Sony's NEX-VG10E is a ferocious beast. We first saw a prototype back in May which certainly piqued our interest. Now it has landed and we've managed to get our hands on it.
It's a hefty chap. Without the lens it is about the size of a regular camcorder but with that handle/mic/viewfinder assembly on the top, it's never going to be something you just slip into your bag.
It's not intended to be either. Sporting an Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor (that's 19x the size of your regular camcorder sensor) it will give you 14.2 megapixel stills as well as your AVCHD video.
It is pitched at the semi-pro market rather than your average consumer and the price will reflect this, with Sony today suggesting it might be around £2000. That might sound like a lot, but given the range of possibilities that the NEX-VG10E offers, perhaps it isn't.
Of course it is fronted by an E mount, so it will accept lenses from the NEX range, as well as taking the new 18-200 lens we saw on it today. That's a lot of glass and fully extended it means you are dealing with a whole lot more camcorder than before.
Yes, you'll be able to swap lenses with your NEX-3 or NEX-5, and there are already a range of adapters so you'll have a huge range of lenses to choose from. It's worth noting that using an adapter may well knock out the autofocus, will change the crop factor and so on.
What's the point of interchangeable lenses? It opens up your range of creative possibilities, you'll be able to pick different lenses for different environments: macro, fisheye, or fast lenses for example. We've already seen some impressive results from professional DSLR videographers and this should be gunning against those models in terms of flexibility.
The first thing that is obvious is that the conventional barrel format of the NEX-VG10E means you hold it like a camcorder, whereas video with a DSLR can be unwieldy because of the body. It is heavy though, but once you introduce a tripod into the mix the difference in format is less of an issue.
You get an electronic viewfinder built into the back of that top assemblage as well as the conventional flip-out 3-inch display, which is nice and bright. It isn't touchscreen, but the controls on the inside are simple enough and getting to what you want didn't seem to be a problem. You can also shoot stills whilst recording video.
The top assembly features a "Quad Capsule" array mic, which Sony tells us is fully controllable so you can select which elements you record, for directional or surround audio. Also on the top is the same hot shoe mount from the Sony Alpha cameras and a cold shoe for attaching the likes of extra lighting or an external mic.
We're impressed with the industrial look of the machined metal lens housing and the bull-bar style guard around the mic. It looks serious and stylish and the build quality throughout is excellent.
In terms of the on-screen menus and controls, they are very user-friendly, despite the semi-pro suggestion from Sony. They reflect the controls you get on the NEX. We checked them out to ensure that you do get shutter and aperture priority modes, the friendly program mode which will take care of most of the details for you, as well as a full manual. We tried out F/3.5 on the 18-200 lens and unsurprisingly, it behaved just like a DSLR.
Time will tell whether it delivers on the quality front which, ultimately, is how a camcorder like this will be judged. It will be interesting to see whether this is a format that takes off, or whether people would rather stick to the already popular DSLR format for their interchangeable lens video.
We can't wait to see the results that the NEX-VG10E offers and see how well it copes in the big wide world.