Review: Sony HDR-PJ260

Published: March 20, 2012 2:00 PM
By Edouard Maire
Translated by: Catherine Barraclough
The PJ260 is one of a new generation of Sony camcorders to come loaded with a mini-projector. This, at first glance, rather gimmicky addition was actually quite well received when it appeared in 2011, and has therefore been rolled out into several Sony camcorders: the PJ200 (£400, projector brightness 10 lumens), PJ260 (£580, 13 lumens) and PJ580 (£TBC, 13 lumens).

Handling

The PJ260 is designed as a family camcorder with several features that help users shoot video very easily. For starters, there's no need for a memory card, as this camcorder can be used straight out of the box thanks to an internal memory of 16 GB that can store up to 1 hr 15 mins of video in the highest-quality format (1920 x 1080 / 50p) or up to 5 hrs of lower-quality footage. The lens is protected by an outer shutter then opens automatically when you turn the camcorder on—which can be done by opening the LCD. You can switch the camcorder off either by closing the LCD or by pressing the Power button. Like most current camcorders, the PJ260 has a touchscreen with a simplified menu for access to all its settings. Videos can be watched back by pressing the playback icon onscreen or by pressing the physical Play button. Clips show up as thumbnails and are arranged in a playlist sorted by the date they were recorded.

Sony PJ260 camcorder review - screen Sony PJ260 camcorder review - projector
The 3-inch touchscreen LCD has two built-in speakers The integrated projector: 13 lumens, 640 x 360 pixels.

The PJ260 comes with the NP-FV50 battery, which can run the device for over two hours (140 minutes of shooting, 165 minutes of playback). A USB cable is built directly into the hand strap, which means you'll be hard pushed to lose it. Simply hook this up to a computer to transfer your footage. Sony has also included a USB extension cable to make it easier to connect the camcorder to your PC.

The control layout has been well thought out and the product's general finish is good, with a shiny black casing. The 3-inch touchscreen has 230,400 pixels—which could be better—and there's no optical viewfinder. The LCD has a glossy finish and has two built-in stereo speakers.

Sony PJ260 camcorder review - zoom control Sony PJ260 camcorder review - USB connector
Zoom control, photo button, 5.1 microphone. USB cable built into the wrist strap

The most original thing about the screen, however, is the fact it has a built-in projector. With a brightness of 13 lumens and a resolution of 640 x 360 pixels, it can project images for 1 hr 30 mins with the battery supplied. You can refocus the projected image using a button oncscreen. For some of you, using this projector function may bring back memories of family Super 8 film sessions on a Sunday afternoon, as on a white wall the image has an 'old film reel' kind of feel to it. The image is perfectly visible ... so long as you're in a dark room (see inset) and the speakers are sufficiently powerful to make sure everyone can hear what's going on.

Image Quality

The Sony PJ260 uses a 1/3.91 (4.6 mm) backlit Exmor R CMOS sensor with 5.4 Megapixels (2.2 effective Megapixels in video mode). Top quality HD video is recorded in 1920 x 1080 / 50p—that's 50 full frames per second in progressive scan format. In this mode, which is the crème de la crème of HD video, footage is recorded with a bitrate of 28 Mbps in Mpeg-4. For those of you who like to cut and edit footage, be aware that while you'll already need a pretty powerful computer to work with AVCHD/50i, working with 50p video will require even more power. Thankfully, the PJ260 has some less heavyweight recording formats on offer, including 25p and 50i with lower bitrates (17 or 9 Mbps). That said, it'd be a shame not to use the top-quality HD video mode when you've just spent £600 on a camcorder!

Sony PJ260 camcorder review - video test frame Sony PJ260 camcorder review - projector test
Frame from HD footage filmed with the PJ260 indoors The same image projected with the PJ260 onto a white wall in a dark room

Sharpness and sensitivity were fine in our lab tests with the Sony PJ260 in 1080/50p mode, with well-balanced, if slightly dull, colours. Filming indoors with a few lights on is fine, although there is some noise in the image. The PJ260 uses a Sony G lens with f/1.8 aperture and a powerful 30x optical zoom that starts at a wide angle of 29.8 mm in 24 x 36 mm equivalent. The PJ260 is therefore a versatile handheld camcorder that can film subjects that are close up or very far away. Plus, the 'Active' image stabilisation system (a tried-and-tested system used since 2009) is still on hand to effectively counteract camera-shake, even when you're walking with the camcorder in hand. Sound is covered by a built-in stereo microphone with four extra capsules for capturing 5.1 audio. Five audio tracks will therefore show up in your editing software.

As well as the built-in USB connector, the PJ260 has a mini-HDMI output (cable not included) for connection to an HD TV, plus microphone and headphones sockets. The battery charges in the camcorder (there's no separate charger) so you won't have to keep taking it in and out. Plus, some of you may be interested to know that the PJ260 has a GPS chip for geo-tagging videos (date, time, coordinates) with a map displayed on the LCD.
4/5 Sony HDR-PJ260 DigitalVersus 2012-03-20 15:00:00

Pros

  • 50p video mode and 5.1 microphone
  • 29.8 mm wide angle
  • 30x optical zoom
  • 16 GB internal memory
  • Headphones and mic sockets
  • Built-in projector

Cons

  • Colours are a bit dull

Conclusion

The Sony Handycam PJ260 is a family camcorder with plenty of great features, as much in its optics (zoom, wide angle) as in terms of its design (touchscreen, built-in memory). The integrated projector is a nice touch that's a decent enough fallback solution when there's no TV to hand. All in all, it's a good four-star camcorder.

OUR SCORE 4/5
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