This week here at Chalet Ski we've been testing the Sony HDR CX305E. This review test following on from the successful GoPro Hero 960 HD review test a couple of weeks ago.
We choose the Sony HDR CX305E to review, not only because it fitted right in the midlle of our price criteria of being what we deemed to be within a skier's budget of between £400 and £600 for a camcorder, but because it also featured full 1080p and Sony's steadyshot which has been getting good reviews and we hoped would be ideal for sports video.
The GoPro Hero was great fun, but its limited to sports application and there is some compromise in video quality too. What we wanted to test this time at Chalet Ski was therefore something more versatile and family orientated, something that family could use for ski holidays but could also use all year (not just for sports).
Some might ask the question why Chalet Ski choose the Sony HDR CX305E rather than the larger drived version of this camera, the Sony HDR XR350VE. With the exception that the CX305E has 16GB of internal memory plus a memory card slot, whereas the Sony HDR XR350VE has 160GB (the other difference being the XR305VE weighs 70g more as a result of the extra hard drive) they are the same camera. Well the answer is a simple one, price, as the Sony HDR XR350VE larger hard drive adds between £150 to £200 to the price and as long as you regularly download your movies and aren't going on long expeditions, 16GB (two and half hours of a recording plus a memory card if necessary) is more than enough.
Out of the box the Sony HDR CX305E was both amazingly light and neat. It looked robust and well made too which for sports use as well as general family use and holiday shooting is of course important! The only slight concern was the automatic lense cover which is a little flimsy looking. This auto lens cover feature is great, don't get me wrong here, but an additional and stronger cover would have been nice too, for those of us who will be throwing the Sony HDR CX305E into a backpack for sports footage. This aside, nevertheless a very impressively small, light, but strong package.
In terms of getting started, I had read in other reviews that the setup was difficult to use. Whilst at Chalet Ski we didn't try and get clever with any aperture settings or anything like this, the touch screen seemed nevertheless intuitive and easy to use. I had also read that people struggled with the small touch screen buttons on the 2.7 inch LCD display screen but again didn't experience any trouble here despite my large fingers and thumbs!
Another good feature and reason to test the Sony HDR CX305E is that it has the Sony G lense which is a wide angled lens that Sony claims doubles the amount of image area that the camcorder can capture. Most of us probably using this camera will not be experts and for skiing will also be following friends and family down the mountain with one eye on the LCD screen and the other trying to remain upright on the skis! As a consequence from our Chalet Ski test we found this lense feature really useful in helping ensure (most of the time) we got everybody in when we needed to easily and more importantly safely. It does have a 12X optical zoom but we found for most ski shots that we wanted the wide option is the preference.
The optical zoom might occasionally be used but we found as amateurs that this was a little jerky and rarely used it as a consequence.We didn't get chance to set it up on a tripod unfortunately as this may have made it easier to control (allowed greater touch sensitivity). In terms of the zoom control on the camcorder, this is situated on top of the camera and whilst we understand why this is for the majority of applications, using it for sport and with gloves on there was a tendency to press this by mistake and zoom in occassionally when you didn't want to.This said it wasn't a significant problem.
The great thing about the three test days we had this camera for was that we had both good days in terms of light, as you will see below, and bad light too. We don't intend to get too techie in this report, you can afterall read the tech spec yourself on the Sony website, but the Sony boasts that its EXMOR R™ CMOS Sensor increases definition and colour and we were quite amazed how well this camera picked up light and delivered really great crisp colours even in the poorest light conditions. It really was a massive winner here.
But probably what stood out most was the OSS (Optical Steadyshot). We were skiing in hard packed snow yet the video shows hardly any shake whatsoever. It is meant to be good in walk mode, but you might be forgiven for it being a little suspect in a ski situation, but no, it really was superb and we didn't even apply the stabilisation software to these shots.
Whilst, as you will see, even the best cameras can't turn novices into experts overnight, but for capturing moments in full HD, however amateurish, and whilst skiing, this has to be one of the best priced cameras you'll find on the market.
It doesn't score 5 due to the zoom and focus being ok without being outstanding, but it certainly deserves at least the 4 out of 5 the Chalet Ski team gave it over the 3 days.
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