Channel 5

Sony HDR-XR520VE

Monday 24 August 2009


Rating of 4

The basics

The Sony HDR-XR520VE camcorder boasts an incredible 101hr Full HD record time with 240GB hard disk drive, superlative picture quality and smart features. With Exmor R CMOS Sensor for amazing low-light sensitivity, plus premium G Lens, Optical SteadyShot Active Mode and GPS inside. It also has a 3.2-inch LCD screen.

The good

The world’s first street-smart camcorder automatically geo-tags your videos and photos, plotting them as tiny thumbnails on its built-in global maps. Every element of this Full HD camcorder is at the top of its game, starting with a brand new CMOS sensor that promises – and delivers – low levels of noise and richer, darker shadows than any consumer camera we’ve tried. Sony has improved its already impressive optical stabiliser, pumped up the hard drive to a quarter of a terabyte and stuffed the XR520 with every face detecting, smile shuttering, exposure boosting and manual tweaking feature known to cinematography. Sound is recorded in ear-tickilingly splendid 5.1 Dolby surround and the 3.2-inch touchscreen boasts nearly a million pixels for martini-clear framing and playback. Even its still snaps are as good as many dedicated digicams.

The bad

There’s no bad on board this Sony, but it does occasionally stray from perfection. There’s no standard way to geo-tag videos yet, so you’ll need to manual locate movies uploaded to Flickr. And don’t rely on the built-in maps to scout locations for your next blockbuster – the basic cartography is limited to just main roads. Colours, while perfectly acceptable, could stand to be a touch more vibrant.

The bottom line

Not only the best shooting Full HD camcorder available for under a grand but the first of a new breed of smart, flexible, connected shooters that makes home movie making cool again.
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User comments (13)

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Delip Viswan

Thanks for the review. Could you possibly tell me if it hunts around to focus in low light before settling down. With the previous model SR 12, you had to zoom in and zoom out for it to quickly settle down in low light. Which was a bit off putting. Also note, even with a 240 GB hard drive, there is a limitation of maximum of 3,999 video clips, before it fills up. Thanks. Delip

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Anthony Hayward

I was considering purhcasing this camera, but am worried it will not be easy to edit footage once on pc? I use Cyberlink power director on windows vista for editing. How is this model for editing purposes?

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Could i fit a "fish eye" lens to this camera ?

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Mark Hawes


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I want to buy this camcorder, but a few reviews on the Web about the camcorder being NTSC rather than PAL concerned me. would this have any effect when using our European standard TVs? and when editting in Software like Pinnacle or Premier?

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can anyone tell me what the sound is like, i want a good sound camera :)

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i wouldLOVE it but its 1 thousand pounds :S

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mate has just bought one, and its incredible! The zoom is amazing. He took some moon/pics/vids..jaw dropping stuff! Dont worry about ntsc/pal issues cos its digital. Mite have a problem with old analogue tv's, but who still has one?? Brilliant piece of kit. Just ordered mine. But as always, shop around for best price. Buy one!

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Geoff Frost

Got one - Fantastic picture quality - should have bought one years ago ha ha

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Andy Smith

Forget this cam! Its one chip! Pansonic 700 series has three cmos chips and record at a staggering 50p frame rate! I have the SD700 and pic quality is simply staggering especially in low light where the SOny's will struggle. Oh and did I tell you it records Dolby 5.1 audio?

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What is the more recent equivalent of this? Canon LEGRIA HF R16 High Definition Digital Camcorder?

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Mark Harrison

I agree, Jon seems to overlook the excellent Panasonic 700 series that features an inbuilt wide angle lens. As to those complaining about the numerous advert breaks, buy yourselves a PVR and watch the show on playback pressing the manual skip about 8 times (jumps 30 seconds each time) if you get it just right you might just catch the sponsorship only. Best gadget ever!

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I'm looking for an affordable camcorder to shoot a music video on a very tight budget. We have access to appropriate lighting, but are looking into the prospects of purchasing a good camera, rather than rent a crew. i recall watching an old episode of the gadget show earlier on this year which featured a task to film the best music video, using 3 different cameras on various budgets, but I cant remember the outcome, please advise me. What should I be looking for?

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