As if the 3D shooting wasn't enough, the TD20VE also incorporates a built-in GPS. If you're shooting in a location where a signal is available, the location will be recorded alongside the footage. So you can browse your clips by where they were shot in the world, as well as by date or in sequential order. The TD20VE also sports the requisite connections for enthusiast videomakers. There's a minijack for an external microphone and headphones. However, the accessory shoe is Sony's proprietary version, so you will need to buy Sony's own peripherals or invest in an adapter.
There are a couple of novel shooting modes, as well. The Smooth Slow Record function has been a mainstay of Sony HD camcorders for some years now, allowing you to grab high-speed footage at a lower resolution to high definition, then play it back at the regular frame rate for a fluid slow motion. But more novel is the Golf Shot. When in this mode, you can trigger recording as a golf swing or other sporting stroke hits its target, and the camcorder will actually record the split second beforehand, to compensate for most people's slow reactions. What it actually records is a string of tall skinny still images in succession, which are played across the frame in two rows, so the whole motion is visible at once in a modern take on Muybridge. This function has a very specific use for analysing sporting form, but could be beneficial if you do want a detailed view of motion.
Although the TD20VE doesn't use sensors quite as large as Sony's top 2D-only camcorders, it's still capable of excellent image quality in either 2D or 3D mode. As is typical of Sony camcorders, colours are particularly vibrant and detail is excellent. The 3D effect can be quite effective, too, and the LCD screen is one of the best glassless 3D displays we've seen on a camcorder. The most impressive performance is in poor illumination in 3D mode, however. Camcorders which record side-by-side images onto a single CMOS tend to exhibit significantly inferior image quality in low light. But the TD20VE's footage maintains impressive levels of brightness and colour, with very little sign of grain. There's actually no noticeable difference between 2D and 3D low light performance.
The Sony HDR-TD20VE shoots great video in 2D or 3D, and is packed with enthusiast capabilities. It lacks a couple of important features, in particular a full lens ring and standard accessory shoe, which would make it the perfect enthusiast 3D camcorder. It's also relatively expensive, at close to £1,200 from the cheapest stores we found, and more from most retailers. But this is still a great camcorder, if ultimate value isn't your chief concern.