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20 things You Should Know About the Sony Handycam NEX-VG10 Interchangeable Lens Camcorder

20 21 things You Should Know About the Sony Handycam NEX-VG10 Interchangeable Lens Camcorder

September 17, 2010 - By Ron Risman

The new Sony Handycam NEX-VG10 has arrived and what is exciting about this camcorder is it's large APS-C sensor and it's compatibility with Sony's E-Mount and A-Mount (with adapter) lenses.  The camcorder ships with Sony's new E 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 AF lens, which equates to 27-300mm when taking into account the sensors 1.5x crop factor.

While there is quite a lot you can learn about this camcorder from reading Sony's information page there are also a lot of things that Sony doesn't tell you upfront. I decided to fill in the blanks here.


  1. Record Time / Megabyte:  I recorded 27 minutes of FX quality (24Mbps) video using up 4.2GB of an 8GB memory card  I have not tested the other lower Mbps modes, but the manual states the following:

    20 minutes minimum (FX Quality)
    25 minutes minimum (FH Quality)
    40 minutes minimum (HQ Quality)

  2. Unlimited Recording Length:  Unlike the hybrid DSLR's, the NEG-VX10 can record and record and record up to the length of the memory card (or the battery).   It will automatically split files at 2GB intervals without any audio or video glitches, keeping it compatible with a PC's file structure.

  3. Battery Life: is rated for 90 minutes of typical use or 145 minutes of continuous recording.  I had the camera on today for over 50 minutes and still had more than 50% battery life left.   Of the 50 minutes I recorded 27 minutes and 22 seconds worth of video.

  4. AGC Audio Only:  While the built-in Quad microphone sounds incredible you have no control over the audio levels.  A 3.5mm external microphone jack allows you to connect wireless and wired external mics, but again you'll have to rely on the camera's Automatic Gain Control (AGC).

  5. Full Time Auto focus: The 18-200mm lens included is part of the E-Mount series and was with video in mind.  In good lighting (outdoors, mid day) the AF actually worked better than I had expected - a nice surprise.  For lower-light and when making use of shallow depth-of-field, you'll want to use the manual focus ring - which feels great (nice and smooth and not super sensitive)

  6. Landscape only mode?  Being a camcorder the ergonomics are not suitabel for vertical (portrait) picture taking and the manual even states that the camera only takes horizontal photographs, but that's not true.   If you don't mind turning the camcorder sideways it will indeed take vertical photographs.

  7. 1080/60i or 1080/30p? Sony states that the camcorder records at 1920x1080 at 60 interlace fields per second, however this is false.  The camera actually records video at 30p (30 progressive frames per second).  To make it compatible with the AVCHD format (and the Blu-ray standard) they just wrap the video in a 60i package.  It sounds confusing but when you drag the footage off the memory card to your editing package (Final Cut, Premiere, etc.) the video properties will confirm that it was shot at 1920x1080 and 29.97 frames per second - or - 30p.

  8. LCD Pivots, but not toward front:  The 3.0" LCD screen is both  bright and sharp but it only pivots up or down - and not forward.  This prevents you from flipping the screen to the front so that it's visibile when you're in front of the camera, and also prevents you from laying it flat against the camera with the screen showing - a position I frequently use when playing back footage for others. 

  9. Lens lacks AF/Manual Switch:  Yes, you can still manually focus but you'll have to press a menu button on the side of the camera (under the LCD) to make the change.  There is a zoom 'lock' on the lens to prevent the lens from extending during travel.

  10. Hide and Seek: Virtually all of the important controls for the camera are behind the LCD display.  This means that if you want access to them during recording you'll need to keep the LCD display open.  If this were the only viewing option I would say who cares, but since the camera also sports an electronic viewfinder and large rubber eyecup it seems silly to have to keep the LCD screen open even if you're not using it.

  11. JPEG, but no RAW: While the NEX-VG10 uses the same image sensor used in Sony's NEX-5 still camera - Sony decided to leave the RAW option out. I guess they feel you should either be a pro videographer or a pro photographer - but not both.  

  12. Two Shoes are better than one:  Yes, the Sony NEX-VG10 features a powered accessory shoe and a cold accessory shoe.  This gives you the flexibility of using Sony accessories that get power directly from their accessory shoe (video light, microphone) or third party accessories that just use a cold 'shoe' as a holder.  I used the cold-shoe this afternoon when Iattached a wireless microphone receiver to it.  

  13. Shallow Depth-of-Field?  One of the big advantages of a camcorder with an APS-C sized sensor is the ability to acheive a very shallow depth-of-field.  This is true, but with a maximum aperture size of f/3.5 dont expect the background to blur out all that much (unless you're fully zoomed in).  To get the DSLR experience for shallow D.O.F. and superior low-light capabilities you'll want to attach a faster (F2.8, F1.8, F1.4, etc.) lens.

  14. A-Mount, E-Mount and More:  Sony wants you to know that the NEX-VG10 will accept both their E-Mount and A-Mount lenses (with adpater), but they obviously aren't interested in letting you know that you can also attach Canon, Nikon, and PL mount lenses with the proper adapters.    Using lenses with adapters are great for filmmaking, but not ideal for everyone as you'll lose control over the aperture of the lens and will be forced to shoot wide open all the time.  Unless of course you pick up older manual lenses (Canon FD for example) and then get the proper adapter for mounting the lens to the camera.  Just do an eBay search and you shall find!

  15. Don't forget MicroSD (with adapter):  A lot of mobile phones are shipped with a tiny memory card called a "MicroSD."  These MicroSD cards also typically come with a standard SD adapter, making them compatible with standard SD slots.  I shot on the NEX-VG10 today using a PNY brand 8GB MicroSD without any problems at all. The camera also accepts standard SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards as well as Sony's Memory Stick PRO Duo, PRO-HG Duo, and PRO-HG HX Duo cards.

  16. Large Rubber Eyecup and Fuzzy Cat windscreen included: It was a nice surprise to see that Sony ships the NEX-VG10 with a large rubber slip-on eyecup, making the viewfinder even more comfortable for eyeglass wearers and to help further block out sunlight.  It also ships with a nice square fuzzy wind cover for the microphone - another nice inclusion.

  17. Battery Charger: The Battery charger is very compact and has two prongs that fold into the unit when not in use.  It is also 50/60Hz compatible for use overseas (adaptors not included)

  18. AC / Power Adapter Included:  Okay this one is probably on Sony's website, but it was a nice surprise to see that Sony included the AC Power adaptor in the box.  As a DSLR video shooter I forgot that these things even existed.    On the downside, their power adaptor is quite large - similar in size to a Dell Notebook 'brick."

  19. Top Handle / Almost Perfect:  The top carrying handle of the NEX-VG10 is super for carrying the camera, for connecting accessories, and for shooting at low angles. Unfortunately Sony didn't include a separate start/stop button on it so you'll be forced to use the hand grip to control starting and stopping or for taking still images.  

  20. When is 1.5x not 1.5x:  This next interesting tidbit was passed on to me by Vimeo user who explained that while the NEX-VG10 has a 1.5x crop factor for taking stills, it's a 1.8x crop factor when shooting video -  due to the 3:2 aspect ratio with stills vs. a 16:9 aspect ratio when shooting video.   I have yet to confirm this information, though in a very unscientific test I did this evening the video did look to be zoomed in just a litte bit more in video mode compared to the same shot taken as a still image.   Someone else mentioned that 3:2 vs 16:9 would yield a 1.57x crop and not a 1.8x crop.   I'll try to contact Sony for some factual information.

  21. Shoot without Lens Option: When I first saw it listed in the menu I was stumped. Why would you want the ability to shoot without a lens? I still don't know the exact reason the option is there but I have a few thoughts. The first is that this would allow a smaller form factor if you just wanted to use the quad capsule spatial array stereo microphone to record audio only, albeit with large video-like file sizes (will test for my review). The second reason is that its possible that it would allow recording to take place even when using third party lenses or adaptors that might not make proper electronic connection with the body.

Unboxing Video: First Look at the Sony NEX-VG10

* Keep in mind that when this video was created I had yet to use the camera.
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