It may seem strange to take the innards of a recently introduced still camera – the Sony NEX-5N – and place them into acamcorder while maintaining the removable lens feature. The Sony VG20 takes the benefits of a Compact System Camera and combines them into the body of a camcorder. With full manual controls over the likes of exposure and white balance, as well as any external audio devices, a 3inch touchscreen and a five channel microphone. In all honesty few elements have changed when compared to the model's predecessor, the VG10, but a number of control improvements have meant the likes of audio levels can now be determined by the user. See also Group test: what's the best digital camcorder?
Much like the Sony NEX-5N still camera the camcorder is based upon the VG20 can take E mount lenses, giving the VG20 the availability of around 30 different focal lengths. There’s also an adapter available to allow for Sony DSLR lenses as well, putting the potential optics to over 50. This reliance on DSLR-like performance doesn’t purely stretch to the lenses, as the VG20 is able to produce still camera-like shallow depth of field. Visit Canon XA10 review.
This is mostly thanks to the APS-C sized sensor, which presents some stunning detail and colour reproduction. Exposure is impressively balanced, with only a slight occasional tendency toward the darker end of the tonal spectrum. This can all be altered using the manual controls, which is where the VG20 falls down. Instead of putting the manual mode control in a prominent position a small dial and menu button are stored under the 3inch LCD screen, which is also touch sensitive.
The control method overall is slightly confusing, as some elements are split over the two. Accessing certain sections of the manual controls is performed through a single menu, meaning any alteration requires returning to that menu, and deselecting a function returns it to automatic mode.
The removable lens nature doesn’t only stretch to the feature set of the Sony VG20, as the image quality reflects. With the amount of manual controls on offer, as well as the inputs and versatility of the extra lenses, the Sony VG20 is perfect for the advancing amateur or aspiring independent filmmaker.