#74: Sony HDR – CX220 Camcorder Review for Private Investigators

I love Sony Video cameras.  At least I did at one point.  After my recent Sony video camera purchase I am not so sure that Sony is putting out the best camera anymore.

As many of you know I have been using the Sony DCR-SX44 Video Camera and I love it.  The camera starts immediately after opening the viewing screen, it had great video quality, a powerful 60x zoom, it was easy to navigate through dates I had previously videotaped on and even had the total video amount for each day I videotaped.  But that isn’t all.  It came with a charger and Audio Video cables that went from the camera to my video capturing device. It addressed basically every need I had as a surveillance investigator.  That is why I gave it such high praise in my camera review  video almost 2 years ago.  I had reminded you what I had on my previous Sony camera because I will be comparing it to what I have now.

Sadly the screen on my Sony DCR-SX44 video camera stopped working properly.  The camera still videotapes it just doesn’t allow me to see what I am videotaping.  Not being able to see what your videotaping just doesn’t work in this line of business…Or any business I would imagine.

Needless to say, I went to Best Buy and made a Bee-Line to the Sony Cameras.  I found the Sony HDR-CX220 which was in my price range.  It appeared to come with the usual functions that Sony is known for like the steady shot and Carl Zeiss wide lens.   It was priced at $249.00 which I thought was a fair price for their camera so I bought it.

The Sony HDR-CX220 Review

I got the camera home and was very excited to see how far Sony had come over the past two years since purchasing one of their cameras.   I was quickly disappointed in what I discovered.

What you get with your Sony HDR-CX220 Camera (or what you don’t get)Sony Video Camera Review

This is what I got when opening the Sony box

  • USB extension Cord
  • HDMI Cable (from the camera to the television)
  • Battery
  • Operating Guide

What I needed that wasn’t included

  • Camera Charger
  • A/V Cable (audio video cable)


Because Sony is either too cheap or is trying to pad their profit margin they decided to have this camera charged by a USB cable that is connected to the camera (hence the USB extension cord).  So either you must have a computer to charge his camera or a USB power plug (like the ones on iPhone Chargers)

It’s not that they did away with the old chargers  and went to this USB way only, they continue to have the spot in the camera for a regular charger they just don’t supply you with one.

Luckily for me I had an old charger from my previous Sony camera purchase works fine with this camera.

[I paid around the same amount for a Sony camera with HD and a touch screen and it came with A/V cables and a charger.  What is going on?]

The model of charger or power adapter that will work on this camera is the Sony model AC-L200D. You can find it on Amazon or just click the link and it will take you there.  It’s only around $20.00 and you will be happy that you got it.

Audio Video CablesAudio Video Cables (or the lack there of)

I need audio video cables to capture my video  with the date and time stamp using Dazzle.  There is no way around it, I must have those cables.

Sony doesn’t supply them in the box nor do they sell them at Best Buy.  They only way you can really get them for an affordable price is by buying them off the Sony website, which I had to do.  So I was in a jam and needing them immediately, I ended up ordering them off the Sony website and had them shipped asap.  The cables were $19.99 and the express shipping ran me $15.00.  So $35.00 more I had to spend to be able to do my job which is irritating.

The cable is a MULTI port audio video cable.  The model number for the cable is VMC-15MR2.

HDMI Cables

I haven’t used these cables but apparently you can watch you videos on a television with a HDMI port when it is connected to your camera.


The battery lasts a little over an hour on a full charge.  I would recommend getting an additional battery for those moments when you are videotaping and not near a charger.

I am using the battery from the Sony DCR-SX44 as my backup as it fits this one.

Navigating the Camera Menu

They have chosen to use a joystick button approach for navigating through menus.  This is the Panasonic cameras were already doing (which I didn’t really care for).  I liked Sony’s touch screen much better on other models but it seems as if they are moving away from that for some reason.

Video Play Back

On the previous versions of the Sony cameras you could move to a date on the camera and it would separate the dates where video was obtained.  So if I shot video on the September 19, 2013, it would separate all that video from any other date and give the total amount of video that was taken.

This was ideal for me when I needed to figure out how much video was of my subject verses total video.  Of course there is a work-around for this but this made my life a bit easier when working insurance surveillance cases.

The 32x Zoom is Significantly Different from the 60x Zoom

I had a bit of a wakeup call when it came to the difference between 32x zoom on the Sony HDR-CX220 and the Sony DCR-SX44 which was the older model.  The 32x zoom is not as much zoom as I would like but I will say that by not having as much zoom it keeps me from zooming in too close and the camera begins shaking around.  It also has a “Steady Shot” function which helps with camera shake as well. So my video quality looks a bit better as a result.  For those who need a powerful zoom this is not going to be the camera for you.

Low Light Videotaping

When videotaping at times where there is a limited amount of light, you will find that the video shows noise (signs of grain or pixilation.) This is pretty normal for this entry level video camera. It is better than Panasonic’s entry level cameras like the Panasonic HC-V10.  Either way don’t expect too much when videotaping at night.

Videotaping in General

This camera has face recognition (which is pretty typical with cameras now days), a smooth zoom (not too fast), and the video quality is fine.

Photo Button

This camera takes 8.9 mega pixel photos and will even take photos while you are videotaping.  I have accidently taken pictures while videotaping and have had to edit them out which is annoying.  The photo is right next to the zoom control so accidently touching the button is bound to happen.  The older versions did allow pictures to be taken while videotaping.

This might be something you like.  I don’t care for it very much.

My Final Thoughts On the Sony HDR-CX220

For around $250.00 I would expect more from Sony.  I would at least expect the normal things that come with a camera like the power cable and audio video cables. Not having those in the box really put a bad taste in my mouth.  Almost like Sony it taking advantage of their customers.  It was even more irritating to find out I couldn’t purchase the A/V cables at the store and had to order them through Sony’s website.

From what I understand there are Sony Camera models that come with the aforementioned items that were not included with this camera. They cost a bit more but at least you won’t have to scramble to find what you need online.

I am fine with the video quality and even with the fact that they took away the touch screen function.
The camera feels like it was cheaply made unlike their previous versions.  The components inside might be great but the outside shell feels like plastic.

I guess I won’t have been so critical on this camera if Sony would have provided more value than the price they are charging.  I feel as though I am getting less and paying the same.

You might like the camera however I am a bit indifferent as to whether I would recommend this camera or not.

I hope this help you when purchasing your next camera.



  1. I bought the Sony CX380 a few months ago and paid $450 for it. Best Buy has it on sale now for $370. The extra cost is worth it. It includes a power plug for charging, touch screen, 55x zoom and the Sony G lens. I don’t see a huge difference from Sony’s Carl Zeiss lens, but the color appears slightly more vivid and accurate. The main issue I have is the zoom lags slightly when it initially starts zooming in or out. I don’t always get the face shot as close as I want due to this. It is a lot lighter than previous models, and initially felt cheaper to me, but it seems like it takes less effort to keep video steady without a tripod with the lighter weight. My biggest issue with this camera is the auto exposure makes the video too bright in morning sunlight. It is sometimes impossible to get a clear license plate shot without adjusting the brightness manually. I use it mainly for surveillance in NYC and it fits the bill, but recently used it for a farm case in a rural area that really put it to the test. It worked out, but the issues I mentioned really became a deal breaker in that environment. Overall, I would recommend trying out the CX380 instead. It soaks up a lot of the issues you mentioned for a little bit more in cost. It beats spending 800+ and keeps the size to a minimum. Still, one more slip in quality with increased prices for Sony and I am done with them. —Thanks for the great blog. I am glad I came across it and will be reading more often.

    • Rob,

      Thank you for the awesome comment and insight. I thought it was just me when it seems as though it wasn’t recording the true colors and seemed a bit bright. And it sounds as if the much of the extra cost might have to do with adding the charger and touch screen to the product though my older $250 camera had all of that. I really don’t know what is going on with Sony. And I have to agree with you on possibly moving on to another brand unless Sony starts bringing back the value they are known for.

      Thank you again for great comment!


  2. Great article, man. I had to upgrade to HD a little while back. After looking at a few different brands, I decided to branch out from Sony and, at the advice of a fellow investigator, bought the JVC GZ-EX355BUS. I have always hated JVCs produces but was very impressed with the quality of video. It also has a the special recording mode that allows me to trasfer video through the USB cable with time and date stamp. The only downside is that it doesn’t have a manual focus in the time stamp recording mode. But, it has an “Intelligent Auto Focus.” This feature does an awesome job. I had to shoot video through traffic a few times and it hasn’t been a problem. It does a great job of holding the target. When I transfer the file to my computer, I just run it through Pinnacle Studio to remove the sound and compress the file size. I also save the original 1080p video file with sound in case there is an issue. I have always been a Sony guy, but I love this JVC.

    It also has a cool Wi Fi feature that allows me to control it from my smart phone. Hasn’t really come it hand yet, but, we’ll see how it goes.

    • Hey Rutledgepi,
      The JVC camera you mentioned in your comment sounds very interesting. Where did you get the camera and what did you pay for it? As for the loss of manual focus mode I am sure that could present some problems for investigators in rainy states or shooting video through fences. What if you were shooting video in time stamp mode and then had to switch out of the mode to use a manual focus, how would that effect the video? I noticed that the camera has a 40X zoom. How does that zoom work for you? Do you feel like you need more?

      • Good questions.

        – I paid about $350 when it was all said and done. Extra battery & case.

        – It has actually done great on rainy days and with fences. I just had a file where this was a concern, last week. The camera’s Intelligent focus was able to stay trained on my target and the fence wasn’t an issue. As for rain, once you zoom past the moisture on the window it stays with the target nicely and doesn’t go in and out of focus. I still would rather have the manual function. I’m just more comfortable with it, but I’m beginning to have more faith in the camera.
        – Switching out of time stamp mode is easy. You would have to stop recording but once you know the menu, it can be done very quickly. There is no change in video quality. I have not done this on an active file, but, have played around with it to make sure that I could it the need were to arise.

        – The zoom capability is great. It is 40 optical and 60 dynamic. Dynamic is a digital zoom but the image doesn’t soften nearly as much as with my old cameras. I rarely need more than 40. Due to the terrain in East TN, I’m either set up close to a target or on a route of departure. Once away from the residence, I generally stay pretty close when filming. I was an LP for several years, so I’m more aggressive than some about getting out and getting creative.

        – Like everything else, I could always use more. For the way I work, this camera does great on most cases. Some investigators hate it. It took a while to talk me into a JVC again, but I’m glad I did. Everyone has there own style and different cameras compliment different investigators.

  3. Get rid of your dazzle. Most cameras shoot in AVCHD format and when you load the video onto your computer all the metadata info is downloaded with it. You can get this to show up on your video by downloading a program called vATS.

  4. Does the multi-port stream what you are recording to a TV or a projector? For example: if I were recording a wedding in a packed chapel, can I connect it to a projector in another room via the multi-port so they can see what is taking place. My projector doesn’t have HDMI and besides RCA is much cheaper to run any kind of distance.

    I would appreciate your insights.