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Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen
Good image stabilization
Lens cover isn’t automatic
Autofocus is slow
No external mic port
No touchscreen controls
The Sony HDRCX405 is a handy little starter camera that’s also great for kids thanks to excellent image stabilization.
The Sony HDRCX405 Handycam is a pared down version of Sony’s older CX330 that loses some features like Wi-Fi and NFC in exchange for a remarkably low price. This lightweight camcorder features a reversible LCD display, optical zoom, and even image stabilization.
We recently unpacked one of these budget handycams, charged it up, and took it out into the world to see if the attractive price excuses the missing features.
The Sony HDRCX405 shares the same basic design cues of other devices in the Handycam line, with a cylindrical body, big lens, flip out LCD display, and an adjustable hand strap. The lens is a bit smaller than the design of the camera might lead you to believe, and it’s hidden behind a manual lens cover.
The top of the HDRCX405 features a simple toggle to zoom in and out, and a button for snapping still photos. The zoom toggle and the photo button are both well placed for easy operation with the index finger. The record button is placed on the back of the unit, where you can tap it with your thumb.
It also has a handy mode that records a steady stream of still images whenever you’re recording.
The hand strap conceals a full sized USB cable, which you can use to plug the video camera into a computer. The same cable is used to charge the battery. It’s quite short, and it’s permanently connected to the camcorder.
The display flips out from the right side of the camcorder. Since the HDRCX405 has no viewfinder, this is the only way to keep track of what you’re recording. Behind the display, you’ll find a speaker, an HDMI port, and an SD card slot.
There is very little setup to speak of with the HDRCX405. After inserting the battery and flipping open the display, it prompts you to enter the time and day. You then need to insert an SD card for storage, after which you can start filming right away.
The battery arrived without a whole lot of charge, so make sure to take that into consideration.
The HDRCX405 features a flip-out 2.7-inch display that’s bright enough to see in most lighting conditions, but appears a bit dim outside in full sun. The display isn’t a touchscreen, which is definitely an area where Sony cut some corners to save money. Instead of a touchscreen, you get a joystick nub that’s located to the left of the display. The nub allows you to navigate menu options, and you click it to make your selections.
Once flipped out, the display is capable of rotating 180 degrees counterclockwise or 90 degrees clockwise. The counterclockwise rotation is handy if you want to take a selfie, while the clockwise rotation is fantastic if you want to hold the camera up over your head and still see what you’re filming.
If you flip the display out with the lens cover closed, a helpful warning message appears on the screen. This is a nice touch, since the lens cover is manual, and it’s easy to forget about it.
Sony cut some corners in designing the HDRCX405, but video quality wasn’t on the chopping block. This camera allows you to record 50 Mbps 1080p full HD video at 60p/50p in progressive recording mode, and it supports the MP4, AVCHD, and XAVC S codecs. This is all supported by that great 26.8mm wide angle ZEISS lens, and the same Exmor R CMOS sensor found in the HDRCX405’s more expensive predecessor.
Out in the real world, those specifications translate to surprisingly good video for such an inexpensive video camera. Video recorded in 1080p in full light is reasonably sharp, with an acceptable level of detail and vibrant color. Quality dips in some lighting conditions, and there’s a bit more noise than we’d like to see in lower light, but the HDRCX405 performs quite well overall for a camera in its price range.
Since this device is positioned as a camera for beginners and kids, image stabilization can really come in handy.
The HDRCX405 also includes built-in image stabilization, which is a really nice touch for a budget video camera. Since this device is positioned as a camera for beginners and kids, image stabilization can really come in handy.
Of note is that the video quality will vary widely based on the settings you choose. The camera is pretty good at setting things automatically if you turn that option on, but the video quality suffers if you choose the wrong file size and type.
There is also an option to record in two different modes simultaneously. This allows you to easily record in full HD for posterity, while quickly generating a much smaller file that you can share online.
This is a video camera, not a digital camera, but it can actually pull double duty in a pinch. That same great Exmor R CMOS sensor, and the 26.8 wide angle ZEISS lens, and the ability to capture 9.2 MP still images all combine to allow the HDRCX405 to take some surprisingly decent photos for a device that isn’t meant specifically for that purpose.
This camera actually has two modes, allowing you to switch on the fly between recording video and snapping photos. It also has a handy mode that records a steady stream of still images whenever you’re recording.
Dual record mode works when you’re recording in interlaced mode, where any given still of the video isn’t going to look very good, so it’s a great way to pull out picture-perfect snaps if you’re using that mode.
The 26.8mm wide angle lens isn’t fixed, so the HDRCX405 is able to achieve a respectable 27x optical zoom that’s nice to see in a video camera in this price range. And if that isn’t quite enough, it also features a 54x digital zoom.
Digital zooms always results in pictures that are less clear due to the way that they crop and enlarge video, but the HDRCX405 features Sony’s Clear Image Zoom. Instead of simply cropping and enlarging the video, it’s able to look at patterns in neighboring pixels and make intelligent guesses about what the new pixels should look like. It isn’t perfect, but it works surprisingly well.
Connect your Handycam to a computer via the USB cable, and you can use Sony’s free PlayMemories Home software to manage your videos and photos. This free software allows you to view, edit and share photos and videos, print photos, and even edit your own movies from multiple clips.
The HDRCX405 might cut some corners, but it has surprisingly competent smile and face detection.
The smile detection allows the camera to determine when the subject of a photo is smiling, so it can capture snapshots at just the right moment.
The face detection feature is able to determine when people are present in a shot by looking for faces. It then optimizes the focus, exposure, and color settings to give you the best possible results.
The smile detection allows the camera to determine when the subject of a photo is smiling, so it can capture snapshots at just the right moment. It’s even able to engage when you’re recording video, allowing you to snap great photos without switching modes.
With an MSRP of $179.99, the Sony HDRCX405 Handycam is priced to own. You can get better video quality, Wi-Fi connectivity, and other advanced features if you’re willing to pay more, but the HDRCX405 is an excellent little camera at this price.
Canon VIXIA HF R800: With an MSRP of $249.99, and typically retailing in the neighborhood of $219.99, the VIXIA HF R800 represents an upgrade over the Sony HDRCX405 in many respects. The VIXIA comes with a touchscreen display that’s just a bit larger, the CMOS sensor is a bit better at 3.28 Megapixel, and it even has a slightly better optical zoom.
The VIXIA lacks the HDRCX405’s face and smile detection, so it’s still the better choice for beginners who can really benefit from the automated optimization that happens whenever a face is detected.
Sony HDRCX440 Handycam: The successor to the CX330 has an MSRP of $269.99 and actually shares a whole lot in common with the much less expensive HDRCX405. They have the same ZEISS lens, the same sensor, and the same non-touchscreen display.
Where the HDRCX405 shines, and the reason you may want to take a look at it, is connectivity. It includes both Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity built right in, so you don’t have to hook it up to your computer physically to transfer files. It also features a livestream function that allows you to stream directly from the camera to the internet.
A lightweight camcorder that’s priced right for kids and beginners.
The Sony HDRCX405 Handycam is an aggressively priced little camcorder that’s feather light and easy to use. It’s a decent option for beginners, kids, and anyone who wants a competent video camera without a massive price tag, but look elsewhere if you want wireless connectivity.