Sony Handycam NEX-VG20 Camcorder Review$2,199.00
The NEX-VG20 had a tiny bit of trouble with our bright light color tests. The camcorder wasn't able to render colors with perfect accuracy, coming in with a color error score of 4.4 in this test. This is a very similar score to what the Sony HDR-CX700V Handycam earned last year, but it is significantly worse than the competition from Canon and Panasonic. More on how we test color.
On the bright side, the VG20 produced colors with excellent saturation levels of 100.5%. That means the colors captured in auto mode have pop and are naturally vivid. Unfortunately, the camcorder has few color controls built into its interface, so if you're expecting to do a large amount of color tinkering you're going to have to do all that in post production. The VG20 does have a Cinematone mode that alters the gamma curve (and slightly changes the color tones), and it has a white balance shift option for changing the color temperature of your video.
Like we said, the NEX-VG20's colors weren't quite as accurate as the competition, but they were just as vivid (if not more vivid) than the models we compared it to. You can see this difference in color depth in the comparison crops on this page, especially with the Sony HDR-CX700V, which produced a much softer set of colors (with an 86% saturation level).
Low Light Color
Like most camcorders, the VG20 lost some of the color saturation in its videos when we brought the lights down. The saturation level dropped from 100% in bright light to around 76% in low light, and the color accuracy took a bit of a hit as well (4.84 color error in low light). These numbers are by no means bad—they're just about the same as the camcorders we compared it to—but we were hoping the VG20 would do a bit better in this test. More on how we test low light color.
Shooting with its 24p frame rate gave the VG20 a bit of a bump in both color accuracy and saturation level. The color error lowered to 4.48 and the saturation level increased to 83% with the 24p frame rate, compared to the results from 60i recording listed in the previous paragraph.
Noise levels were fantastically low in our bright light testing with the NEX-VG20. This is, most likely, due to the large APS-C image sensor inside the camcorder. In our tests, the VG20 measured 0.37% noise, and we consider anything under 0.5% to be top-notch in this test. It's also a much lower noise level than we measured on the Sony HDR-CX700V last year. More on how we test noise.
The crops above illustrate how well the VG20 does with sharpness with an unmoving video image. The camcorder didn't have the sharpest video we've seen this year, but its results weren't bad. The video just looked a bit soft compared to a lot of the high-end camcorders we've reviewed over the past couple of years. We see this fairly often with DSLR and system cameras that shoot video, however. The aesthetic is softer and more film-like rather than ultra-sharp.