First and foremost the most appealing aspect in any camcorder is that it produces high-quality video. The Sony HDR-TD30V provides you with video quality that, not long ago, would have been inconceivable out of even a high-end consumer-level camcorder.
As mentioned, everything is recorded in 1080i; this includes the 3D video. Most 3D camcorders on the market achieve their 3D effect by splitting the 1920*1080 signal in half, granting 3D at the expense of an effective resolution of 960*540. The Sony HDR-TD30V instead uses two separate CMOS sensors – in effect, operating as two separate cameras in 3D mode. This is a major part of why it’s so pricy, but the results are worth it; there’s no loss of resolution or framerate at all. 3D videos look just as good as 2D ones.
And those CMOS sensors aren’t cheap, either; these are incredibly sophisticated pieces of equipment. They’re capable of getting a gorgeous picture even in low-light conditions, and faithfully capture color tones. In the hands of a competent user, this camcorder can produce pictures which are almost on a par with those of professional-grade video cameras; it’s a sharp, clean picture with natural, vibrant colors. Prose really can’t convey exactly how high the quality of this camcorder’s picture is; it’s almost lifelike. If you have a chance to see if for yourself in person, you’ll be blown away.
The HDR-TD30V’s lenses are incredibly high-quality, too; there are none of the artifacts that plague the cheap lenses on lesser camcorders. No lens flare, no purple fringing – what you see is what you get. Which, really, is exactly what you’re looking for.
Lastly, the Sony HDR-TD30V can record in either 60hz or 24hz. 60Hz recording is the standard, and is what you’ll use most often – but the 24hz mode can be an interesting novelty due to the associations that have been built between that framerate and film.
Sony HDR-TD30V 3D Mode
As mentioned, right off the bat this camcorder is set up to have a much better 3D mode than most of its cheaper competition. The CMOS sensors function just as well in a pair as they do alone; colors are still exceptional, and details are sharp and well-defined.
A lot of other camcorders have another, bigger problem with their 3D modes, though – viewing the content in 3D as you record it. If you can’t see what you’re doing, you’re never going to get good results; it doesn’t matter how high the quality of the video is. Binocular viewfinders allow you to perceive depth on most 3D camcorders, but it’s real depth, not the simulated depth of a 3D video, and so it’s not perfect in terms of seeing how your movie will look.
This is why the HDR-TD30V includes an autostereoscopic 3D LCD. LCD viewfinders have been common ever since they’ve become doable, but most of these – even on 3D camcorders – are 2D displays. That, or they rely on 3D glasses, which are somewhat less than portable. This can be a problem, to say the least; determining if your settings are correct for optimal 3D quality becomes incredibly difficult when you can’t actually see exactly what you’re recording. The high-quality 3.5-inch LCD does an excellent job in this respect, and allows you to ensure the best possible results.
The integrated microphones in camcorders have always left something to be desired. The HDR-TD30V introduces an impressive 5.1-channel surround microphone system, promising to provide a truly excellent option for audio recording as well as video. And it does work – separation of sounds is good, and playing your videos back with a decent surround system can result in some surprisingly immersive results. There’s even a noise reduction algorithm, which helps you to focus on the sounds you care about and ignore the background noise.
However, as nice as this is, it’s still a camcorder microphone, and you still face the task of recording everything from a single position. So, it’s still a fairly murky, noisy sound; it has to be, to be honest. It’s fine for simple home movies, but if you’re buying this camcorder for any sort of content production you’re really better off exploiting its compatibility with one or more external microphones. You will always get better results from carefully positioned and mounted standalone microphones than you will from the one inside your camcorder.
There are a whole host of other features that make life easier for you, too. For starters, Sony’s SteadyShot technology helps to compensate for the shaking which will be present on any handheld camcorder, stabilizing the picture’s focus. There’s still noticeable jitter, but it’s much less pronounced than without image stabilization. There’s also optical zoom at up to 10x magnification, and computer-assisted tracking focus. All together, it’s a very solid package, powerful and easy to use. The automated features have their quirks and bugs, of course, but they’re still very reliable.
The Sony HDR-TD30V is definitely portable enough to be called a Handycam. It’s surprisingly small and lightweight; the profile is similar to that of a smartphone, though obviously it’s considerably thicker. Nonetheless, you can pocket it; that in itself is a big plus.
The Sony HDR-TD30V is expensive. There’s no point in dancing around that – $1000 is a hefty chunk of change. However, it’s also a product of singularly high quality; you can record home movies that look better than some television programs. If you’re not willing to spend this kind of cash on a camcorder, then that’s fine, and completely understandable – but it’s reasonable compared to other units that even come close. For more information on the product at the listed price check out the Amazon page.