Most of the time I hate 'gadgets'. I just can't be bothered with all the palaver of understanding why I "need" them, learning how to use them and then carrying them around with me everywhere. The reward for all this seems paltry, certainly not a significant enough improvement upon the results still being delivered by an antiquated yet reliable old workhorse that I can use without thinking. I'm not one of those 'gadget geeks' - I'm a bird geek and its probably wise to keep ones 'geekism' pretty controlled, perhaps with occasional dallies into other spheres of geekism, such as big telephoto lenses. Thus I don't need new things all the time; the latest phone, camera, car, toaster, Hoover, spoon... I like my old stuff and as I'm completely OCD with 'gear' my tools and equipment tend to last pretty well.
So it was with some reluctance that I opened the horrible text-smattered and slogan-smothered box to examine the Sony HDR-CX6EK Handycam camcorder. However, this time my reticence was entirely misplaced. Within seconds I had fallen in love with a new machine; a beautiful, neat, shiny, well-designed, crisply engineered covetous little techno-gem. It's lovely! I just fondled it for five minutes going 'oooh' and 'aaah', opening and closing the screen, enjoying the all important 'feel' of the device. It's just so well-engineered! All the switches and buttons are well crafted, it all fits and the screen and battery snap shut with satisfying clicks and warm thuds, and with those seemingly mandatory but ever so irritating stickers off, it looks good too. Sleek, compact, simple and obviously well made. All of this naturally leads one to suspect that the essential purpose of the Sony HDR-CX6EK Handycam camcorder will be equally accomplished and perhaps most importantly of all . . . usable.
I have Sony Vaio desktops, a Sony Vaio laptop and a Sony Ericsson mobile phone. I'm not really a Sony nut, I just want the ease of compatibility without lots of surplus hardware, webs of wires, leads, sockets, etc, all cluttering up my workspace and offending my OCD. And it works, the system is seamlessly integrated, the card comes out of my phone and straight into a slot on the computer and so on. Now, imagine my joy when I realise I can take the SD card complete with two hours of HD 'footage' out of this Sony HDR-CX6EK Handycam, push it into my PC and it all appears instantly! That's how it works. No disc, tape or internal hard drive with this little baby, just a little card with a big memory. You'll need at least a 4GB SD card but preferably an 8GB SD card to record anything more than the story of an egg being boiled on your camcorder, and then a spare card too, so a bit of a spend will be required to fully kit up, but I'm already asking myself why would I want to continue with my mini DV dinosaur? Why would I want to record on a Blu-Ray disc? I don't. I don't want the hassle of this jack, that socket, fumbling around behind the DVD player, thinking 'Oh God, I forgot to Hoover here' etc. If you don't have a Memory Stick Pro Duo slot then the supplied base station can be left permanently connected to your TV/Computer and the Sony HDR-CX6EK Handycam Camcorder just locks onto this. Naturally all the required leads are supplied. I personally don't like this aspect, the Sony Handycam has to be firmly plugged onto the plate and it is very light, almost 'placky', and flimsy - I can see it falling off the top of the TV or disappearing down the back of the desk. It also serves as a battery charging station but again it's not mandatory as a lead can be plugged directly into the camera.
1, 2, 3... Go!
Right, now the Sony HDR-CX6EK Handycam is charged, carded and ready to go so you switch it on and... there's no viewfinder. Oh God no, it's come to this... I wander out on a burningly bright sunny afternoon expecting to have all my infatuation fade as soon as the sun hits the little screen. But no! It's amazing! With full sun on the screen the image remains wholly and totally visible. How on earth do they do that? I wander around making no effort to be considerate, making life hell for the gadget but it is completely clear under all conditions. The viewfinder is dead!
There is a 20x digital zoom on this little gadget. It's not good; not evil, but not usable either. But it doesn't matter because the 10x zoom is very good and the lens is again quite remarkable in its flexibility from telephoto to macro. Its quick to focus, doesn't hunt at all unless really provoked, and is very sharp. If there is one problem it is only that the wide end on this Sony Camcorder is not very wide and unless you tool up and fiddle about with a wide angle lens accessory you will spend a lot of time walking backwards to get the chimney in.
There is no switching between movie mode and the 6.1 megapixel still camera, you just press the button half down and it instantly switches to this mode and takes a snap. The still pictures are pretty good too, no vignetting or softness around the edges. I did have some problems with the auto white balance and ended up with some truly blue indoor photos, but I'm sure I could fix this. However, I suppose we have ask how far one should have to deviate from 'Point and Shoot' just to grab a quick pic of your dog standing by the door? Outside the Sony Handycam Camcorder worked really well. The steady shot feature is not the fiercest I've seen and I twice checked to see if it was actually activated so although the telephoto is good you'll need to find something to rest on to get the best out of your long shots. Or a tripod, if you are very keen.
And the winner is...
The movies are fantastic. I only tried it on maximum quality HD and given the high contrast of the scenes I shot I was wincing at the sharpness of the detail. I'm still getting used to this format at the moment, it hasn't yet got me convinced because it looks unreal, a bit like the switch from film to digital, it has a super reality which is still striking me as artificial. I'll get over it, I'll have to, the world is going HD. Maybe I'll get some new glasses, maybe the real world is HD and I've been missing out!
I was also mildly disappointed that the files recorded on the card would not open with Quicktime, Real Player or the Windows Media software. You have to download the software provided to see your moving images. Another icon on the desktop, another program to clog up your PC. Come on global corporations, please unite formats and make our lives easier!
The sound is like that recorded on a camcorder. But then there are plenty of options available when it comes to accessories to facilitate improvements in this area - such as a gun mic and stereo mic. Indeed, another Sony strength is the breadth and flexibility of the available range of 'sub-gadgets', everything from bags, pouches, filters, lenses, microphones, battery lights, etc. A tempting array to have the geeks slavering over the catalogues!
Initially you may think that the Sony HDR-CX6EK Handycam Camcorder is devoid of any ergonomic cuddliness but in truth it fits really snugly into the palm and its shaping means that your index finger is perfectly poised above the zoom toggle and still picture button. Quite a different story for left handed users I expect though. And it must be said that because of the very horizontal way in which the Sony Handycam Camcorder fits into your hand, that is it sits across the palm, it is comfortable when you have your hand up at face level but if you want to hold it lower down, say at your kids' face level, then you have to really bend your wrist back. So this doesn't work and you have to re-grip it and then your fingers are all wrong for the buttons.
The socket for the base station has no protection. It is on the bottom of the device and I wonder how safe it is to put it down on sand/mud or even onto a wet table top. It would be curtains I reckon. It needs a plastic cap. I'm old fashioned so a lens hood would also be nice. The Steady Shot on the Sony Handycam Camcorder needs a bit of spice to make the long end of the lens useful without a tripod and the wide end isn't really wide. The base station lets the whole quality/solidity feel down and it needs dedicated software to work - such a shame.
The build quality of the Sony HDR-CX6EK Handycam is superb, the feel is also great, it's a very tasty gadget indeed. The picture quality is astonishing and switching between moving and still formats is instant and fiddle-free. The screen is incredible! And the menu is quick, intuitive and easy to navigate. The telephoto to macro is very fast and the focus is accurate. The box is not filled with a useless and wasteful excess of paper and plastic bits. A few 'Quick Start' things and two CD's, one with a very good manual, full of ideas and well presented information.
Hot on the heels of my recent proclamation of the end of tape, I would like to immediately declare the death of the disc! The memory cards have it and the Sony HDR-CX6EK Handycam Camcorder is a little beauty that stirred a geekism within me that I didn't know I had. It's nice, very nice indeed - if I was in the market I'd buy one and not just so I could fondle it!Back to top