You guessed it, this bare-minimum camcorder is an easy one to get a hang of. There's an ON/OFF button, a RECORD button and a ZOOM button. It doesn't get much simpler than that. But do you really even need more? The CX190 switches off automatically when you close the LCD screen, and the built-in lens cover opens and closes manually. There's no viewfinder, so to see what you're filming you have to look at the 6.7-cm (230,000-pixel) LCD, which is decent for the price. The only connectivity it offers is an HDMI port for transferring video to a TV and a USB port for computer transfers. The USB cable is attached to the wrist strap and there's no headphone or microphone jack. On the whole, the CX190 is enjoyable to use because the plastic body is extremely light (175 grammes with the battery attached) and it slides easily into a jacket pocket.
|The OPEN/CLOSE switch for the lens cover||The USB mini-cable is attached to the wrist strap|
The LCD isn't a touchscreen, which explains the rock-bottom price. But if you want to change the image quality or set up the device, you can get to the menu via a button on the screen. As is customary, the videos you have recorded are displayed as thumbnails which you select with your finger for instant playback. The CX190 has no internal storage; it records onto a memory card (SDHC/SDXC/Memory Stick PRO Duo) only.
|A minimalist approach to connectivity: HDMI and USB||Zoom (25x) and Photo button|
Unfortunately, the CX190 has a downscaled 1.5-Megapixel sensor that produces 2-Megapixel Full HD images (1920 x 1080). This is common in the world of budget camcorders. The resulting sharpness is rather mediocre, especially given that the CMOS surface is only 1/5.8" (3.1 mm), which leaves precious little space for treating light. And the sensitivity in dark lighting is also very mediocre. Yet somehow when you watch your videos on an HD TV screen the result isn't catastrophic, not in the least, giving better-quality images than you'd get with a pocket camcorder or sports camera such as the GoPro Hero 2 or ContourGPS.
|Mediocre sharpness due to a sensor that's been downscaled for Full HD||Low lighting (3 lux)|
The CX190 films in AVCHD 50i (interlaced). There's no 50p mode, or even the progressive 25p mode that so many videographers covet for its "movie" rendering. There's a 5-Megapixel interpolated photo mode, but the sensor is so poor that you shouldn't expect anything worthwhile, at least not for paper printing. However, the f/1.8 optics include a powerful 25x zoom with a nearly wide-angle 36-mm minimum focal distance, in 24x36 equivalent. The CX190 also has an "active" image stabiliser that has more than passed the test on previous models by reducing the effect of jerky hand movements, even while the user is walking—a feature that 3 years ago could only be found on Sony's high-end camcorders.
- Low price (£200)
- Good image stabiliser
- Powerful zoom (25x)
- Integrated USB cable
- No 50p or 25p mode
- No mic/headphone jack
- No touchscreen
- Mediocre video quality
The main selling point of the Sony HDR-CX190 is the low price, but it has some optical advantages all the same (zoom and stabiliser). The image quality certainly isn't the best example of Full HD, but you'd be hard-pressed to find better for this price.