Small, light, great picture quality
Stock battery life, no neck or shoulder strap, manual lens cover
The Bottom Line:
You will be pleasently surpised by the features and quality of this camera. The low light performace is very good and the over all video quality is very good.
This is the third camcorder that I've owned in my life. The first two recored to tape, a JVC and then a Sony CCDTRV43 (which served me very well for the last 10 years or so).
But it was time to upgrade. After balancing out price vs features vs quality I went with the Sony HDR-CX150.
First thing that you will notice is that this camcorder is small. Very small. If you were to wear a pair of pleated pants you could have the camera in your front pocket and nobody would even know it was there.
I thought this would be a problem since I don't have the smallest of hands. But you should be able to adjust very quickly to the size. Not once did I have a finger get in the way of the lens.
Next you will notice that the view finder that was all the rage years ago is now gone. Composing shots are done though the screen on the camera. You also will not find a power button. Opening the view screen turns the camera on. You will also need to open and close the lens cover manually via a button at the front of the camera. This worries me a bit because there have been a few times that I've forgotten to close the lens. But when turning the camera on, if the camera doesn't sense any light it will warn you via a message that the lens cover may still be closed. I would suggest a low priced UV filter to guard against any potential damage to the lens surface due to forgetting to close the lens cover.
As for media the camera has 16GB of memory built in and will handle both SDHC and Memory Stick cards. Personally I picked up a few 16GB Class 4 SDHC cards and will only use the built in memory as a last resort if I happen to fill up the other memory cards.
After filling up 3 cards from my last vacation I've not had any problem with the speed of the Class 4 cards.
The features on the camera range from pretty useful to gimmicky. Everything on the camera, with the exception of recording, taking a photo or using the zoom feature is done via an on-screen menu though the cameras touch screen.
For modes there's an automatic mode that works really well in outdoor, well lit areas.
Twilight which does a fairly good job during the end of the day.
Sunrise and sunset. Landscape. Fireworks (which is actually pretty good). Portrait. Beach. And snow.
There is also a setting for low lux which works surprisingly very well in very low light situations. Sadly there isn't a night vision mode that even though I will miss, I didn't actually use very often on my old Sony camera. But it did come in handy on a few occasions.
There are also manual settings for white balance, spot meter, spot focus, exposure, focus, and tele macro.
There are two different modes that you can record in. Standard and high def. In the high mode you have 4 different choices. Ranging from the full 1080i down to what would be considered pretty much standard definition.
Personally what I have found is that when recording in daylight 720p mode seems to be fine. However when you are recording in low light situations it is best to record at the maximum resolution. I found that there was less noise in the dark areas of the video when recording in 1080i. And even if the video is down sampled to a lower resolution the video still looks better. What I've decided to do however is to leave the camera at 1080i no matter what the lighting conditions are. While you won't see much of an improvement when shooting in daylight, you will kick yourself if you forget to bump the resolution back up during low light situations. Plus the cost of memory cards are cheap enough where you can pick up a few extra if your worried about space.
The camera also has built in image stabilization. But there are some gotchas to this. The stabilization does not work when the camera's zoom switches to digital zoom mode. Sadly, this is when you need it the most. There are also a couple of other modes where the image stabilization doesn't work either. The camera will warn you when it turns the stabilization off.
This camcorder can also take digital stills. And actually has a mode where you can set it to take a picture of person if they start smiling while you are filming. You can also set the smile intensity from a mild smile to a big smile before it takes the picture. This will happen automatically and does not interrupt the video capture at all. With that said. This camcorder, as with most camcorders, takes horrible still images. About on par with a cheap cell phone, maybe a tad bit better. It would be best to leave the picture taking to dedicated cameras.
Battery life with the stock battery is a bit on the low side. A fully charged battery will report that it has about 130 minutes of life left. This actually boils down to about 45-60 minutes in real life. I knew from the start that this would not do for vacations. So I purchased the largest battery that I could find for this model, the NV-FP100. Which boast and delivers about 7 hours of recording time. I still kept the stock battery around with me just in case. But not once did I come close to wearing out the large capacity battery. But there's a catch. The large battery is just that. Large. Huge actually. It's the same height as the old battery, but is about half the length of the camera. So it adds a more weight and makes your really small camera, well, not so small any more. But if your going to be out and about and don't want to worry about battery life. I would strongly recommend it.
The camera comes with a charger. Charging is done through the camera with the battery attached to it. I've still not done any measurements on how long it takes to charge. I normally make sure that either plug it in and let it run overnight or at the very least a few hours before I leave. But I've not had a chance or really the desire to check up on the charging process to get a ballpark figure on charging times.
You will also receive a proprietary A/V cable for connecting the camera to RCA plugs and a proprietary component cable for connecting the camera to high def monitors / tvs. There is a plug for an HDMI cable, however this is an optional cable that does not come with the camera. You will also receive a mini usb to standard usb cable to connect the camera to a computer.
So the bottom line on this camera is: it is a very good camera and I've not been disappointed with the quality of the videos that I've shot with it. The only cons that I have with the camera is the manual lens cover and I do wish it came with a or shoulder strap of some sort. But as it stands there are not even any spots on the camera where a neck or shoulder strap could be placed. You can only use the existing adjustable hand grip to attach a strap to (which I guess is better then nothing).