I received the Sony NEX VG10 with high expectations, here was a camera that promised to be a DSLR killer at a reasonable price, it’s not. Here’s why.
I was thinking, here is a camera with interchangeable lenses and a APSC sized sensor from Sony, finally a camera that could breach the gap between camcorder convenience and DSLR image quality but I was wrong. As far as video quality is concerned, yes, it is a winner, it has interchangeable lenses and a large APS sized sensor, rivaling the Canon 7D DSLR in a camcorder form factor. It has a flip out LCD and a convenient hand held body with a proper handle, decent on-board mics and both a Sony intelligent shoe and a cold shoe for mounting an external mic or light. The included E-series 18mm-200mm f3.5 lens is great and you can easily adapt the mount to accept not only Sony A series lenses but just about any 35mm still lens out there to wok with it. I bought the E-series to Canon FD lens adapter and threw my good ol’ Canon FD 50mm F1.4 lens on it, and it works wonderfully. The 24Mbs H264 codec delivers exactly what I would expect as far as video quality is concerned, although you are stuck with 1080i 29.97 FPS. I also noticed some moire artifacts when zooming or panning. And I have to say that this camera was ideally suited for the particular shoot where I tested it. I was shooting hand held POV shots with the camera mounted on my Jaybilizer HDSLR camera stabilizer.
So what’s my gripe? First, no manual audio level controls, sure it’s got an 1/8″ external mic input, but only AGC level control, this is totally unacceptable on a $2000 camera. I’ve got several sub-one thousand dollar Sony cameras that have audio level controls. I was actually hoping at this price point to see XLR inputs, but I would accept an 1/8″ mini input with level controls. This is a massive fail that I cannot over state.
Second , I have to address the insufficient user manual and unintuitive user interface. I took the camera out on a shoot and was stymied by such simple task as formating a SD card . You have to go to the Menu button and then the Setup item and scroll down to the Format Card item, where it tells you to press the OK button. there is no OK button. After trying all the available buttons, I discovered that this is the button labeled Focus, nowhere in the manual is there any allusion to the OK button and that it is indeed the Focus button. The manual is horrid, the worst manual I’ve ever seen for a camcorder, let alone a $2k camcorder. It feels like the manual was written by two marketing guys on a 12 hour deadline.
I could go on and on about the audio or lack of audio control, but what about simple things like LANC? It’s a Sony for Chrissake, A Sony without LANC remote? What? And the LCD viewfinder only rotates 90 degrees, again you wonder why? Every other flip out LCD viewfinder in recent history rotates 180 degrees so you can look at it from the front of the camera. Again, a big “What where they thinking?”
Overall this would be a great camera at the $1K price point but at $2K you are at least into the prosumer feature range and the lack of audio control is , as I said before, totally unacceptable. I have a forlorn wish that this is something that can be solved in a firmware update, but I’m not holding my breathe.
In the meantime, I’m torn between the great image quality that the large sensor and interchangeable lenses deliver and the dumbed down audio and the lack other features that we’ve come to expect of a camcorder at this price point. It feels like the whole thing was rushed to market without much thought to what professional videographers really need.