In the past, we may have considered a projector-equipped camcorder if the price was right, but with dim output (typically less than 20 lumens) and content options limited to footage you've shot, the available functionality often didn't justify a premium of several hundred dollars. Sony, for its part, is working to make that secondary display massively more appealing -- the company's latest generation of high-end camcorders adds an HDMI input, with an option to display content from any compatible source (a full-size adapter ships in the box). Two such models, the Handycam PJ650V and PJ790V, will retail for $1,100 and $1,600, respectively. As their price tags imply, these are Sony's top-of-the-line consumer offerings for 2013, and they've got the features to match.
Both include Balanced Optical SteadyShot, which moves the entire lens module (not just specific elements) for much more effective stabilization, especially when zoomed in. There are Exmor R sensors on board, with a 20.4-megapixel chip on the 650 and a 24.1-megapixel imager on the 790. The lower-end model includes a 26.8mm wide-angle 20/12x G lens, 32GB of flash storage and a 20-lumen projector. The 790 ships with a 26mm wide-angle 17/10x Carl Zeiss lens, a whopping 96 gigs of memory and a 30-lumen projector on the side. Both also include 921k-dot 3-inch LCDs and electronic viewfinders, along with 5.1-channel mics (the 790's is raised to accommodate wind screens and isolate mechanical noises), an option for AVCHD or MP4 recording and a new Multi Interface Shoe that can be used with accessories like an external mic or the $75 ADP-WL1M WiFi module.
We had an opportunity to check out both camcorders, and were quite impressed, especially when it came to the Balanced Optical SteadyShot and (relatively) powerful built-in projectors. The HDMI input worked as advertised, accepting content from a laptop and an Android smartphone without issue. The 790's projector was bright enough to see detail even in a sun-lit room, but we could even see using it to watch a movie (with an external speaker), assuming that we're able to set up shop in a pitch-black environment with a suitable surface. Both Handycams felt like premium devices, and while they were significantly heavier than Sony's entry-level offerings, they're light enough to be comfortably used to capture handheld footage. This premium duo is set to hit stores in February, but you can take a look right now in the hands-on gallery below.