Sony HDR-CX550V, which previously held the crown for having the widest-angle lens we've tested (66.5° compared to 68° on the XR350V). Now, having a lens with that big of a recording angle can be good, as it does allow you to capture more within the frame, but it also means you have to use more zoom and you may run into some fish-eye distortion when you are shooting very close to a subject (the edges of the frame appear to bend and warp). It's also easy to accidentally catch parts of your fingers or hand wandering into the frame while you're shooting, mainly because the recording angle is so large.
In contrast, the CMOS sensor on the HDR-XR350V is nothing special. The sensor is the same 1/4-inch size that you'll find on most mid-range camcorders like the Canon HF M31, Panasonic HDC-HS60, Samsung HMX-H200, and the JVC GZ-HD620.
Since the HDR-XR350V doesn't have an electronic viewfinder, you have to do all your recording using the 2.7-inch touchscreen LCD. The LCD is of average size, but we found the screen a bit too small to accommodate Sony's touchscreen interface comfortably. We didn't have nearly as much of a problem using the touchscreen with the Sony HDR-CX550V and it's 3.5-inch LCD as we did on the XR350V and its smaller screen. We wish manufacturers would increase the size of the screens on mid-range camcorders, particularly on models like the HDR-XR350V that rely on its touchscreen interface so heavily.
The HDR-XR350V has a few different connectivity ports located at various spots on the camcorder. Inside the LCD cavity you'll find the HDMI and USB ports hiding behind a small, flimsy panel that flips down. This is the weakest port cover on the camcorder, although it's also probably the least important. Even if this cover were to break, these two ports would still be protected by the LCD panel when it's closed.
On the right side of the XR350V is a thicker, sturdier port cover that conceals the DC-input and Sony's proprietary AV Terminal. This AV port works with the provided AV and Component cables, as well as being compatible with a variety of Sony-proprietary cables (like S-Video and LANC). You must purchase these proprietary cables separately, however, as they do not come with the camcorder.
There is a powered (hot) accessory shoe on the top of the camcorder that is also Sony-proprietary, which means you can only use Sony accessories with the shoe unless you purchase a third-party adapter. The cover for the shoe doesn't slide open like it does on other Sony models. Instead, you pop the cover open and it hangs out at a roughly 45-degree angle. We feel like this design may be more durable than a sliding mechanism, but it does make the cover a bit obstructive when you are attaching accessories.
Oops! We almost overlooked the memory card slot on the HDR-XR350V. That's because it is located on the bottom of the camcorder in a hard-to-find location. The card slot is right next to the battery release button, and we're sure there are some people out there who will accidentally push the battery release switch thinking it has something to do with opening the card slot door. It doesn't. You simply open the door by pulling on it, and it does have a fairly strong, flexible design. The door stays open at a slight angle, but you can open it farther by applying more pressure (a spring will bring it back to the angled position, however). We assume this is so you don't accidentally snap off the cover if you forget to close it and you put the camcorder down, so we like this design... although, we'd still prefer the memory card slot to be inside the LCD cavity instead of on the bottom of the camcorder.
The battery compartment has a bit of an odd design that can make it difficult to remove and insert new battery packs. Instead of a grooved, sliding battery insertion, you must fit the battery pack in awkwardly by clicking the top part into the camcorder first at an angle and then inserting the bottom portion of the battery. Once the battery is inserted correctly it stays put quite well, it's just a bit awkward getting it into the camcorder in the first place. Find out how the performed in our battery life test./r:link_to_content
The HDR-XR350V is an HDD camcorder, which means it has a built-in hard drive that is used to store video and photo recordings. The internal hard drive is quite large, coming in at 160GB, but it also adds a bit of bulk to the right side of the camcorder (and makes things a bit uncomfortable). If you don't like recording to the internal hard drive, or if 160GB of space isn't enough for you, you can also record to memory cards on the HDR-XR350V. One of the best features about the XR350V, along with most new Sony camcorders, is the fact that it is compatible with both Memory Stick PRO Duo and SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards.
The 160GB internal hard drive will give you tons of record time—even at the highest quality setting. The table below breaks down how much video you can store on the internal hard drive with each record setting, along with the approximate record times when using a 4GB memory card. Read more about the advantages and disadvantages of various media types.