Sony Handycam HDR-GW77V has pocket camcorder form-factor and waterproof design, we go hands-on

Waterproof camcorders have traditionally been popular in the pool but less compelling on land, given the somewhat-cumbersome designs, so-so image quality and form-factors that aren't necessarily more comfortable than a similarly equipped smartphone. This may describe nearly every pocket cam you've considered, but not Sony's new Handycam -- instead, think of the HDR-GW77V as a high-end camcorder you'll want to use everywhere, that happens to be just as rugged as it is practical. The camera packs the standard ruggedized punch, with a waterproof rating to 16 feet, the ability to survive a five-foot drop and a dustproof housing (though that's typically a given for tightly-sealed cams). You wouldn't think to take still photos with your camcorder, but Sony wants you to just that -- to the tune of 20.4 megapixels. The Handycam's 10x optical zoom lens can capture static frames just as easily as motion, with features like optical SteadyShot and Sweep Panorama, though the 1/3.91-inch CMOS sensor means you shouldn't expect point-and-shoot-level image quality.

The GW77V can shoot 1080/60p video and features a wide-angle 29.8mm G lens, along with a 3-inch 921k-dot ExtraFine touch-enabled LCD. There's a dual Memory Stick M2/microSD slot, 16GB of internal memory and a GPS module with built-in NAVTEQ maps to boot (accounting for roughly 2.7 gigs of that internal storage). We spent a few minutes shooting with the GW77V and were quite pleased with its performance -- the Handycam was very responsive, with very fast focusing and an Optical SteadyShot feature that resulted in smooth footage, even while holding the camera by hand with the lens zoomed in completely. This certainly isn't your run-of-the-mill waterproof model, but considering the $700 price tag, you wouldn't expect it to be. The Handycam HDR-GW77V is slated to hit stores in silver, blue and black later this month.

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Sony Handycam HDR-GW77V hands-on

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SONY ADDS SLEEK WATERPROOF HANDYCAM® CAMCORDER TO ITS PORTFOLIO OF HIGH DEFINITION VIDEO CAPTURE DEVICES

SAN DIEGO, June 5, 2012 – Sony today unveiled a first for its lineup of Handycam® camcorders – a waterproof model that makes capturing your precious memories in high-quality video or still photography easy and worry-free in almost any environment.

The new HDR-GW77V camcorder can capture full HD video and 20.4-megapixel photos in extreme conditions, so that indoors or out, this stylish compact camcorder can keep up with any family's active lifestyle. Waterproof down to 16 feet, the camcorder's 3.0" (16:9) Xtra Fine LCD™ touch screen (921K) remains fully operational when submerged and it also has an "Underwater Mode" which adjusts the white balance for underwater conditions to make colors appear natural.

Sony's latest camcorder addition is not only convenient to use in wet surroundings, it is also shockproof and dustproof making it durable enough to withstand an accidental drop from up to approximately 5 feet and suitable for just about any situation. From mountains and forests to pools and beaches, now users can document their adventures without stress anywhere and anytime, even if they face mud, snow, rain or grime while shooting.

"As we continue to reinvent the category, we're always looking for ways to make capturing memories hassle- and worry-free without sacrificing style," said Hidenori Toyoda, director of the camcorder business at Sony Electronics. "This lightweight waterproof Handycam camcorder sports an innovative design and allows consumers to focus on the moment rather than fret over protecting their gadget."

Slick, Durable and Feature-Packed

To help realize high-quality video and photos, the waterproof camcorder was developed with advanced technology. Its back-illuminated Exmor® R CMOS sensor improves image clarity and drastically reduces grain to capture beautifully detailed, low-noise footage even in low-light conditions. If needed, a built-in flash will shed light on your subject in dark areas.

For the first time, Sony introduces Intelligent Sweep Panorama™ mode for still photo into the camcorder family. The popular feature found in Sony Cyber-shot® cameras reaches beyond the traditional wide angle lens and lets you capture expansive, breathtaking shots of landscapes or cityscapes just by pressing the shutter button and panning the scene with a sweeping movement. Using Face and Motion Detection, even people and objects that are moving will be reproduced naturally without blur.

The Extended Zoom feature digitally boosts the camcorder's 10x optical zoom range to a powerful 17x maximum magnification, letting users get even closer to the action while maintaining HD image quality. And with 16GB of embedded Flash memory, it can record and store up to 4 hours of high definition video content (HD LP mode).

Another standout feature is Optical SteadyShot™ image stabilization with Active Mode which compensates for greater degrees of camera shake to deliver stunningly smooth video from wide angle to full telephoto shooting. To further balance movement, 3-Way Shake-Canceling adds electronic roll stability for even smoother video capture.

Along with these features, the high-end camcorder offers the best of Sony imaging with its professional-quality G Lens. Engineered for superior optical performance, Sony G lenses deliver brilliant, accurate color reproduction and sharp, detailed images. In addition, the 29.8mm focal length in Photo Mode and Video Modes offers a broader perspective for enhanced wide angle shooting.

An ideal travel companion, the feature-rich HDR-GW77V camcorder also employs a built-in GPS receiver and NAVTEQ® maps. The receiver gives you the ability to view your current location on the LCD map display, automatically "geotag" your shooting locations, and view the geotagged content using a Map Index function on the camcorder or once downloaded to a computer using the supplied PlayMemories Home™ software.

The camcorder also includes the following technologies:

iAUTO – automatic selection of optimal camcorder settings in different environments; up to 99 scene combinations possible

Tracking Focus – extension of Face Detection to choose an object by touching the LCD panel and having the focus follow the selected object

Self Portrait Timer – setting that ensures properly framed, clearly focused arms-length photos of you and your friends

Highlight Playback – mode to identify and compile key scenes into short, entertaining movies complete with music and transitions

Event Browse – conveniently groups your images and videos together for easier viewing; can be used with Highlight Playback to create and share a highlight reel from your event

Storage and Post-Shooting Options

Sony's new camcorder can record video and still images directly to Memory Stick PRO Duo™ media, Secure Digital (SD), or SDHC media card (all sold separately) in addition to 16GB of embedded memory.

PlayMemories Online™ service, a Sony network service that just launched this Spring, allows users to view their content from various devices such as a smartphone, tablet, PC, or connected TV at any time. Simply upload all photos and videos to PlayMemories Online cloud service and enjoy viewing them virtually anywhere, anytime.

The camcorder is compatible with both PC and Mac® computers. Mac users can transfer AVCHD™ content and edit video clips in HD quality using iMovie® software. For PC users, the PlayMemories Home™ software enables viewing, editing, organizing and uploading images to many major video and photo sharing Web sites.

The HDR-GW77V Waterproof Handycam camcorder will be available later this month for about $700, at http://store.sony.com, Sony retail stores and other authorized retailers nationwide.

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Sony Handycam HDR-GW77V has pocket camcorder form-factor and waterproof design, we go hands-on