Sony launches the NEX-VG10 camcorder

First consumer level camcorder with interchangeable lenses

SONY IMPRESSED WITH its first two NEX mirrorless DSLR cameras (for a lack of a better term), but its third camera in the NEX series is something entirely different, namely a camcorder with interchangeable lenses. It shoots 1080p video, of course, but in addition to this, it also shoots 14Megapixel still pictures thanks to its Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor.

Normally we don’t cover these kind of products at SemiAccurate, but the NEX-VG10 is something of a game changer and it’s set to put a few spanners in the wheels for Sony’s competitors. Sony announced that it was working on a camcorder that would work with its new E-mount lenses when it launched the NEX-3 and NEX-5 cameras, but no-one really expected it to arrive this soon.

What makes the VG10 so special is the large APS-C size sensor and the interchangeable lenses, neither of which have ever made it into what should be considered a consumer grade camcorder before. Although the VG10 is styled more like a professional camcorder, it relies solely on consumer centric interfaces such as 3.5mm jacks rather than XLR connectors for the microphone input as an example.

So why is this at all important? Well, with DSLR cameras having become the tool of the trade so to speak for many budding movie makers and even on a professional level, this is the next step in the evolution of camcorders. And by sticking to its E-mount, Sony can also adopt its own Alpha-mount lenses via an adapter and pretty much any other lens which you can find an adapter ring for can be used with the VG10. This makes it a very versatile camera with potentially the broadest range of lenses available to any camcorder ever made.

On top of this Sony has thrown in a few extra features for good measure such as its BIONZ imaging processor, a quad capsule spatial array stereo microphone, a 3-inch LCD screen with 921,000 pixels, a 1,152,000 pixel electronic viewfinder, SDXC and Memory Stick PRO-HD Duo support, most of the still photo features of the two previous cameras in the NEX series and of course the $800 F3.5-6.3 optically stabilized 18-200mm lens. The lens actually weighs more than the camera body itself, as the camera comes in at 620g (1lb 5oz) while the two combined is a fairly heavy 1.3kg (2lb 12oz).

As the VG10 can double as a still camera it has no less than two accessory shoes, one hot shoe for Sony compatible flash guns and accessories and one cold shoe for video lights or microphone holders. You also have full manual control over most features, something that’s likely to appeal to more professional users. The only fly in the ointment, it’s a small fly, we promise, as such would be the fact that the VG10 is “limited” to shooting video in 24Mbit AVCHD which is a consumer format which might turn some more demanding users away.

At $1999.99 on pre-order – with a September shipping date – the NEX-VC10 is anything but cheap, but considering that the lens on its own is worth $800, you’re still getting a cracking deal if you consider that Panasonic’s upcoming Micro 4/3’s alternative which cost over twice as much, although it will also feature more professional features. Sony is also throwing in a voucher for a downloadable copy of Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 10 in the box which is allegedly worth $99.

Is the NEX-VG10 the camcorder everyone has been waiting for? Well, no, far from, but it does show that we’re at a new crossroads in the market and we’ll most likely see a lot more products of this type launching this year, if the rumours prove to be anything close to what Sony’s competitors are working on. Sony got there first and in this case, it does count for something.S|A

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