Sony Hdr-Cx160: This is the Right HD Camcorder for You

sony hdr-cx160

The world of midrange HD camcorders can be hard to navigate. Tried-and-true classics like the Sony HDR-CX160 can make it easier.

I can remember a few times when I upgraded my gear and ended up wishing I’d gone for something with a bigger backing. Far too many times, I got something that either didn’t deliver as promised, or excelled in some way but did away with functions we all take for granted. With something as important as an HD camcorder, it’s wise to look at what many users have tried and recommended.

This Sony Handycam is an entry-level HD camcorder. It’s small and comes at an affordable price. Compared to its older iterations, the Sony HDR-CX160 offers higher quality footage, better zoom, and a bigger display. The hardware is better in general, and the performance has improved a bit.

Technical specs


Depth:

4.5 in

Optical Sensor:

1/4” Exmor R CMOS

Widescreen:

Yes

Digital Video Format:

MPEG-2 and AVCHD

Effective Video Resolution:

1.67 Megapixel

Optical Zoom:

30x

Digital zoom:

350x

Connections:

HDMI, USB 2.0, S-Video, composite video/audio

Pretty good stats overall. For an entry-level camcorder of this era, Sony HDR-CX160 holds up well.

Performance


Entry-level camcorders tend to have a somewhat awkward, clunky design and mediocre handling. This isn’t the case with Sony HDR-CX160. It’s sleek, well-equipped, and durable.

The touchscreen is larger than before, which means it’s easier to use too. It’s clear and responsive. Thanks to the fast processor, it doesn’t lag as many affordable camcorders do. There aren’t a lot of controls, and the camcorder seems more geared toward auto mode users. One slight caveat here is that the auto mode button isn’t that conspicuous.

These auto features are effective and reliable. They’re quite impressive for this type of camcorder; the auto exposure function in particular. It’s fast to respond when you go from light to darkness and back. On the other hand, the autofocus isn’t the best that Sony has produced. This could be a trade-off for the long optical zoom lens. Unfortunately, it’s when you zoom in a lot that the autofocus begins to struggle. Other than that, it should be dependable.

You get a few different recording modes. First of all, you can toggle the 1080/60p (true HD) quality. There’s a low lux mode for shooting in the dark. There are also options for slow motion and time-lapse footage. Then there’s an oddly specific mode called Golf shot, which helps you analyze your golf swing. You can also take photos, and you can set it to detect smiles and snap automatic happy portraits. But it’s worth noting that these are 3-megapixel photos, which is lower quality than what modern cellphones can accomplish.

Recording quality


The Sony HDR-CX160 is so-so at audio recording, but it comes with a 3.5mm microphone jack for those times you need good sound. It lends itself well to long recording sessions, thanks to its long battery life, 16GB internal memory, and SD card slot.

As for the video quality, it’s about average for this category. The Sony HDR-CX160 captures a decent amount of detail in 1080p mode, the sharpness is good, and the motion smoothness is great. It’s not the clearest video, but it’s good for this price range. The optical stabilizer does a good job, and the zoom is impressive. But a deep zoom makes for a somewhat shaky result without a tripod.

Users like the smooth video and great battery life. Their main complaint is that the resolution could be better. They give 3.6 stars to the Sony HDR-CX160.

Pricing


Being a discontinued mid-range camcorder, the Sony HDR-CX160 has a wide price range, and not many vendors carry it. New ones cost between $300 and $600 depending on details. Good used ones start as low as $160. Check it out here.

How the Sony HDR-CX160 Compares to Competition

With an abundance of entry-level camcorders on the market, you can only judge them next to each other. To get a better idea of how the Sony HDR-CX160 performs, let’s compare it to key competitors. We’ve chosen the Canon Vixia HF R800, Samsung HMX-F90, and the newer Sony HDR-CX160.

How we reviewed


These reviews are the result of extensive research and comparison of user experiences from across the web. The primary source is user comments from Amazon.

Sale
Canon VIXIA HF R800 Camcorder (Black)
  • 57x (32.5-1853Mm) advanced zoom/ 32x Optical / 1140x Digital and Super range OIS.
  • Canon 3.28 Megapixel full HD CMOS image sensor.
  • Digic DV 4 image processor.

This is Canon’s low-cost HD camcorder with dual flash memory. It captures full HD 1080p video and offers special filters for a more pleasing look.

Depth:

4.6 “

Optical Sensor:

1/4.85” HD CMOS

Widescreen:

Yes

Digital Video Format:

MPEG-4

Effective Video Resolution:

2.07 MP

Optical Zoom:

32x

Digital zoom:

1140 x

Corrections:

HDMI, USB 2.0, composite video/audio

It has a higher overall build quality and performance than the HDR-CX160. Its video quality is also a bit higher.

Performance

Pricing

This entry-level camcorder by Samsung has somewhat different priorities. It doesn’t provide full HD video like the Sony HDR-CX160, but it excels in other aspects of performance and ease of use. It makes a better option for some hobbyists with different preferences.

Depth:

4.7 in

Optical Sensor:

1/3.2” CMOS

Widescreen:

Yes

Digital Video Format:

MPEG-2

Effective Video Resolution:

0.92 MP

Optical Zoom:

52 x

Digital zoom:

130 x

Corrections:

HDMI, USB 2.0, composite video/audio

The specs are lesser than those of Sony HDR-CX160 in general. However, it has certain advantages, especially for beginners.

Performance

Pricing

Sony HDR-CX405/B Full HD 60p Camcorder + 64GB Ultra MicroSDXC UHS-I...
  • SONY AUTHORIZED DEALER - Bundle Includes FULL SONY USA WARRANTY
  • Sony HDR-CX405/B Full HD 60p Camcorder (Black)
  • BUNDLE INCLUDES: Compact Deluxe Gadget Bag for Cameras/Camcorders

This is an upgraded version, building on the concept of the Sony HDR-CX160 but taking it further. The more modern design bumps up the video clarity a bit and allows for dual recording.

Depth:

5 in

Optical Sensor:

1/5.8” Exmor R CMOS

Widescreen:

Yes

Digital Video Format:

MP4 and AVCHD

Effective Video Resolution:

2.29 MP

Optical Zoom:

30x

Digital zoom:

350x

Corrections:

Micro-HDMI, USB, Composite Audio/Video, Bravia Sync

The main thing that’s changed is the resolution. It’s increased by about 40 percent.

Performance

Pricing

Comparison Table

PRODUCT

DETAILS

Sony HDR-CX160 Handycam Digital HD Camcorder Video Recorder (Midnight...

Rating:

Depth:

4.5 in

Optical Sensor:

1/4” Exmor R CMOS

Widescreen:

Yes

Digital Video Format:

MPEG-2 and AVCHD

Effective Video Resolution:

1.67 Megapixel

Optical Zoom:

30x

Digital zoom:

350x

Connections:

HDMI, USB 2.0, S-Video, composite video/audio

PRODUCT

DETAILS

Canon VIXIA HF R800 Camcorder (Black)

Rating:

Depth:

4.6 “

Optical Sensor:

1/4.85” HD CMOS

Widescreen:

Yes

Digital Video Format:

MPEG-4

Effective Video Resolution:

2.07 MP

Optical Zoom:

32x

Digital zoom:

1140 x

Connections:

HDMI, USB 2.0, composite video/audio

PRODUCT

DETAILS

HMX-F90 - Camcorder - black

Rating:

Depth:

4.7 in

Optical Sensor:

1/3.2” CMOS

Widescreen:

Yes

Digital Video Format:

MPEG-2

Effective Video Resolution:

0.92 MP

Optical Zoom:

52 x

Digital zoom:

130 x

Connections:

HDMI, USB 2.0, composite video/audio

PRODUCT

DETAILS

Sony HDR-CX405/B Full HD 60p Camcorder + 64GB Ultra MicroSDXC UHS-I...

Rating:

Depth:

5 in

Optical Sensor:

1/5.8” Exmor R CMOS

Widescreen:

Yes

Digital Video Format:

MP4 and AVCHD

Effective Video Resolution:

2.29 MP

Optical Zoom:

30x

Digital zoom:

350x

Connections:

Micro-HDMI, USB, Composite Audio/Video, Bravia Sync

Pros and Cons

Are you confused by all that technical data? We can fix that with a summary of the best and worst aspects of the Sony HDR-CX160.

The primary advantage of the Sony HDR-CX160 is the built-in memory. You can record more, and you don’t always have to keep track of SD cards or tapes. It’s a very convenient camcorder in general.

The Sony Hdr-Cx160 has a so-so resolution for something that has HD printed on it. The Canon and the newer Sony both offer better video quality. But this one’s still detailed and a good choice if you need a basic HD camcorder.

Pros

  • Generous internal memory
  • Useful scene modes
  • Reliable stabilizer
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Only barely HD
  • Complicated file management

 Our Verdict

The Sony HDR-CX160 does well in most regards. The video is high-definition with smooth movement. It can zoom in far without quality loss. The display is big and clear and easy to use. Its internal memory really comes in handy when you’re shooting. The Sony HDR-CX160 is lightweight and easy to use in general.

It does have its drawbacks though. The video quality isn’t professional, that’s the main thing. But you can’t expect too much of an entry-level HD camcorder. Therefore, the Sony HDR-CX160 gets 3.6 stars.

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