Sony NEX-VG10 Overview

Sony recently teased us with the coming of this killer Handycam, and we knew it was going to be a big deal.  Now that the camera has been officially unveiled, is the new Sony NEX-VG10 the game changer that it’s supposed to be?

While I hope to have a production model to test as soon as the VG10 becomes available, let’s take a look at what the fuss is all about based on what we know now.

Sony NEX-VG10 Key Features

  • APS (23.4 X 15.6mm) HD CMOS Sensor (same size as Sony DSLR sensors)
    • 1920 x 1080 Resolution
    • 60i fps
    • 24Mbps AVCHD Video Format
  • Interchangeable Lenses
    • E-Mount
    • 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Lens Included
    • A-Mount (with LA-EA1 adapter)
  • 3″ LCD w/ 180° Swivel (921k dot resolution)
  • Swivel EVF 0.43″ (1152k dot resolution)
  • 14.2MP Still Image Capture (JPEG only)
  • Optical SteadyShot Image Stabilization
  • Manual Exposure Control
  • ISO 200-12800
  • Full Time AF During Video Capture
  • HDMI Output
  • 3.5mm Stereo Mic Input
  • 3.5mm Headphone Monitor Output
  • Dual Accessory Shoes
    • Alpha Hot Shoe
    • Standard Cold Shoe
  • SDXC Memory Card Compatibility
  • Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 10 (via download voucher)

Sony NEX-VG10 Sample Footage

The following sample footage is provided by Sony’s Vimeo channel as part of the promotional launch of the VG10.

What is immediately apparent when viewing the VG10’s footage is the attractive depth of field that results from the larger APS-format sensor.  We’ve grown accustomed to seeing this effect in recent months with HDSLR footage from the likes the Canon and Nikon DSLRs, as well as Micro Four Thirds cameras like the Panasonic GH1.

A Closer Look at Sony NEX-VG10 Features and Specs

When Sony introduced the NEX-3 and NEX-5, we were teased with the VG10 concept, but details remained murky.  As it turns out, the VG10 is closely aligned with the NEX still cameras in more ways than just the lens mount.  In fact, the VG10 uses the same 14.2MP CMOS image sensor found in its photo-friendly siblings.  But Sony is clearly drawing a line and limiting features on each side of the photo/video fence to keep the cameras from cannibalizing the sales of each other.

For example, the VG10 can only capture JPEG photos.  While the VG10 offers a number of still image features, such as Auto HDR, Handheld Twilight and Anti Motion Blur (also found in the NEX-3 and NEX-5), it is not possible to capture RAW format photos – a feature which could make the VG10 a serious still camera.  Likewise, the NEX-3 and NEX-5 have a number of limitations with regard to their video capture features, such as clip lengths limited to 29 minutes 50 seconds (the VG10 will shoot video until the power is dead, memory is full, or the cows come home), and no complete control over exposure (only exposure compensation).

Of course, the biggest discerning feature of the VG10 is the basic form factor.  It looks, walks and talks like a video camera.  We’ve been begging manufacturers to put a big sensor in to an honest camcorder since we first laid eyes on footage from the 5D Mark II almost two years ago.  Well, we’ve got one now.

Another obvious improvement on the video side of things (as heard in the above sample video) is the on-board mic, which is a Quad Capsule Spatial Array stereo mic that contains four precision placed microphone capsules to provide front-side directivity and stereo separation.  Additionally, the VG10 offers a 3.5mm stereo mic input for attaching an external mic.  Of course, it’s easy to criticize the VG10’s lack of XLR inputs for external audio.  But, I’m willing to let this one go though – given the price point of $2000, which includes an $800 lens and a $100 editing program.

What About Lenses?

The NEX-VG10 uses E-mount lenses with auto-exposure and full time AF capabilities.  As of the time of this posting, there are three Sony E-mount lenses available:  the 18-200mm that comes packaged with the VG10, a 16mm f/2.8 and an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens.

In addition to these E-mount lenses designed for NEX cameras, Sony also has produced the LA-EA1 Alpha mount adapter, which allows full use of Sony’s range of Alpha DSLR lenses with auto-exposure enabled; however, full time AF does not appear to be possible.  Additionally, based on what I’ve heard thus far, auto-exposure with Alpha mount lenses will exhibit exposure changes based on aperture stops, while E-mount lenses offer a step-less iris for exposure changes during video capture.  I’ll take a closer look at these challenges once I get some hands-on time with the VG10.

The Interlaced Elephant in the Room

Now the biggie – 60i.  Is this heresy?  Based on some of the initial reactions from pundits, you would think so.  Maybe it is . . . but I’m not ready to hang it out to dry until I see the VG10 up close.  And, based on reports from people who have actually used the camera, it may not be as bad as it seems:

you should note that the 60i material originates from a progressive sensor, and images do not appear to show any tearing or interlace artifacting.

-Pro Video Coalition

Not so fast though.  I think the Bali video above looks solid, and I couldn’t find anywhere (on my initial run through) showing that it suffered from serious interlacing effects.  However, the first time through Charles Michel’s VG10 intro video (featuring his own footage from the camera – not official Sony promo video), I found several frames that demonstrated interlacing effects from the VG10.  Below is just one of those.

VG10 Interlacing Effect Example

Now, is all hope lost for the VG10?  I don’t think so.

What sample footage I’ve seen so far has been impressive nonetheless.  And, while most everyone would prefer a progressive frame rate (and that really should be an option at the very least), we have to remember that we are looking at a consumer camcorder.

Will people shoot some great footage with the VG10? Sure.  What I’ve seen already is quite pretty, thanks in most part to the larger APS sensor.

The progressive frame rate will come.  It’s just going to cost you more than $2000.

What Sony apparently won’t do is offer up progressive frame rates to the masses.  While that sucks, that’s just the way it’s going to be for the time being.  If you want your 24p and a big sensor, hang on to that 5D Mark II, 1D Mark IV and 7D for awhile.

For now, Sony is hedging its bets that this interchangeable lens camcorder thing will get people excited enough to spend some money.  I’m betting that it will.

But Sony better get that prosumer/indie filmmaker model out the door (24p, XLR and all), or someone else is going to be the first out of the gate with something that really makes video professionals drool.

The Sony NEX-VG10 should be shipping in September 2010 and carries an initial retail price tag of $2000.

You can check availability at the following trusted retailers:

B&H Photo/Video

Amazon.com

Comments

  1. Timothy Lunn says

    I am very impressed with the quality of this camera , very sharp images. Very steady hand.
    How much? I use sony DSLR and have had many comments on picture and color quality being so nice.

  2. Raz says

    It’s not clear this is “Interlacing Effect Example”. Why would this video have Interlacing Effect but not the Bali one? Maybe this is case of the output file from the NLE at a different frame rate than the original footage with frame resampling switched on. Switch it off and it goes away. This could be the case where the video was captured using a PAL camcorder (25p) and rendered at 30p.

    The Sony APS sensor captures in progressive, but the camera is saving the footage into an interlaced container with a doubled framerate.

  3. splugnut2000 says

    Hi, Just for info, those aren’t interlacing artifacts, they’re ghosting effects caused by frame rate conversion with frame re-sampling switched on in the NLE. Switch it off and they go away. frame re-sampling isn’t necessary if the capture is progressive – which it is in the case of the VG10.

    Most likely this arises from the up conversion of the initial capture from PAL 25p to 30p for youtube/vimeo whatever. As the storage carrier used for the progressive capture is the 50i AVCHD carrier, the NLE will get confused and think that it actually contains a true interlaced capture. It may then automatically set all of its settings to achieve the best output based on that assumption including setting smart frame resampling which is sometimes used to disguise true interlacing artifacts. It takes little more than a couple of clicks to set it right in your project, so its inconsequential.

    Hope this helps

    • says

      @Raz @splugnut2000 Thanks for chiming in. Your points are duly noted and welcomed. Please feel free to check back in and keep me on my video toes.

  4. says

    Notwithstanding the example you provide is not interlacing artifacts, this camera is crippled by the 60i output. Why not 24p? Sony is not a company that values their customers—they value their bottom line, period. Just look at the Sony Rootkit, the PS3 crippling, removal of backwards compatibility, lock in to arcane proprietary formats, and then they go ahead and release the “New Stupid Piece Of Crap That Doesn’t Even Work.”

    In other words, Sony will go the way that so many companies have gone before and are going now: to their death. Consumers talk, and there can only be so much negative discussion about a brand before said brand is tarnished and sullied in the public’s eyes.

  5. says

    As video samples and Web links appear, they will be posted here on a rolling basis:

    http://www.nexvg10.info

    A few recently discovered facts: it’s confirmed that the 60i streams will actually be 30p after all; and there is no mechanical zoom capability.

  6. says

    I shoot still RAW w/Pro-Nikon & at same time shooting w/a larger HD Pro-Cam for rolling stock in the African bush/safari/malaria medical clinics, encircled by wild life and or 1,000’s of kid’s. This is a ‘clever’ unit I might purchase-i.e. Nevertheless, after seeing the rolling stock images shown on this site…hard believing “they are so brilliant”. The 18-200 w/VR is a perfect match w/my still shot unit. Sony design team obviously talked with fast action-busy on the move short film-filmmakers, before control items left off, and or not included. A rolling stock filmmaker needs fast easy control’s…RAW has little or no value-eats up too much file space, and for capturing remote rolling stock film seems Okadoka.
    I will use this as a backup still shooter…and JPEG works fine for most part with Adobe. All the same-not having to worry about speed-light conditions (as much) is truly g r e a t. I am not into old school ego selecting ‘my’ perfect control issues to be like Mr. Adams…via rolling stock less b u l k shooting two units at same time Sony unit has value/travel time on my back or in overheads. It seems little high but if the 18-200 is as great as when shooting stills with my 18-200 Nikon lens-sold me.
    Point of thread: If not the positive case-Ergo let me know someone who purchased.
    I do not like purchasing a first production-anything…this unit seems fine far as reviews-threads indicating negative is lacking a few control items/no Raw, which is fine by me.

  7. Al Stewart says

    i bought the nex vg10 it is an great camera i am not a pro photographer the pics look great the video is crisp and sharp only some one who spends hours behind the lense getting paid to do so will find fault with this camera the only problem that i found was that the battery they give you with the camera is too small not enough life with the 70 battery

  8. says

    A few recently discovered facts: it’s confirmed that the 60i streams will actually be 30p after all; and there is no mechanical zoom capability.

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