Sony Handycam HDR-XR350V Camcorder Review
Low Light Performance
Low Light Sensitivity
The HDR-XR350V offered mixed results in our low light sensitivity test, mainly due to a problem associated with the camcorder's wide angle lens. When we tested the camcorder normally, by using optical zoom to frame our test chart, the XR350V required 28 lux of light to register 50 IRE on our waveform monitor. This mediocre score is somewhat inaccurate, however, as the camcorder's aperture was forced to close down quite a bit as we zoomed in (because of the extreme wide angle lens). Most camcorders don't have this problem because the aperture doesn't need to close as much when we record a target that is just a few feet away. More on how we test low light sensitivity.
To accommodate for this problem, we also tested the HDR-XR350V without using any zoom (by framing our chart with the camcorder just a few inches away). Doing so resulted in a much better low light sensitivity, with the camcorder needing just 11 lux of light to reach the same levels on the waveform monitor. The lens records at such a wide angle, however, that it is unlikely most of your shots will be framed without any use of zoom. (Getting the camcorder really close to your subject also results in some fish-eye distortion at the edges of the frame.)
In the end, we took the average score from both of our low light sensitivity measurements with the camcorder in order to obtain a final score. We did the same thing with the Sony HDR-CX550V, which also has a lens with a very wide recording angle. Since we anticipate more camcorders with wide angle lenses hitting the market in the coming years, this issue is likely to come up again. We will update our testing rubric accordingly so we can compare the low light sensitivity of all camcorders on an even playing field.
Low Light Noise
Much like we saw in our bright light testing, the Sony HDR-XR350V did very well in our low light noise test as well. The camcorder measured 1.0225% noise in this test, which was better than any of the camcorders we compared it to (the Sony HDR-CX550V was very close, though). More on how we test low light noise.
While the HDR-XR350V did have low noise levels in this test, it also had a more blurred image than the competition. Its low light crop image above looks okay, but it clearly isn't as sharp as what you get from the Canon HF M31. Still, the Canon shows a lot more noise in its low light image, as does the Panasonic HDC-HS60. The Sony HDR-CX550V had the best low light performance of the models in this set, but it's also the only flagship camcorder in this group.
Low Light Color
The HDR-XR350V showed a significant drop in color accuracy and saturation level when we tested its low light image, but it maintained a relatively decent image. We measured the color error at 5.92 and the saturation level at 69.07%, both of which are average scores for a mid-range camcorder. More on how we test low light color.
Looking at the Error Map above you can see the XR350V had trouble rendering most colors accurately in low light, although greens and yellows gave the camcorder the most problems. Looking at the comparison images below, however, you can see the HDR-XR350V produced a brighter image than the Canon HF M31 (although the two had similar color error scores and saturation levels).