HandlingWhen unboxing the CX740, you can immediately tell that this is a top-notch camcorder. The finish is excellent and the product feels sturdy and well-made—Sony's reputation as a high-end manufacturer is clearly warranted when you see products like this. That said, the CX740 doesn't come cheap. The body is made from a combination of textured plastic and magnesium around the lens, which explains why at 655 grammes, this camcorder is a little on the heavy side. Each socket and connection is covered by its own shutter, and all of these are easy to open. Plus, a lens hood is supplied, which attaches to the 52 mm screw thread to keep glare and reflections at bay while also protecting the lens.
The viewfinder can be angled to make it easier to line up shots. Alternatively, you can use the 3-inch 921,000-pixels LCD. This is an excellent-quality screen, boasting high brightness levels and two built-in speakers.
|3-inch LCD touchscreen with 921,000 pixels, good brightness and two speakers.||Colour viewfinder can be tilted|
Like all Sony Handycam camcorders, the CX740 has a USB cable built into the handle, which means you won't have to worry about losing it or forgetting it when you're out and about.
|The self-powered hot-shoe has a handy protective cover but can only be used with Sony accessories.||The built-in microphone records 5.1 surround sound.|
The camcorder has a fully automatic mode so you don't have to worry about adjusting all the individual image settings. However, you can manually control the iris, not to mention the focus, using a wheel on the front of the camcorder (although a lens ring would have been nicer). The autofocus works very quickly, and zooming is fast and smooth. The zoom control is quite sensitive, however, so you'll have to be careful if you want slow transitions.
|The lens hood.||USB cable built into the handle / Mic socket (red) and headphones socket (green).|
The CX740 has a good range of connections, with mic and headphones sockets, a mini-HDMI output, a USB port and composite and component A/V connections. The camcorder's built-in microphone records 5.1 surround sound in AC3 format and can be downmixed to stereo.
Image QualityIt seems that 2012 is the year of the image stabiliser in the camcorder market. All the main brands have outed stabilised models, but the CX740 stands out from the crowd thanks to a new system that's designed to keep things steady at maximum zoom settings (Balanced Optical SteadyShot). Previously, the 'Active' SteadyShot system seen in Sony camcorders was above all useful at wide-angle settings. Now, to stabilise things at telephoto settings, Sony has mounted the image sensor and the entire lens into one floating element. If you shake the camcorder around while looking at the lens you can see it wobble. This means that the lens can compensate for camera-shake and high-frequency horizontal and vertical movements to help keep the picture looking stable. In practice, this system works much better than Panasonic's Hybrid+ stabilisation seen in the HC-V700.
|The CX740 uses Sony's Balanced Optical SteadyShot stabilisation system to compensate for camera shake at telephoto settings.||There's a built-in light.|
The CX740 uses a Carl Zeiss lens with an aperture of f/1.8 in wide-angle mode. The focal range starts at 26 mm (in 35 mm equivalent), which is pretty wide for a camcorder, and the lens zooms to 10x. You can therefore film wide-angle landscapes or group scenes with ease.
|The 26 mm wide angle means you can capture a big group of people or a wide open space, like the inside of an exhibition hall (see above).||The 10x lens can zoom quickly or slowly depending on how hard you press the control.|
Another great thing about the CX740—although it's not a new feature—is the 50p mode (50 full frames per second) which delivers the sharpest Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) images around. There's also a 25p (25 full frames per second) mode and a 50i (50 interlaced fields per second) mode. In 50p mode, video quality is excellent in this camcorder, with a level of sharpness never before seen in a Sony camcorder and certainly equivalent to the Panasonic HC-X900. The CX740 uses a 1.28-inch backlit CMOS Exmor sensor with 6 Megapixels and sensitivity levels are pretty good. You can, for example, film someone in very low light with practically no digital noise. Plus, a mini light is built in so you can film subjects at around one metre from the lens in low light, and the Night Shot function is on hand for infrared filming in very dark conditions (with a greenish black and white image).
The CX740 has a 32 GB internal memory that can store up to 2 hrs 20 mins of 1080/50p HD video. With the NP-VF50 battery supplied, you can film for 110 minutes continuously with the screen open. Video editing buffs will be pleased to hear that the CX740 is an AVCHD camcorder, recording MTS files encoded as AVC/H.264. These are very highly compressed and require high levels of computer processing power, even just for playing a clip (especially with 50p video). You'll therefore need a recent computer (with a dual-core or quad-core CPU) and at least 4 GB of RAM to work with these files.
To sum up, the CX740 is a good all-round camcorder with a great design, good handling and excellent image quality.
- Excellent image stabilisation system
- Very good picture quality in 50p mode
- Good build and finish, lens hood supplied
- Adjustable viewfinder
- Built-in USB cable
- 26 mm wide angle
- 32 GB internal memory
- 5.1 microphone
- Built-in light
- Hot-shoe can only be used with Sony accessories
It's hard to find fault with Sony's CX740. It's a five-star camcorder with an impressive number of qualities (just look at how many 'Pros' we listed above!). The unique image stabilisation system works very well and picture quality is good in all conditions. It's not cheap, but at least the CX740 gives you top quality for your top dollar.