Sony Handycam NEX-VG20 Camcorder Review$2,199.00
Lens & Imaging System
The NEX-VG20 is packaged with an 18 - 200mm f/3.5 lens, although the camcorder is also available as a body-only unit. This lens gives you a little more than 10x optical zoom, which puts it on par with your average high-end consumer camcorder. Of course, the advantage of the VG20 is that it can work with any E-mount lens from Sony—just like Sony's NEX line of compact system cameras (for shooting photographs). Sony also sells an A-mount adapter that opens the NEX-VG20 up to an even wider array of lenses. And, if you really want, you can find third-party adapters that will let you hook just about anything up to the VG20 (just be aware that some features, like autofocus and stabilization, won't work unless you use a compatible lens).
Inside the VG20 is a big APS-C CMOS sensor that measures 23.5 x 15.6mm. This sensor is much larger than the CMOS chips found in high-end and even most professional camcorders. The reason is because it's a digital camera image sensor, basically the same sensor that Sony uses in its NEX-5N camera. It is loaded with a ton of pixels and its large size should translate to less noise and better low light performance for the camcorder. Large sensors also can pose certain problems, such as a rolling shutter effect that produces wobble when you pan the camcorder. Check out our performance sections to see how the NEX-VG20 did compared to the traditional camcorders we compared it to.
LCD & Viewfinder
The VG20 has a traditional LCD that opens out from the left side of the camcorder and features a touchscreen interface. The screen runs three inches diagonally and has a 921,600-pixel resolution. These specs are decent, but it's actually a smaller screen than you'll find on numerous flagship camcorders from other manufacturers. JVC, for example, has a 3.5-inch LCD on its GZ-GX1.
Unlike most modern camcorders, the NEX-VG20 is equipped with a full-size electronic viewfinder (EVF). The EVF is similar to what you commonly see on a low-end professional model, and it comes with a large eye-cup that fits snugly over your eye to block out any extraneous light. The viewfinder pivots up with an effective range (about 45 degrees), but it doesn't extend out from the camcorder. This isn't a huge problem, but it does mean you may not be able to reach the viewfinder if you attach a third-party shoulder mount to the camcorder.
Most of the ports on the NEX-VG20 are found on the right side of the camcorder, in the area where you rest your palm when using the right-side grip. Here' you'll find three flexible (yet sturdy) port covers that protect the mic jack, DC-input, Multi-AV port, USB terminal, and HDMI connector. The Multi-AV port fits Sony-proprietary cables, of which a Component and Composite cable are provided with the camcorder (other cables, including wired remotes, will work with this port).
On the handlebar are a few more ports. There's the 3.5mm external mic jack, which blends into the right side of the handlebar and is covered by a small tab, and there are two accessory shoes on the top of the handlebar. The front shoe is powered (hot) and works with Sony's external flash devices that are sold separately. The rear shoe is not powered (cold), but it will fit any accessory with a traditional shoe mount, and is recommended for mounting an external microphone.
The large battery compartment on the back of the VG20 looks kind of funny with the camcorder's provided battery pack. The NP-FV70 battery only fills about half of the compartment, which makes it a bit difficult to load and remove. Sony's larger battery packs, which are available at an extra cost, will fit this compartment more fully (and won't look as awkward).
There's no internal memory on the NEX-VG20, so you need to buy a memory card before you can record video with the camcorder. The memory card slot works with all types of SD memory cards (SDHC and SDXC included) and it works with Sony's own Memory Stick PRO Duo memory cards. Sony recommends using a class 4 or faster SD card when shooting video with the camcorder. Read more about the advantages and disadvantages of various media types.