Sony HXR-MC88 camcorder: Shoot and stream like a pro

Jinoy Jose P | Updated on August 17, 2020

The entry-level Full HD video-camera targets dilettante videographers, students, teachers and vloggers

There is a bevy of camcorders in the market. But you don’t see them often. Smartphones aided by handy gimbals and assistive sticks have almost pushed camcorders to a corner. Many vloggers and YouTubers now use snazzy smartphones with cutting-edge camera faculties to shoot and stream their content. For instance, if you have an Asus ROG Phone 3 (costing ₹49,999) or a Redmi Mi 10 5G (₹49,999) you can shoot in 8K and stream content in style. So, why should one buy a basic camcorder that costs over ₹1 lakh?

Sony has the answer: if you want to be a pro at what you’re doing, you need the pro tools and gear; and shooting serious work on a smartphone, using cumbersome accessories isn’t the way you do serious work. The palm-sized and ultra-lightweight Sony HXR-MC88 camcorder, which looks similar to its siblings the Sony X70, Sony NX80 and Sony Z90, targets videographers, students, teachers and vloggers who want to produce quality video content and stream it.

Compact and capable

The device has a super-compact body that is easy to handle and carry around. It has a nice leather holder on the right side which helps you carry the device in one hand and shoot. The device feels extremely light without the XLR handle, which can be attached on top of the camcorder. Sony supplies the XLR handle along with the unit. The XLR handle is ergonomically designed and is easy to hold and shoot. The design reaffirms the fact that the Sony HXR-MC88 is meant for amateurs who want to go pro. It feels a little heavy with the XLR handle, but the shooting experience is quite satisfactory since the size and weight do not interfere with the recording experience.

The HXR-MC88 supports two memory cards; two slots are available on the device and users can manually select the card while shooting. This makes content production a lot easier as it helps extend recording time and makes workflow flexible. The device is compatible with SDXC and SDHC cards. It also supports Sony’s Memory Stick PRO Duo (Mark 2) and PRO-HG Duo. The ‘Relay’ mode enables the device to switch automatically to the second card when the first one is full, while the ‘Simul’ mode allows simultaneous recording between the two cards.

The Sony HXR-MC88 features a 3.5-inch OLED touchscreen LCD monitor and an 0.39″ viewfinder. The images that appear on them are bright and crisp. The device has several input-output ports, starting with an HDMI Type-A port, followed by micro-USB ports. The unit comes with a battery, AC adapter, lens hood and lens cap. The HXR-MC88 works with Sony’s MCX-500 Multi-Camera Live Producer, which helps one person handle a multi-camera live event shoot.

The MCX-500 supports up to nine video inputs, five-channel stereo inputs, including XLR with both internal recording and live streaming via Ustream, Facebook Live, and YouTube Live. The HXR-MC88 features a standard remote interface (2.5 mm stereo mini-mini jack). Users can control functions such as focus, zoom, recording start/stop and recording review using an optional RM-1BP or RM-30BP remote commander.

One of the most convenient features I have noticed on the device is that it has two start/stop buttons — on the handle and on the body. Both work independently. This means you don’t have to struggle to reach the start/stop button while shooting in different modes. The basic controls are placed on the left side of the body, covered by the viewfinder, which is a tricky position as it is a tad difficult to reach them without flipping the display pane. You’ll need some practice to reach them while shooting. Negotiating the manual button for zoom in and out, placed on the handle, is a smooth affair, though.

The HXR-MC88 features (built-in) Sony’s flexible multi-interface (MI) shoe. As most users of Sony camcorders would know, the MI Shoe provides connections to power and signal and offers coordinated on/off switching to Sony accessories such as wireless microphone systems (by removing the XLR handle).

Crisp images, fast autofocus

The camcorder features a 14.2MP 1” Exmor RS CMOS chip with a BIONZ X image processor (both are from Sony). The BIONZ X was first introduced on the Sony (alpha) DSLRs. It is also used in the Cyber-shot cameras. BIONZ X can process high-resolution images fast to deliver clear and natural visuals with less noise. BIONZ supports technologies such as Face Detection and DRO (Dynamic Range Optimiser) quite efficiently.

The Sony HXR-MC88 records up to Full HD 1080p (60 fps at 28 Mb/s) in the AVCHD format. Considering that most streamers and vloggers produce their content in Full HD and not in 4K or beyond, this is just fine. But considering the way broadband quality has been improving in India and abroad and how streaming platforms such as YouTube or Netflix support and insist upon Ultra HD content, the absence of 4K recording is a bit disappointing. But then a budget camcorder has to play the game within its limitations.

That said, the Sony HXR-MC88 captures video with impressive alacrity and delivers stunningly clear output. The camcorder has a fixed 29mm ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T wide-angle zoom lens with 12x optical zoom and up to 48x digital zoom. The sensor offers nice background bokeh defocus effects and impressive sensitivity for capturing high-quality images with less noise. The sensor does a great job under low-light conditions. If you are a YouTuber, this is a great relief. The videos contain less noise. There is no pixel binning as such.

The Fast Hybrid autofocus is superbly fast. It supports phase-face detection and lock-on features to record sharp and well-focussed video. The camera captures fast-moving objects with impressive sharpness. The touch panel helps to change autofocus points easily. The auto-focus drive speed faculty enables you to set the speed at which focus switches. If you are covering a sports event, this feature is extremely useful. The AF Switching Sensitivity helps users lock the focus to a single subject or switch focus at will. If you are a short-film maker, these features will save you a lot of time during shoot and post-production.

Users can control functions such as the iris (the adjustable opening for aperture), shutter and ISO through auto or manual operations. The buttons are easy to find. The device has a built-in neutral density filter wheel that helps reduce light by 2, 4, and 6 stops. This is quite useful since it compensates for your routine ND filters.

The device captures impressive audio even without an external mic. The internally captured audio can easily be edited into broadcast-quality audio. Still, I recommend using a professional microphone if you want quality output, especially during YouTubing and live streaming (for which you need external accessories, which are easily available in the market).

In sum, the Sony HXR-MC88 is a great entry-level camcorder for vloggers or those who make instructional videos, tutorials, reviews and similar content on YouTube and other social media platforms. Given the price, the quality of video output and the multiple advanced controls it offers, the Sony HXR-MC88 can easily be a value-for-money deal.

Price: ₹1,04,999

Pros: Compact body, affordable price, fast autofocus, great face detection, lock-on autofocus, supports direct streaming

Cons: A bit slippery, you have to be careful while handling it; easily breakable body; gathers dust easily; no 4K recording.

Published on August 17, 2020

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