Sony HDR-TG7 £849
2nd Jul 2009 | 14:12
Sony adds built-in GPS to a slim and stylish Full HD camcorder
Sony HDR-TG7: overview
Just like its forerunner, the TG3, Sony's stylish new Full HD shooter is a camcorder with the 'wow' factor. The Sony HDR-TG7 takes the pistol-grip camcorder design and refines it so that you get a trim, slim, easy-to-use model – with an intriguing twist being added by a built-in GPS receiver.
To clear up any confusion right from the start, this is also the Sony HDR-TG5 as that's what this model is called over in the United States.
At the moment Sony is the only major manufacturer to jump on the GPS-camcorder bandwagon. It's a costly investment for consumers too: the TG7 is available for around £700, while Sony's other GPS shooter, the XR520, can cost over £1,000, whether we see more models like this depends on the success of our Sony duo.
If it's a fact that you can pick up more affordable models than the TG7 what exactly are you getting for your money?
Well, with a nod to irony, you're getting slightly less camcorder than with the TG3. Sony has shaved a few mm off the dimensions, and the TG7 is a whole 10g lighter than its predecessor. This trimming is fine but perhaps more relevant is the redefinition of the record button and zoom lever.
Rather cleverly, Sony has ditched the TG3's zoom and record buttons and created a practical, user-friendly all-in-one control. One large button on the back of the camcorder activates recording, while a ridged thumbwheel goes around this button – and that's your zoom control. Beautifully engineered and a pleasure to use.
The titanium body and scratch-resistant coating remain from the TG3, so the TG7 retains a reliable build quality.
It's also got a good selection of connections courtesy of a supplied docking station. The TG7 camcorder itself just has an AV output and a charger input, which helps to keep the size of the cam down.
On the dock, however, you'll find AV, USB and Component sockets, as well as a full-size HDMI socket. This means you can connect the TG7 to your high-def TV and enjoy its 1920x1080 Full HD movie power at top quality.
A further design tweak makes a significant impact on the TG7's capacity to impress: where the TG3 recorded solely to Memory Stick, this new addition features a 16GB internal flash memory, plus the ability to record to Memory Stick PRO Duo.
Sony refers to this as hybrid recording, but the reality is that your camcorder has the potential to record up to six hours of Full HD video using this method.
Looking at its button-free minimalist styling, you'd be forgiven for thinking the TG7 had very few functions. Nothing could be further from the truth – it's just that to access all the fun of the menu system you get to use a 2.7in touchscreen LCD.
The LCD provides crisp and colourful images and its 2.7in size means you keep that movie-friendly 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. The only downside is that it doesn't respond as quickly as we'd like, and so you end up jabbing your finger repeatedly at the screen – not a good look.
Sony HDR-TG7: features
As with satnav systems, the GPS allows the camcorder to identify where you are. Once it's worked this out you will be shown your location on a map that's displayed on the LCD. If you move around the GPS will also be able to track your progress and the map will be updated.
Taking this a step further, when you record footage or photos at a location the TG7 effectively notes this down.
You can then call the map up onscreen and watch a movie that you've made by touching on its recording location. For example, watch the film you took in Hyde Park, London, by pressing its marker point on the touchscreen LCD.
The Sony Picture Motion Browser software that's supplied with the TG7 (though it's PC only) adds another element to the GPS story as, along with basic editing options, it offers direct upload to sites such as YouTube.
And, once you've got your clip or still image online you can ever go so far as to create a map using web tools like Google Maps. For an adventure break or location-packed holiday the whole GPS enables you to create a unique and multi-tiered experience.
What does remain a frustration however, is that the GPS doesn't always work out your location – and when it doesn't its great features don't function. And, a word of warning, it rarely works indoors either, so adjust your expectations accordingly!
The TG7 also boasts its fare share of more conventional camcorder features – among these is the ability to record movies and stills simultaneously, so there's no need to change recording modes. There is also a range of detection technology, including face detection and smile shutter.
The first looks out for faces, while the second is on the lookout for toothy grins. Both are useful and reliably effective. In playback mode you can also choose a Face Index mode, and this really speeds up the searching process and you look for particular clips.
Sony HDR-TG7: TechRadar Verdict
Although there's no real like-for-like rivals for the TG7 as yet, it does outperform similarly styled competitors like the Sanyo VPC-HD2000. It's also more compact than Canon's LEGRIA HF20, and while the JVC Everio GZ-X900 trumps it on some specifications, overall the TG7 is perhaps the stronger contender.
The video performance is full of positives: images are dripping in detail and, for the most, colours are spot-on (reds look a bit too orange for us, at times). The autofocus system is rock solid and only the most complex of scenes will cause it any trouble.
Even the audio results, often an area where camcorders falter, are to be applauded and across a variety of recording situations the TG7 managed to deliver crisp speech, and rich, varied tones when playing back music recordings.
We didn't like:
It's a little disappointing that the TG7's highest photo resolution results in just 4MP images, and that when taking stills in simultaneous video/photo mode that you are restricted to 2.3MP shots. But we don't' think these are necessarily deal clinchers or deal breakers.
It's actually the price and the need (or not) for GPS that will define the TG7. It is a compact, versatile and reliable movie and stills shooter, and as an all-rounder is undoubtedly one of the best on the market. We're just wondering what kind of (GPS) reception it will receive from consumers!