The Sony PJ Series Handycam, The Projector with a Handycam Attached…

Sony is back to innovating once again, returning to their core business, and the reason we loved them, leading edge gadgets. A prime example has to be the recently released PJ family of Handycams with integrated Projector. Shown earlier this year at CES the camera caused quite a stir – won a CNET award -, now it’s available world-wide and still every bit as impressive. This is the best implementation of an integrated projector on any gadget to date. Able to project a 60″ image with a bright and vivid picture this is a viable alternative to using a TV to watch your video creations, this is no matchbox projection. Also providing full Hi-Def video recording and enough clever functions to keep Inspector Gadget busy, Sony has produced a well rounded, quality video camera with a sparkling surprise, cinema on the go.

At the press of a small discreet button labelled Projector the PJ Handycam lights up. While this isn’t the first portable device with an integrated projector it is the first practical and useful projector ever built into any portable device. Being built into the front of the Handycams LCD flap means the position of the projector can be adjusted independent of the camera’s body. The distance of the Handycam from the screens surface dictates the size of the projected display, at 6 feet you will have a 60″ picture that’s sharp and bright, go further back and the picture will start to wash out. This is standard projector behaviour, if you are in confined spaces the Handycam can be moved closer to the screens surface, making a smaller more compact picture. The projector can also project picture slideshow with backing music.

In a dark room with the right surface the projector is able to create a bright high contrast picture. It is quite easily washed out by ambient light, with only 10 lumens of output power from the LED Pico projector, but at night or in a darkened room the picture pops. It is still very useable on everyday surfaces, be the life of the party and project onto peoples white t-shirts, this is Pico projectors at their best. It is still amazing how much difference the surface you use to project onto can make, again this is applicable to all projectors. While this Handycam is obviously going to be taking movie projection to many outdoor locations it would still be ideal to have a proper surface setup on a wall at home.

Sony hasn’t neglected the Handycam functions of the new PJ family either. Touch screen and gestures now allow quick operation of the advanced functions for the camera. The tradition external buttons and interfaces are still there, Start/Stop, Zoom, quick effects, all of the usual suspects are there in close reach of your fingers. More advanced functions are accessed through the 3.0” Clear Photo LCD Plus™ touch screen. The screen is not only sharp, bright and vivid, it is also designed to maintain those characteristics outdoors, in bright sunshine, essential when the touch screen is so tightly integrated into the Handycams interface.

The brains of the PJ line, the BIONZ™ image processor has been put on steroids since Sony’s last generation Handycams. The Handycams designers obviously love the flexibility of the touch screen interface, it seems to have set them free. Brimming with advanced functions; Highlight Playback automatically edits your footage together and even plays it with a backing soundtrack for instant multi media presentations on the go. Event browse displays your media grouped by events, shots that were taken together are shown in a group on screen, a rather clever way to use the date/time stamp to group the media. All of the advanced functions use the touch screen to great effect, with a quick swipe and tap the Highlight Playback has an edited movie of your new content, snaps or video.

Other recent Sony cleverness driven by BIONZ™; Face detection that can recognize your friends, Smile shutter that snaps a photo off when it detects a smile on the subject, Smooth Slow Rec and Golf Shot Mode that takes an ultra hi-speed clip to analyse your golf swing or tennis serve, very handy.

Sony HDR-PJ30V

As another sign that Sony is really trying once again – they did loose their shine for a while – they have included a number of small touches that make this a stand-out Handycam. Direct Copy allows the Handycam to save out video’s to an external USB storage device. Files stored on the external storage can also be played back on the projector. The built in tuck away USB cable is old school handy, allowing USB charging allows the Handycam to be useful even without an octopus like accessories bag. While USB charging is slower than the mains charger, 5 hours for a full charge, the USB cable being built into the cameras hand strap makes it super convenient. Other interfaces include HDMI for direct output to TV’s, mini USB, Component Video Out, external minijack for microphone and Active Interface Shoe, for lights, flashes, microphones or other powered accessories.

The Handycams professional-quality 29.8 mm wide angle Sony G Lens sits in front of the 1/4″ – 4.5mm – Back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS Sensor. The sensor records in full hi-def – 1920 x 1080 – at up to 60 frames per second, 24fps cinema mode is also included. With extended night shoot modes the Exmor sensor is a great low light performer pulling in all available light, but its no True Blood vampire, it loves the light of day with exceptionally high detail and colour in daylight conditions. 12 by optical zoom on the PJ30 and PJ50 is backed up by 160x digital zoom. The PJ10 has 30x optical zoom and 350x digital zoom. Optical SteadyShot the handycams image stabilization must be turned on for the digital zoom to be practical.

PJ10, has all of the basic functions and great price. In some ways this is the stripped back sports model. The lightest of the three at 310 grams. The maximum resolution is a touch lower at 2k x 1.5k compared to 3k x 2k on the big brothers. The same BIONZ™ image processor is used across the family, ensuring the interface is identical across the range. While the PJ10 looses on still picture resolution it wins over its brothers in zoom. The PJ10 crams in 30x zoom where as the PJ30 and 50 have only 12x zoom. The 16GB of built-in Flash can be expanded with the multi-format memory card slot that can accept Memory Stick PRO Duo or SD/SDHC Memory Cards. With 64GB SDHC cards becoming available and the Handycams ability to record directly to memory card expansion and running out of space won’t be an issue. The PJ10 also lacks the GPS functionality of its brothers, but at $1,000 AUS the PJ10 is the value king of the PJ family, every bit as capable as its big price brothers.

The mid range of the PJ family is the PJ30, it is both a PJ10 on steroids and a cut back PJ50. 32GB of built in flash is twice the PJ10’s but less than the s 220GB hard drive. Optical zoom and digital zoom are identical on the PJ30 and 50, 2 x optical, 160 x digital. Geotagging with the built-in GPS receiver & NAVTEQ® map software allows you to retrace your steps making the job of documenting your photos a breeze, overlay the days photo’s onto a map. Still photo’s are shot at 7.1 megapixel, 3072 x 2304 resolution, all identical specifications as the PJ50.

The PJ50 is the Rolls Royce of the PJ family. With the heaviest body weight – no battery or memory card – of 400 grams along with a price tag of $1,500 this is the top end of town. The GPS, Zoom, resolutions are all identical to the PJ30, the storage though is altered to include a 220GB hard drive.

Sony has done serious work to improve sound quality, for both recording and playback. 5.1ch Surround mic for vivid and dynamic surround sound along with Wind noise reduction for clear voice recording allow for clean and clear audio. Audio playback has been enhanced over a standard Handycam. Digital amplifiers and Clear Phase stereo speakers offer true and dynamic sound during movie playback on the go.

Sony’s new portable multimedia powerhouses, the three new video camera’s of the PJ family, the $999 HDR-PJ10 , $1,399 HDR-PJ30V and the $1,599 HDR-PJ50V are all available now.

It’s not just the presence of the projector but the placement and implementation that Sony has gotten so right. Mounting it on the front side of the Handycam’s LCD allows the projector to be pointed and adjusted to suit any situation. As part of a portable entertainment system the PJ50 can do double duty, recording the days festivities and as the ultimate portable display device. Load it up with movies and music videos for that portable outdoor cinema experience. Sony has produced an outstanding family of Handycams with the PJ projector family, a smart capable video camera in it’s own right, but so much more with the built in projector.

Further information at Product Page

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