We were gobsmacked by Sony’s HDR-TG3, which packed very capable 1080i HD video shooting into an unfeasibly small package. Sony claimed it was the smallest on the market at the time. Tiny 1080 shooters aren’t quite so rare these days, with even pocket Internet models such as JVC’s PICSIO GC-FM1 getting in on the act. But Sony’s HDR-TG range is still the smallest to offer true camcorder features, and the most recent revision is the TG7VE.
This model is virtually the same size as the TG3, similar in dimensions to a small electric shaver, yet it packs even more inside. As well as offering 16GB of on-board memory, where the TG3 had none, the TG7VE has on-board GPS. However, the basic specifications are the same as before. Both are built around a 1/5in ClearVid CMOS sensor with Sony’s Exmor technology. This places the sensor wiring array behind the individual pixels, so more light is allowed in for improved low light sensitivity. We have generally found this technology effective. The sensor has the same gross 2.36-megapixels, and both use Sony’s BIONZ image processor. So overall image quality should be virtually identical between the two models.
The TG7VE can shoot video at up to Full HD, with a 16Mbits/sec data rate. This allows slightly more than two hours of footage to be stored on the 16GB internal memory, and you can augment this with removable flash media. Unsurprisingly, this will be in the form of Sony’s proprietary MemoryStick PRO Duo format, which is usually slightly more expensive than SDHC. The TG7VE can also shoot still images at up to 2,304 x 1,728, which is again the same as the TG3 and involves a certain amount of interpolation.
As we mentioned earlier, the TG7VE (and TG3) differentiate themselves from pocket Internet camcorders by offering far more camcorder features. The most immediately beneficial of these is the 10x true optical zoom, rather than relying on the quality-sapping digital variety. The zoom is operated via a ring on the rear of the device, which is easy to use with your thumb. A large button in the centre of this ring controls the starting and stopping of recording. A smaller separate button grabs still images, although these will be limited to 2.3-megapixels if you are already shooting video at the time, and the flash won’t be enabled.