The Sony DCR-SX60 is a standard-definition camcorder that costs more than £250, making it something of a rarity. In an era where high-def camcorders cost the same or less, what can the Sony DCR-SX60 offer to justify its premium price tag?
In short: not a lot. Although capable of taking decent looking video, the Sony DCR-SX60 is trumped in almost every area by the brilliant Panasonic SDR-H85-K; another standard-def camcorder that retails for around the same price. The Panasonic model provides a lot more bang for your buck, including an 80GB hard drive (compared to 16GB of inbuilt memory on the Sony DCR-SX60). That said, there is still enough to like about the Sony DCR-SX60 to make it a worthwhile purchase. Its main strengths are its 60x optical zoom and compact, attractive design.
The Sony DCR-SX60's main claim to fame is probably its 60x optical zoom lens. While not quite as powerful as the Panasonic SDR-H85-K's 78x zoom, it remains very impressive for the asking price. It allows you to capture extreme close-ups of distant objects without compromising the image quality - very handy for bird watching or trips to the zoo.
Of course, you're going to need a tripod when shooting at 60x; otherwise your footage will look unbearably shaky. When shooting at normal magnifications, the Sony DCR-SX60 does a pretty good job of keeping footage smooth and steady, despite the lack of an optical image stabiliser. All up, we had no qualms over how the camera handled.
Sony designs some the best looking camcorders in the business, and the Sony DCR-SX60 is thankfully no exception. It's small, lightweight and boasts a very attractive finish - especially for a standard-def model, many of which wear their budget leanings on their sleeves.
For menu selection, Sony has stuck to its love-it-or-loathe-it touchscreen interface. In addition to a smattering of consumer-friendly features, Sony has also thrown in a few manual modes (namely; focus, exposure and white balance). All in all, the Sony DCR-SX60's feature set is surprisingly sparse for a Sony model, with none of the flashy tools or gimmicks that usually adorn the company's handycams. On the plus side, we suppose this makes it more user-friendly for the point-and-shoot crowd (which the DCR-SX60 is obviously aimed at).
When it came to video quality, the Sony DCR-SX60 performed slightly below expectations. It comes equipped with a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar 33mm lens and 1/8in CCD sensor, with an effective pixel count of 410k. Our test footage looked reasonable when shot in optimum lighting: images appeared sharp with a fair amount of detail. Colours were also acceptable, though we would have liked to see a little more vibrancy.
In low lighting, the Sony DCR-SX60 really began to struggle, with washed out colours and an abundance of image noise. As you'd expect, this makes for ugly looking video. To make matters worse, there is no dedicated night mode, and no accessory shoe for video lights. It will still get the job done, but you won't be making any award-winning videos in the dark.
The Sony DCR-SX60 can also capture 640x480 still images. As you'd expect, the results aren't anything to write home about, but they remain acceptable for Facebook and the like. Much like with the DCR-SX60's video performance, optimum lighting is key.
The Sony DCR-SX60 comes with 16GB of inbuilt memory (enough for 715 minutes of LP video), plus a Memory Stick slot for additional recordings. Sony has also included an 8GB Memory Stick in the sales package, which boosts the overall recording time by up to 5.8 hours. This sounds pretty impressive, until you realise that the Panasonic SDR-H85-K comes with an 80GB hard drive. Clearly, the Panasonic camcorder offers much better value.
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