Apart from the manual focusing dial, and a discrete button toggling Nightshot mode, all other settings are accessed via the touchscreen LCD. The CX505VE provides two menu systems. The simple option includes just six onscreen buttons, for selecting a scene mode, turning face detection and low light mode on or off, choosing recording mode, and calling up Sony’s Spot Metering and Focus mode. This now ubiquitous option lets you choose a point within the frame to use as reference for exposure and focusing. It’s a very easy system to operate, and Sony was one of the first to offer it, but now even some mobile phones have the facility.
If you want even more control, there’s a full menu system as well. This is the new scrolling list which we first saw in the HDR-TG7VE. You can employ spot focusing and metering independently, or control either via onscreen sliders. However, the CX505VE offers no direct access to shutter or aperture settings – these are rolled into a global exposure control. Curiously, there are auto-exposure shift and white balance shift controls available, allowing you to bias either setting up or down.
The CX505VE also offers Sony’s Smooth Slow Record. This buffers a few seconds of video at a lower resolution and higher frame rate than normal, then records it to memory at the regular resolution and frame rate. The result, as the name suggests, is silky-smooth slow motion, although the higher frame rate is not as extreme as is available with some other camcorders, such as JVC’s Everio GZ-HM400. Annoyingly, the tele macro mode is also buried in the full menu, and there doesn’t appear to be a backlight compensation setting at all.
When shooting, the touchscreen sports controls along its edge for operating the zoom and toggling record. This makes two-handed, hip-level shooting very comfortable, although the zoom rocker and record button are well positioned for the more traditional HandyCam posture too.