Mash ups can make anything cool, even camcorders. With the HDR-PJ30, Sony has squeezed a pico projector into the back of flip-out screen, giving you a portable shooter capable of playing back your movies on any white wall you can find.
While the camcorder is capable of shooting an impressive 1080p at 50 frames per second (many rivals will max out at 720p at that framerate or revert to interlaced video), the projector itself is limited to just 640x320 pixels. In a darkened room this turns out to be fine for casual viewing.
The size of your image depends purely on the distance between the camcorder and your screen or wall. As you pull back, the image gets bigger but loses brightness. The optimum size is between 20 and 30 inches, beyond which it starts to fade. Focusing is tweaked with a little slider on the top edge of the screen – basic but it works fine.
Sound from a pair of stereo speakers below the LCD won’t blow you away but is sufficient to replicate the whoops, crashes and wails of your mate riding his bike into a tree, or whatever camcorder calamities you happen to be reviewing at the end of your day.
Shooting options are fairly limited but include the ability to choose from a variety of HD and standard def modes. There’s nothing in the way of effects (not that you’re likely to want to film in pseudo-sepia anyway), but you do get a very effective low-light mode.
Experimentalists will be interested in the smooth slow-mo option, which shoots a burst of lower resolution frames at high speed, resulting in a ten-second slow motion clip. There’s also a ‘golf shot’ mode that joins up 22 tall thin frames in a montage saved as single JPG image. Globetrotters might appreciate the geotagging features offered by the inbuilt GPS sensor, and the ability to look up clips with an onscreen map.
Actual, normal video performance is about on par with others at this price point. Image stabilisation is reasonable, colours are realistic and definition is sharp in good light. The autofocus is very quick to react and changes in light (walking from inside to outside for example) are handled without fuss.
You might expect compromises to have been made with the addition of the projector, but at this price there’s really nothing amiss. Perhaps you’d ask for more than the 32GB of internal storage, but with the cost of SD cards falling by the day that’s not a huge issue.