Sony HXR-NX30U vs Canon XA20 | Why I Chose The Sony

by Andrew Bloom
(W. Stockbridge, MA)

Sony HXR-NX30U vs Canon XA20

Sony HXR-NX30U vs Canon XA20

Sony HXR-NX30U vs Canon XA20 | Why I Chose The Sony

Posted April 2, 2014 - I flipped a coin. Just kidding. I researched the hell out of them. The Canon XA20 would have cost several hundred more, did not include a shotgun mic, did not have any built-in memory, and except for a more powerful zoom and a focus ring did not have anything over the Sony.

The Sony HXR-NX30 has 96gb internal, fantastic image stabilization, fantastic auto-focus in changing light (saw great review demonstrating this), comes with a shotgun mic good enough to get started with, and costs less (saved an extra $100 with a rebate from Sony that ended yesterday).

I am definitely ramping up for one-man-band, run & gun type of shooting so I bought a nice Kata backback.

A bit more background..

One video review I watched showed that the the zoom toggle on the XA20, while appearing to be a better quality switch device than on the Sony, was insensitive during the initial press of the button and then tended to jump a little once it "caught". In the same review the reviewer pointed out that while the XA20 has both a lens ring and a small dial for manual focus, he found that using the small dial was just as easy to use if not easier based on not having to reach as far. The Sony only has the small dial focus, but based on this review I don't feel that I will miss a focus ring on the lens (I'll likely be in automatic mode most of the time anyway).

Also, the Sony HXR-NX30 could/should also be compared with the Canon XA10, as that camera is actually closer to the Sony than the XA20 with its 10X vs. 20X optical zoom and slightly lower price point. The price difference is little or none, however, when you consider that the Canon does not come with a shotgun mic and has 64GB internal memory vs. Sony's 96GB. (It is strange that the XA20 has no internal memory whatsoever.) In short, I don't think this camera has anything at all over the Sony and was therefore dropped from my list of contenders.

About The Reviewer
Andrew Bloom is a budding documentary filmmaker (actually, he made a documentary many years ago in 1983 and is now rekindling the flame and gearing up for his next project with the help of his local access TV station). He just purchased the Sony HXR-NX30U video camera to launch his efforts.

Additional Links
Shooting Solo: Low-Budget Documentary Filmmaker's Gear List
Documentary Filmmaking Gear Check-List
How To Choose A Camcorder

Your Feedback
Want do you think of this review? Do you have any experience with the Sony HXR-NX30U or the Canon XA20 cameras or do you have questions for the reviewer? Post your comments or feedback below.

Comments for Sony HXR-NX30U vs Canon XA20 | Why I Chose The Sony

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Apr 06, 2014
Follow-up, More Gear Purchased
by: Andrew Bloom

Quick follow-up: I ordered a Libec tripod and a Mountainsmith backpack today. I may need to order and return a few backpacks before I find the one I want to keep. The Montainsmith Borealis is attractive to me because 1. they Mountainsmith is a leading backpack maker and know their stuff, 2. I like that the upper compartment is open allowing me to put stuff other than gear in it- i.e. lunch and rain jacket, and 3. it is made from recycled plastic.

B&H helped me zoom in (no pun intended) on the Libec TH-650 DV tripod with it's combination of having a bubble level, ball adjuster, fluid head, relatively light weight, and reasonable price point ($185). I ordered a a camera-mounted LED light yesterday- one with both light level and color temperature control. It's the Genaray LED-6200T 144 LED Variable-Color On-Camera Light ($139).

I'm pretty well "geared-up" at this point. The only remaining significant purchases will be a Lav mic and a zoom controller to attach to the tripod. I'm assuming that I won't get into editing at home for a while, but I may be fooling myself about that. Oh, I also ordered a Lowepro Fastpack 250 backpack to try. It is a simpler rig at a much lower price point, and it may give me all I need right now.

Apr 06, 2014
Sony ECM-XM1 Shotgun Mic
by: Andrew Bloom

This is the mic that comes with the Sony HXR-NX30 camera. I thought that it might be a "cheapy" and have to replace it right away. However, I just jumped on-line and was pleasantly surprised that it receives pretty good reviews (I was going to buy the camera anyway and didn't bother to research the mic beforehand). I'll post some comments about my new gear as I start using it. Hopefully these comments will be useful to others.

May 20, 2014
Made the same choice
by: Todd W

Hi Andrew,

I also chose the NX30U. I felt it was a better value and that it will do everything I want. It seems to be a little easier to use and if you don't have enough HD cards on you, you get an extra 7 hours of storage capacity internally. Fun camera.

Also, given the price difference, I'd rather have the Sony and a second less capable camcorder to set up as a stationary view for shooting video of interviews, bands, and other stationary subjects. The Canon has a slightly better lens and a more capable zoom, but I don't think it's full auto is quite as good. Both are great cameras though, so personal choice for most of us. If you are broadcasting for a network, I think the Canon has and edge.

Oh, since you said run and gun, I'd also get a monopod. I just got the Oben ACM-1400 from B&H and love it.

Have fun,

May 27, 2014
low light capability
by: AGB

Hi Andrew,

Thanks for your review.

Have you by chance checked out the Sony's low-light capabilities vs. Canon's? I see on paper there is a slight difference in Canon's favor and I wonder how big the difference is in fact. For me that could be a deal breaker seeing as I occasionally need it for in-door changing low-light shots.



May 27, 2014
Low Light Capability
by: Andrew Bloom

This video review influenced my purchase decision quite a bit-

Apr 19, 2015
it all depends...
by: Denny G

I bought a Canon Vixea HF G30 to replace my Canon HV20. My hobby being RC airplanes, i mostly shoot models in flight. The G30 will not stay in focus on objects at infinity! Even worse than the HV20. So I bought a NX30, but did not get in any model shooting before it was too late to return it. Same awful problem, but worse. As soon as tghe aircraft lifts off it woes woo-woo. Shooting in landscape mode helps. Now it does not go so far out of focus (clear to macro), so the bad period is shorter. The super stabilizer does not know what to do when you are panning and tilted up at a high angle. Anyone want an NX30?

May 19, 2015
A question
by: Liza

The NX30 would have been my first choice as well, primarily from a cost standpoint. However, since it is no longer in production, the only opportunity would be to order it from sellers who still have them in stock. What has been your experience with low light autofocus? This is my main use for the camcorder and have seen some pretty glowing reviews about that particular aspect on the XA20. However the price difference is around $1000 right now, which is pretty huge.

May 23, 2015
about low light focus
by: Denny G

I would not venture to say. Do you want to borrow mint to find out? Do I just put my email on here?

Jun 06, 2015
Sony NX30 low light autofocus
by: John McKenzie

I have owned this camera since January and use it for corporate videos and weddings, including very low light situations such as candlelit receptions with no additional lighting, and on full auto, including focus, it handles everything extremely well, with no discernible grain. And the 27mm wide angle as standard is really worthwhile. I can't compare it with the Canon AX20, because I don't own one, but I've been delighted with the NX30, so if you can still get one from remaining stocks, my advice is not to hesitate.

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