Sony HDR-XR520

Posted on: 10/28/09 by Elijah Mendoza

This year, local broadcast had finally entered the HD zone. We reckon it's a good time for you to make your first foray into hi-def videography too with Sony's new HDR-XR520.

As the Japanese giant's premium offering, there's little to belittle about the XR520. The body is solidly built, the controls are easy to understand, and the features are off the wall. Basically, it's the culmination of all the best features of camcorders past, put into a beefy plastic shell.

In terms of weight and size, the XR520 is not going to win the title of smallest or lightest. It's chunky but not overly hefty. It's just right for its build and for the lot of heavyweight components it has within.

There are no flimsy rubber doors unlike in most camcorders. Ports and plugs are neatly hidden behind hinged plastic doors.

The user interface is exactly the same as those on older Sony cams, making it look dated and drab. The upside to this, however, is that navigation has become child's play as it uses the same layout we've been using for years.

Operating the XR520 is just as easy. Flip the LCD screen and it powers up. Close it and it shuts down. Curiously, Sony chose to retain the tiny viewfinder which we think is not really the best way to use this camera. The peephole is far too small, and let's face it, a lot of camcorder users have been spoiled by LCD panels.

Upon using it, however, we found out that you may find yourself using the viewfinder more often than you'd expect. The stock battery tops out at an hour max. That means the 240GB hard drive is just as good as dead weight because without any juice under the hood, you can't record or retrieve anything. Easiest solution here would be to buy an extended life battery (as if the 88 grand you already plunked on this bad boy isn't enough!).

Fortunately, the XR520 makes up for the niggles with stunning video quality. We'll be frank. This is the best low-light shooter we have ever used. We were told it's because of the new Exmor R CMOS sensor. The truth is we could care less if it were pixie dust that made all this possible.

As you might expect, this camcorder still works best with proper lighting. It's only then that you would really begin to appreciate full HD in its quivering glory. Coupled with the 4-channel mic which is 5.1-channel Dolby Digital creator-enabled, and you've got yourself quite an impressive home movie.

Aspiring filmmakers may also find the XR520 a worthy buy because it has an accessory shot, a microphone, a headphone jack, and a manual focus ring. The G-lens also has a groove, making it compatible with Sony's line of lens attachments. We were able to mount a decade-old wide conversion lens (VCL-0537) on it with no problems whatsoever.

Assuming you have everything else to complement the XR520's abilities, this will complete your trip around the HD world. It's pricey, but seeing what it can do, it may very well give your setup that well-deserved crowning touch.

Click here to see the Sony HDR-XR520 in the Buyer's Guide.


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  • Best nighttime and low-light shooter we've tried
  • Chock-full of accessory options
  • Solidly built
  • Poor battery life
  • Relatively heavy and chunky
  • You'll need a really good computer to support it
Bottom Line
  • A premium camcorder but it's worth every centavo
Editor's Pick No
Price P87,999
Tech Specs
  • Resolution
    • Videos: 1920 x 2020i (Full HD)
    • Stills: 12 megapixels
  • Recording Format: AVCHD, MPEG-4 AVC / H.264
  • Storage
    • Internal: 240GB HDD
    • Expansion: Memory Stick Pro Duo
    • Recording Time: up to 101 hours (HD LP mode)
  • Zoom
    • Optical: 12x
    • Digital: 150x
  • Screen
    • Size: 3.2 inches
    • Resolution: 921,000 dots
  • Interface
    • Accessory shoe: yes
    • USB: ver. 2.0
    • HDMI: mini HDMI C
    • Wi-Fi: n/a
    • Firewire: n/a
    • Mic in: yes
    • Headphone out: yes
    • Composite out: combined
    • Component out: combined
  • Battery Life: ~1 hour
  • Size: 134 x 75 x 71mm
  • Weight: 500g (body only)

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