camcorders

Sony Handycam HDR-TG1 Camcorder Review

Sony Handycam HDR-TG1 Camcorder Review

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Performance

Video Performance* (9.0)*

The Sony HDR-TG1 utilizes a single 1/5-inch CMOS sensor with a gross pixel count of 2,360,000 and an effective pixel count of 1,430,000. This is a smaller chip than the 1/3-inch sensor on Sony's HDR-CX12 and HDR-SR12. It is also much smaller than the large 1/2.5-inch CMOS chip found in the Sanyo VPC-HD1010. Just taking the sensor size into account, it would seem the smaller HDR-TG1 wouldn't come close to matching the results achieved by Sony with the larger HDR-CX12 and HDR-SR12. Interestingly, this was not always the case. As you'll see, especially in our low light performance tests, the HDR-TG1 performed strongly—occasionally even outshining its larger brethren.

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Sony HDR-TG1 at 3000 lux in auto mode

 

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Sony HDR-CX12 at 3000 lux in auto mode

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Samsung SC-HMX20 at 3000 lux in auto mode

To begin our testing with the HDR-TG1, we first shot a DSC Labs Chroma DuMonde chart at an even, bright light (3000 lux). We then grabbed frames from that footage and compared them to the frames captured from other camcorders that have made their way through our labs.

In our testing, the HDR-TG1 produced a surprisingly good image in bright light. The colors appeared vibrant without being oversaturated (like the Panasonic HDC-SD100 and the Canon HF100). The colors also looked nearly identical to the HDR-CX12.

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Sony HDR-TG1 at 100% crop

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Sony HDR-CX12 at 100% crop

 

The biggest weakness of the HDR-TG1 came in sharpness, where it didn't quite match the performance of the HDR-CX12 (albeit, the margin is small). Text and lines between colors clearly showed more blur and artifacting on the TG1. In the image above, look at the top and bottom of each letter in the text. Notice how you can see horizontal lines running through the lettering on 'Sony HDR-TG1.' Because the HDR-CX12 has a crisper image, these horizontal lines are barely noticeable in its own image. Other than sharpness, however, the two camcorders had a fairly similar performance in our lab, which means Sony didn't sacrifice much image quality in exchange for portability.

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Sony HDR-TG1 in auto mode

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Panasonic HDC-HS100 in auto mode

 

Outside of the lab the HDR-TG1 still produced a nice image, but in side-by-side shooting with the Panasonic HDC-HS100 you can start to see where the TG1 has some weaknesses. In the images above, look at the trees in the background and the shadows in the foreground. The Sony lacks the sharpness of the Panasonic in both instances—displaying a slightly hazy image in the bright light. The colors still look great on the HDR-TG1, but the sharpness is not up to par. The Sony does pick up more detail in the darkest parts of the image, due to the fact that its colors aren't as saturated or deep.

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Sony HDR-TG1 in auto mode

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Panasonic HDC-HS100 in auto mode

 

Indoors, the HDR-TG1's lack of sharpness was not nearly as noticeable when compared side-by-side with the Panasonic HDC-HS100. In the two images above, the main difference you'll notice is color saturation. The Panasonic clearly has deeper reds and darker shadows compared to the Sony, but the question as to which image is actually 'better' is really personal preference.

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Sony HDR-TG1

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Sony HDR-SR12 (which should be identical to the HDR-CX12)

Note: These two images were not recorded at the same time

 

Here is a comparison with the Sony HDR-TG1 and the Sony HDR-SR12. Both camcorders produced a nice image of the pipe, but at when viewing it at 100%, the HDR-TG1 misses the subtleties of the the pebbled metal surface and other areas of fine detail. Granted, the HDR-SR12 only did a little better. The fact that the HDR-TG1 produces such a comparable image to both the HDR-SR12 and HDR-CX12 suggests Sony did a terrific job developing its processors.

Overall, the HDR-TG1 gave a strong performance in video quality, producing the best images we've seen from an ultra-compact camcorder—and often holding its own against larger models.

Video Resolution* (18.75)*

We test video resolution by shooting a DSC Labs video resolution chart under consistent, bright light. We then analyze the footage watching it on an HD monitor. The HDR-TG1 produced a horizontal resolution of approximately 625 line widths, while the vertical resolution was measured at approximately 600 line widths.

Impressively, this is an identical score to the Sony HDR-CX12 and the Sony HDR-SR12. Scoring as well on video resolution as its big brother models is a remarkable feat for the HDR-TG1.

Low Light Performance* (4.12)

*We tested the low light performance of the Sony HDR-TG1 in three stages—comparative analysis, color accuracy/noise/saturation testing, and sensitivity evaluation. In our comparative analysis we shoot a DSC Labs Chroma DuMonde chart at 60 and 15 lux, then compare the results with similar camcorders we've also tested in our labs. 

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Sony HDR-TG1 at 60 lux in auto mode

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Sony HDR-CX12at 60 lux in auto mode

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Samsung SC-HMX20 at 60 lux in auto mode

 

At 60 lux, the HDR-TG1 again produced a solid image that was very similar to the HDR-CX12. The TG1 had more noise, and more noticeable blur around text and in between colors. The HDR-CX12 was again sharper than the HDR-TG1, but the two camcorders did produce similar images overall. Compared against other manufacturers, the HDR-TG1 appeared darker than the Panasonic HDC-SD100, but had better color saturation. The Sony was sharper in black and white areas, but the Panasonic had less blur between the colors. Both the Samsung SC-HMX20 and the Canon HF100 had a brighter, sharper image than the HDR-TG1 at 60 lux.

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Sony HDR-TG1 at 15 lux in auto mode

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Sony HDR-CX12 at 15 lux in auto mode

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Samsung SC-HMX20 at 60 lux in auto mode

At 15 lux, which is very low light, the HDR-TG1 lost a tremendous amount of color and experienced a sharp increase in noise. In this test, the HDR-TG1 was soundly defeated by the Sony HDR-CX12. While their brightness is similar, the HDR-TG1 lost a good deal of sharpness and color saturation while shooting at 15 lux. The HDR-TG1 produced the dullest image at 15 lux of light compared to the Panasonic HDC-SD100, Canon HF100, Samsung SC-HMX20 and Sony HDR-CX12. Also, like the Sony HDR-CX12 and HDR-SR12, the HDR-TG1 does not have any of the special record modes found on Canon and Panasonic models. The Canon HF100 (as well as the HF11 and HG20) records in both 24P and 30P modes as well as the normal 60i. In these other record modes, Canon produced amazing low light performances. The Panasonic HDC-SD100 (as well as the HDC-HS100 and HDC-SD9) offers a 24P Digital Cinema mode, although the results aren't nearly as impressive as Canon's.

Our second stage of testing is where we look at the color accuracy, noise, and saturation levels. First, we shoot an X-Rite Color Checker chart at a consistent 60 lux. We then export frame grabs to Imatest imaging software for evaluation. According to Imatest, the HDR-TG1 produced a color error of 14.7. In comparison, this score was significantly worse than most comparable HD camcorders, including both Sony's HDR-CX12 and HDR-SR12, as well as Canon's HF100 and Panasonic's HDC-SD100. Currently, the front-runner in low-light color accuracy is the Samsung SC-HMX20.

The noise from the HDR-TG1 measured at approximately 1.5675%. As with color error, the HDR-TG1 couldn't stand up to its larger, horizontal-shaped competition. Sony's HDR-CX12 and HDR-SR12 both recorded a bit less noise, while Panasonic's HDC-SD100 bettered the HDR-TG1's noise percentage by more than half. The HDR-TG1 did score better than the Canon HF100 in noise, but the HF100 has a variety of recording options that can drastically improve both color accuracy and noise levels (something that makes it difficult to directly compare to the competition). Lastly, the Sony HDR-TG1 produced a saturation level of 61.91%.

The third stage of low light performance testing analyzes sensitivity. We attach the camcorder to a waveform monitor as we slowly lower the light in small, steady increments. The waveform monitor measures exposure in IREs, which is the standard measurement used in broadcasting. We lower the light until the camcorder is generating a peak of 50 IRE. The HDR-TG1 was able to produce 50 IRE at 13 lux of light, which is a strong showing for the little camcorder. The HDR-TG1 has a smaller CMOS sensor (1/5-inch) than much of its HD competition (specifically the 1/3-inch chip found in the Sony HDR-CX12 and HDR-SR12). Interestingly, because the HDR-TG1 has a smaller concentration of pixels on its sensor, it actually outperformed the other Sonys in low light sensitivity. Sony's larger camcorders, the HDR-CX12 and HDR-SR12, both produced 50 IRE at 14 lux. The Panasonic HDC-SD100 required the same amount as the HDR-TG1 (13 lux) to reach 50 IRE. The Canon HF100 required slightly less light, needing 11 lux to produce 50 IRE (although the Canon had much better sensitivity when recording in 24P mode). The Samsung SC-HMX20 leads the pack, producing 50 IRE at only 5 lux.

Overall, it is clear that Sony wasn't able to squeeze as much low light performance into the HDR-TG1 as it could with its larger camcorders. The scores were generally a notch below the Samsung SC-HMX20, the Canon HF100, the Panasonic HDC-SD100, and the Sony HDR-CX12. If you're concerned about capturing magnificent nighttime imagery, the HDR-TG1 will disappoint. Nevertheless, the camcorder did put up a worthy fight against some of the toughest competition in the HD market, as well as producing the best images and test results we have seen from a camcorder of its size.

Stabilization* (7.3)*

The Sony HDR-TG1 is equipped with Sony's Super SteadyShot Image Stabilization System, an optical image stabilization system (OIS). We tested the camcorder's ability to reduce shake in our lab using our specialized device. On speed one, which mimics a shaky handheld recording, the HDR-TG1 reduced 68% of the shake. At speed 2, which approximates the motion of using the camcorder in a moving car, the camcorder reduced shakiness by 75%.

These are good scores for such a compact camcorder and are comparable to Sony's HDR-CX12 and HDR-SR12, both of which have heavier, wider, and longer designs.

Wide Angle* (9.4)*

We tested the wide angle capabilities of the HDR-TG1 in our lab and measured it at 47 degrees. This is slightly narrower than most camcorders we measure, but still wide enough to accommodate most shooters. In comparison, the Sony HDR-CX12 measured at 49 degrees.

Comparable Products

Before you buy the Sony HDR-TG1, take a look at these other camcorders.

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Sections

  1. Performance
  2. Format
  3. Auto / Manual Controls
  4. Still Features
  5. Handling and Use
  6. Audio / Playback / Connectivity
  7. Other Features
  8. Conclusion & Comparisons
  9. Photo Gallery