The Sony Handycam HDR-PJ380 ($599.99 direct) is a midrange camcorder with some interesting features, including a built-in projector that allows you to instantly share footage with a small group right from the camcorder. It’s on the pricey side, but it does feature a 30x zoom lens with image stabilization, 16GB of internal storage, and 1080p60 video recording. If $600 is a bit high, you can get the same camcorder with 8GB of internal storage, the PJ320, for $200 less. The PJ380 is a solid option in its class, but we think that our Editors’ Choice, the Panasonic HC-V720, is a better camcorder.
Design and Features
The PJ380 measures 2.4 by 2.3 by 4.6 inches (HWD) and weighs in at 7.4 ounces. An adjustable hand strap is located on its right side, complete with a built-in USB cable for transferring footage to a computer or charging the camcorder. You’ll find a tripod socket on the bottom, as well as a memory card slot that supports SD and Memory Stick Duo formats. There’s a flap on the right side as well; it covers a power input for charging the battery via a standard wall outlet, as well as a Multi port that can accept a breakout cable to connect to a standard definition TV.
HDTV output is possible as well, there’s a micro HDMI port on the left side of the camcorder, as well as a micro HDMI input port so that you can use the built-in projector to display video from an external source. There’s a standard mic input cable, but you’ll have to use a bracket to mount an external mic as there’s no shoe built into the PJ380. The camcorder features 16GB of internal memory, which is good for recording up to 76 minutes of top quality 1080p60 video. The battery gauge indicates that a fully charged battery provides about 2 hours and 40 minutes of life.
The lens is a 30x optical zoom that covers a 26.8-804mm (35mm equivalent) range at a variable f/1.8-4 aperture. A digital zoom is available to extend the ratio to 55x (1,474mm). Optical stabilization works to keep footage smooth when zoomed to such extreme lengths, and it does a very good job. Autofocus is also impressively fast when zoomed all the way in.
Like most non-professional camcorders, the PJ380 is built with automatic operation in mind. There aren’t a lot of physical controls, just the standard zoom rocker and a photo button that captures 8.9-megapixel images, both located on the top of the camcorder. The record button is located in the standard position, on the rear next to the battery. There is a touch-screen display that does a good job putting some control in your hands. By default focus and exposure are automatic, but a quick change in the menu can enable touch-screen focus and expo sure control. Manual control over white balance, exposure, and focus are also supported, but adjusting focus via a touch screen is a slow process.
The touch-screen LCD is 3 inches in size, but its resolution is rather poor at 230k dots. It’s hinged and turns 270°, so you can view it from behind, above, below, or with the lens facing you. Similar camcorders, including the Panasonic HC-V520, have sharper, 460k-dot displays that are clearer and crisper.
The built-in projector is a neat feature. I was able to project a reasonably bright image onto a wall in the PCMag Labs. It was bright enough to see under standard indoor lighting, and it looks even better in a darkened room. I was able to fill a large projector screen and was impressed by the sharpness and brightness that the tiny projector produced. The internal speaker is fairly loud, although a far cry from a high-fidelity audio system, but if you’re sharing home movies with friends and family, the projector is a winner.
Video Quality and Conclusions
The PJ380 uses the same image sensor as the disappointing Sony HDR-CX230, but its 30x zoom lens captures footage that’s noticeably sharper. The CX230 showed noticeable barrel distortion at its widest setting, but that’s not the case with the PJ380, even though it has a wider lens. When zoomed in the footage from the PJ380 is sharper, capturing more detail. Both camcorders had some issues with dynamic range when shooting the Manhattan skyline at dusk; buildings were properly exposed, but some highlights were clipped from the sky in a wide-angle shot. If you’re thinking about using the camera for stills, don’t. It captures 8.9-megapixel photos that are disappointing in quality; aside from the optical zoom capability, they are on par with cell phone images. Stills also have more issues with dynamic range than video; the same wide-angle shot that showed some highlight clipping with video showed an all-white sky when captured as a JPG. The clouds and the orange lines of the setting sun were gone.
The Sony Handycam HDR-PJ380 may not deliver best in class video quality, but its lens does a noticeably better job than the Sony CX230 at capturing sharp, detailed HD video. The built-in projector and touch-screen display add some value, but it’s still not the favorite camcorder that we’ve looked at. The Panasonic V720 is our Editors’ Choice; it’s a little bit less expensive, and even though you lose the projector and internal storage, you gain noticeably better video and built-in Wi-Fi.
|Mic Input Jack||Yes|
|Optical Zoom||30 x|
|Dimensions||2.3 x 2.4 x 4.6 inches|
|Video Resolution||720p, 1080p, 480p|
|Video Recording Format||Secure Digital, Flash Memory, Secure Digital High Capacity, Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
|LCD Aspect Ratio||16|
|LCD size||3 inches|
|Focal Length (Telephoto)||804 mm|
|Focal Length (Wide)||26.8 mm|
|Interface Ports||micro HDMI, USB|
|Sensor Size||1/5.8" mm|
|Still Image Recording Format||Secure Digital, Memory Stick Pro Duo, Secure Digital High Capacity, Flash Memory, Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
|CCD Resolution||2.4 megapixels|
|Sensor Type||BSI CMOS|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc