Waterproof camcorders have traditionally been popular in the pool but less compelling on land, given the somewhat-cumbersome designs, so-so image quality and form-factors that aren't necessarily more comfortable than a similarly equipped smartphone. This may describe nearly every pocket cam you've considered, but not Sony's new Handycam -- instead, think of the HDR-GW77V as a high-end camcorder you'll want to use everywhere, that happens to be just as rugged as it is practical. The camera packs the standard ruggedized punch, with a waterproof rating to 16 feet, the ability to survive a five-foot drop and a dustproof housing (though that's typically a given for tightly-sealed cams). You wouldn't think to take still photos with your camcorder, but Sony wants you to just that -- to the tune of 20.4 megapixels. The Handycam's 10x optical zoom lens can capture static frames just as easily as motion, with features like optical SteadyShot and Sweep Panorama, though the 1/3.91-inch CMOS sensor means you shouldn't expect point-and-shoot-level image quality.
The GW77V can shoot 1080/60p video and features a wide-angle 29.8mm G lens, along with a 3-inch 921k-dot ExtraFine touch-enabled LCD. There's a dual Memory Stick M2/microSD slot, 16GB of internal memory and a GPS module with built-in NAVTEQ maps to boot (accounting for roughly 2.7 gigs of that internal storage). We spent a few minutes shooting with the GW77V and were quite pleased with its performance -- the Handycam was very responsive, with very fast focusing and an Optical SteadyShot feature that resulted in smooth footage, even while holding the camera by hand with the lens zoomed in completely. This certainly isn't your run-of-the-mill waterproof model, but considering the $700 price tag, you wouldn't expect it to be. The Handycam HDR-GW77V is slated to hit stores in silver, blue and black later this month.
Gallery: Sony Handycam HDR-GW77V hands-on
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