This camcorder is an excellent camcorder for someone who is looking for a cheap option for HD recording and HD playback. It is light-weight, compact, sturdy, and very user-friendly. I will go through different portions of this camcorder in my review. If I miss something, please feel free to ask me in comments, and I will add it to my review.
The menu and options on this camcorder is a breeze to use. Next to the 2.7" display are two buttons- a play button and a cursor/select button. The play button is only used to select between recording and play-back. The cursor/select button is used for 99% of the navigating on this camcorder. The positive side of this is that it is easy to use and feels natural. It acts as a joystick for scrolling but also pushes inward for selecting options. This makes navigation very easy for a beginner, since your finger never has to leave the same button, while operating the menu on this camcorder.
Sony has done well by making this camera easy to use and operate. The menu is separated into six different categories: Shooting Mode, Camera/Mic, Image Quality/Size, Playback Function, Edit/Copy, and Setup. It is simple to change quality of recording, switch between recording and playback, change time and settings, check battery status, and switch between still shots and HD recording.
First, let my start by saying, this is an entry-level camcorder with a price-tag of $200-$250. That being said, the HDR-CX220 shoots excellent quality movies and clips. Under the Image Quality/Size category, there is several options that can be used to change the quality of recording to what the user preference is.
There are two different frame rates that can be selected from: 60i and 60p. Without getting technical and taking up a lot of time describing the difference between the two, I'll simply state that the i stands for interlaced and the p stands for progressive. With 60i, the frames basically overlap, which equals only 30 frames per second. With 60p, this is the higher resolution, which equals a true 60 frames per second. The 60p setting creates beautiful recording, but also consumes more baterry life and uses more memory storage. I'd suggest using the 60p setting while making home videos and storing on your personal computer. But if you plan to post online, I'd suggest using the 60i setting. This will allow for faster and more hassle-free uploads. I generally use the 60i setting, because it allows me to shoot more videos on my 32GB SDHC card.
You can choose between HD recording, SD recording, and MP4 recording. This will also shorten or lengthen your record time.- MP4 quality being the lowest quality. When recording in HD, there is four sub-categories that can be chosen from: Highest Quality, High Quality, Standard, and Long Time. Any user can fine-tune exactly what quality they want to record at.
How did this camera record for me?- Splendidly! I have used this camera in several different situations to put it to the test. I live in a very snowy area, which basically means, a lot of light. I have recorded my kids sledding and it looks beautiful. The still shots in a well-lit area also look very good. The user has the option to take still shots while recording video or to use the camcorder as a camera only. But the real question was, how did this camcorder work in low light?- The answer is: Much better than I thought. I went down into my basement and recorded my kids playing with only a lamp on. The Exmor R CMOS Sensor in the CX220 works very well. This camcorder detects low light and gives the best HD recording possible. The one main Con that I found with this camcorder is the still shots in low-lit areas look grainy, but are still acceptable.
The 32X zoom also works vey well on this camcorder. I was suprised just how well it worked. While standing across my half acre yard, I zoomed in on my dog, and it looked as though I was standing right on top of him. This, in combination with the Steady Shot feature, makes a very nice steady HD recording. (Even with a beginner camera man)
The Zoom Mic feature also works quite well. While recording with the Zoom Mic on, the subject being recorded is very audible and the background noise is muffled away. It doesn't amplify the sound of the object being recorded, but it more or less mutes the unnecessary, needless side noise. This is a very nice feature and Sony has done a good job with it.
The playback feature is incredibly easy to use and operate. It is as simple as this: plug your mini HDMI cable (which is provided by Sony, with the purchase of the CX220) into the camcorder and then into your TV. Everything that you view on the 2.7" LCD screen, is also mirrored on your HDTV. You can then either scroll through your menu, or push the play button. Then select the video clip you wish to view, and wada-bing, your watching beautiful HD homemade movies in 1080p. It looks great on my Sony 60EX645 LED 1080p TV.
I have decided to add an addition to my review, because it is a fairly common question. Is the CX220 compatible with PAL video format? The answer is no. The HDR-CX220 is designed to work with NTSC video format and HD. There is a process and select programs that can convert NTSC to PAL, but it is fairly complicated. My suggestion is this- there is an alternate version of this camcorder. The model number is HDR-CX220E. It is the exact same camcorder, but it is specifically designed for PAL video format. It can be found on Amazon(UK) or directly from Sony. If you are interested in recording in PAL video format, this would be a great option.
DIRECT COPY TO HDD
Copying to an external hard-drive is as easy as it sounds. Plug your camcorder to your hard drive using a Sony VMC-UAM2 cable (not provided). Your CX220 will recognize the HDD and give you step-by-step instructions to copy to your HDD. I have a Toshiba 320GB hard drive and it worked perfectly for me. Toshiba 320GB Toshiba Canvio Basics 3.0 Portable Hard Drive in Black (HDTB103XK3AA) One thing to note is this: a VMC-UAM1 cable will NOT work with the CX220. It MUST be a VMC-UAM2 cable. This cable is not sold on Amazon, but is sold at B&H Photo or Sony.
The CX220 is compatible with Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7. I am currently running Windows 7 (64bit) on my HP Pavilion. Using this camcorder with my PC was as easy as plugging my CX220 into a USB port, Windows automatically recognizing it as a Sony HDR-CX220, and then installing the proper drivers. But if you want a great software program, install Play Memories from Sony. This program is fantastic. It allows the user to combine video clips, downgrade quality (if needed), make DVDs from even HD recordings, and much more. I highly recommend this program.
The CX220 claims that it does not work with MAC OS, but it does work with iMovie. What this basically means is that you cannot simply plug the CX220 into your MAC and copy files.You must first download iMovie, and then all recordings can be stored to your MAC very easily. iMovie is a great program and very easy to use. There is a great post on YouTube that is titled: HDR-CX160 directly to iMovie. This is the same method for storing videos from your HDR-CX220 to your MAC. It works very well.
The CX220 does not have any built-in memory. This camcorder is compatible with SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards. I purchased two Transcend Class 10 32GB SDHC cards with my CX220. They both work very well. When recording in 1080/60p, a 32GB SD card will hold approximately 2 1/2 hours of content. When recording in 1080/60i High Quality (which is what I usually use), a 32GB SD card will hold approximately 4 1/2 hours of content. This, in combination with Direct Copy, should allow for recording large events or vacations. (Transcend 32 GB Class 10 SDHC Flash Memory Card (TS32GSDHC10))
BATTERY LIFE AND CHARGING
The NP-FV30 battery that comes with the CX220 is lacking, in my opinion. While recording in HD, the battery lasts for less then two hours. I would suggest buying supplemental battery packs. I found a great combo pack from the seller Big Mike's, here on Amazon. It is a third-party 2 pack NP-FV70 batteries and charger and is every bit as good as the OEM batteries. Each NP-FV70 battery lasts for over four hours, while recording in HD. Here is the product link for the battery/charger combo- Sony Handycam Camcorder Battery and Battery Charger Kit Includes Qty 2 NP-FV70 Batteries , AC/DC Battery Charger , LCD Screen Protectors , Micro Fiber Cleaning Cloth
One thing to note, the CX220 does NOT come with a wall charger. It does however, charge very well from the built-in USB cable. It also comes with a USB extension cable, for more convenience. The majority of people already have some sort of USB wall charger from an iPad, iPhone, iPod, tablet, android phone, Kindle, or various other devices. These will work with the CX220. If you do not have a USB wall charger and do not wish to purchase a battery pack/ wall charger combo, Power Gen sells a very good USB wall charger for $10 here an Amazon. Here is the product link- PowerGen Dual Port USB 2.1A 10W AC Travel Wall Charger - White
The CX220 also has a DC port under a tab on the right side of this camcorder. The camcorder can be ran solely from an AC power adapter, but this will involve an additional purchase. The AC adapter needed is the AC L200. There is an official Sony adapter and some third party AC L200 adapters sold on Amazon. If a person wanted to operate the camcorder using an AC wall outlet, this could be a solution. Sony Customer Support also claims that this will charge the battery, but I have not tried this myself. I do not own an AC L200 adapter. If you are interested, here is another product link- Sony AC L200 - Power adapter
All in all, I would definitely recommend the purchase of the HDR-CX220. It is a lightweight, compact, well-built camcorder with excellent features. It shoots beautiful recordings and has a price tag of less than $250. If anyone has questions, feel free to ask me, and I will try my hardest to find the answer and incorporate it into my review.