The HDR-CX6EK has no lens ring, either, but that is par for the course in consumer camcorders. Instead, you will need to take a trip to the touchscreen-based menu system. This has been simplified since the original version, so you no longer have to scroll through so many options to find the one you’re after. Instead, these are distributed between five tabs. The first tab includes manual focus and Sony’s excellent spot focus, where you simply touch the portion of the frame you want to be sharp – great for focus pulling, although it’s a little slow. Tele macro is also available here.
The second tab provides access to the healthy selection of Scene modes, including Twilight (and Twilight Portrait in digital camera mode), Candle, Sunrise & Sunset, Fireworks, Landscape, Portrait, Spotlight, Beach and Snow. You can also use Sony’s spot metering to set exposure, or a simple slider for fully manual control, although neither give you any idea what iris and shutter settings they correspond to. Indeed, there is no way of setting the shutter speed manually at all.
The remaining tabs offer manual, automatic and preset white balance for indoors and outdoors; colour slow shutter; various digital effects; and access to the various recording quality modes. Heading further into the full Home menu system provides access to settings like TV output, redeye reduction, and x.v.Color. The latter records a wider dynamic range, but requires a compatible HDTV for the benefits to be visible. Otherwise, it just looks like an even more exaggerated level of saturation. The Home menu is also the way you access the Smooth Slow Record function, which records video at four times the normal frame rate so that slow motion remains fluid when played back at the normal frame rate.
Overall, there is enough to satisfy the novice, without being too confusing. But both Canon and Panasonic offer considerably more manual control. Sony doesn’t really provide enough for hobbyists or video enthusiasts. There is a separate button for backlight compensation and a switch for Night Shot mode that captures monochromatic video illuminated by a built-in infrared emitter. But apart from that, every setting requires a trip to the touchscreen menu, and the key controls for aperture and shutter are absent. On the plus side, the HDR-CX6EK’s battery isn’t fully encased in the body. So you will be able to fit a larger battery than the 1,000mAh unit supplied – up to 3,980mAh in fact.