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Adrian Miskelly's Blog

Size does matter... especially at Christmas

I've always seemed to be a big fan of Sony for some reason, I'm not sure if its to do with the brand, the quality of the build in their products or whether its the natural gravitational pull that one has when as a kid you can finally afford to buy your first piece of hardware. My first piece of hardware that I ever purchased was in 1985 when I bought my first walkman, and that was a biggie for me.
I just recently purchased a Sony Handycam AVCHD CX11 which is smaller than that first walkman. Its hardly a professionals first choice as it is directly marketed at the consumer and pretty much doesn't have the robust nature of higher end kit, however it really has knocked me sideways with its capabilities.
The reason I got it was due to the fact that my partner is pregnant with our first child and I was disappointed that I missed out on recording the sound of my child's heartbeat when we went in for the first all-important scan. I was hardly going to walk in with my A1E which although small for its abilities is still not quite the thing you want to take into a radiographers surgery trying to surreptitiously record what should rightfully be recorded for prosperity. They don't take too well with overly anxious soon-to be parents bringing in masses of hardware and directing them to the best shot of the child in-uterus, understandably.
So I thought how could I do this, I want to record everything. I would've loved to have seen myself in my mums tum, but of course the technology wasn't around back then but it is now and I intend to use it to my best advantage and of course for my soon to be child.
Along came the CX11 all 5 inches of it with HD and 5.1 recordable sound - nuts! All on solid state mini-SD card and at £539. It fits in any of my pockets and is so handy for recording background moving textures, anything on the fly and of course clandestine activity like babies heartbeats in beautiful surround sound.
There are however a couple of quite sticky problems which I really don't like about it. The big one is the dock, you have to use a docking station to recharge the battery, ie. you don't charge directly through the main camera structure and this is also how you transfer your files. There is no top end viewfinder, you have to use the swing door viewfinder to compose your shots, however the screen is highly sensitive and seems very good quality and robust.
For all intensive purposes this is a great little device if you're like me and carry loads of kit around and want everything miniaturised. I intend to use this for those moments you just wish you had your camera with you but couldn't bring the big guns out.
The quality of the imagery is impressive - not high end - but still impressive. For things like background textures and loopable quick and fast imagery its absolutely brilliant although I wouldn't use it for documentaries or anything high end that requires deep scrutiny. The standard issue applies of course with HD that panning is not really an option anything less than 50fps will not give you a smooth and clean pan across anything at even a slow speed.
It also has a slow motion mechanism which although does a good faux-slow motion is a buffered technique which can be very clunky and difficult to control.
It also has a 10.2 MP camera built in, however the shots although very large do look soft and feathered and certainly doesn't manage the detail as well as my 10.2 MP SLR. Mind you I may not have mastered this side of the camera yet.
To capture files off the camera in FCP you have to go through the Log and Transfer tool rather than Log and Capture which I'm used to, however its really very simple and didn't require any additional knowledge or difficult processes. Although it is quite a slow transfer process and definitely not real-time.
Either way if you are lucky enough to expect a gift this Festive Season that could cost this much you'd do well to ask ol' Santa to pop it in. Even though it has a number of sticky points I still reckon for its size and what its capable of it was a great buy.

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