Sony CyberShot HX200V review
Review Date : Thu, 17 May 2012
Author : Paul Nuttall
Will the Sony CyberShot HX200V offer more than the 30x optical zoom? The Sony CyberShot DSC-HX200 review follows...
|Pros:||Impressive specification, good design, large focal range|
|Cons:||Premium price, heavy image processing, ill-thought-out menu system|
Sony's HX200V is the latest superzoom bridge camera to hit to market, joining the reckoning in a field that's one of the most competitive in digital cameras today. The question is, how do its 30x optical zoom and 18.2MP Exmor R CMOS sensor perform, and how does it sit relative to other models on the market?
Sony CyberShot HX200V Review - Features
As is often the case in the superzoom market, the headline feature of the HX200V is no doubt its extensive zoom. The 30x optical zoom covers a focal range of 28-810mm in 35mm equivalent terms, meaning that most shooting situations presented to the keen photographer will be within reach of capture.
This 30x optical zoom is extendable up to 60x magnification using Sony's Clear Image Zoom technology - this technology analyses the pixels in a scene and then repopulates said image area with equivalent pixel, rather than simply crop in on the image in the same manner as a digital zoom, and thus promises better results. This extensive focal range promises to avoid camera shake through a variety of means. The HX200V features Sony's proprietary Optical SteadyShot technology, while the model also features a range of on-board image editing modes - including Handheld Twilight - whereby a series of images are captured and combined into a single shot.
At the core of the HX200V sits an 18.2MP, 1/2.3in Exmor R CMOS sensor, paired with a BIONZ processor that, Sony claims, will reduce image noise in low light situations. The rear of the HX200V houses a 3in, 921k-dot TFT LCD screen, which is capable of pulling away from the camera body and rotating about a horizontal pivot roughly 150 degrees. The LCD screen is accompanied by an electric viewfinder which measures in at 0.2in, and features a resolution of 201k-dots. Video capture is catered for in the form of Full HD capture at 50fps and 1080p resolution, while a dedicated video record button on the rear of the camera offers prompt and direct access to the shooting mode.
The HX200V wouldn't be a true Sony compact without featuring a host of extra features and general gadgetry, and this is certainly the case. As well as the aforementioned Clear Image Zoom technology and Handheld Twilight modes, the HX200V features a GPS sensor for location tagging of captured images and both 3D still image and Sweep Panorama capture. Add to that an ‘Artistic Picture Effect' shooting mode, Digital Level Gauge for checking level horizons, a collection of intelligent focusing modes, to name but a few, and you begin to get an idea of the depth of the HX200V's feature set.
Sony CyberShot HX200V Review - Design
At first look the HX200V appears much the same in design to any number of superzoom bridge cameras currently crowding the market. The bulk of the not-insubstantial physical size of the body is taken up by the bulbous lens section, with a protruding hand grip sitting to the right hand side of the body offering a solid grip to counterbalance said lens.
Despite the body feeling a touch bulkier than its competitors, it's design is such that it still feels comfortable in the hand and in shooting. The aforementioned protruding lens grip is rubberised, and as such offers extra security to the grip and while the lens section is larger than many other bridge cameras, if anything this allows it to sit more comfortably in the hand. This comfortable shooting experience is no doubt enhanced by several design tweaks clever enough so as to match those found on the inside of the camera.
For example, the bulk of the lens is utilised by the placement of a ring around its perimeter - this can either be used as an alternative to the camera's zoom toggle or, at the flick of a switch also located on the lens barrel, set to control manual focus. Signs of well thought out design continue around the body of the HX200V. For example, the model also features a ‘custom' button conveniently located right by the shutter release, whilst the main control wheel for altering camera settings also serves as a press-down button for switching between shutter and aperture control. One area of design in which the HX200V falls down slightly is in its menu system.
If you're shooting in any of the program or manual modes - as will likely be the case with a camera of this kind - and want to make any changes to general settings, a press of the menu button will see you confronted by a plethora of toggles located on the left side of the screen. Now, on the face of it this is no bad thing, but when these number some 25 different controlled, and are laid out in are depicted in a four-to-a-screen design, it can take much longer than desired to changed the required setting. A far preferred option would be a four-by-four grid, for example, thus needing only one page to be toggled.
Sony CyberShot HX200V Review - Performance
On the whole, the HX200V performs well in use. The specification and feature list of the camera leaves no stone unturned in the pursuit of a complete bridge camera and, in general, the majority of the features live up to this promise. The model's focus system is swift in its basic form, and features different modes through which you can alter the focus to your preference. One of these modes which performs well if you're shooting any form of action or moving target is the tracking focus functionality - simply press the main command button to bring up a focus box, lock it on to your target and then tap again for the HX200V to track the selected subject.
This is generally very effective, providing a moving and quick focus on the subject, although it does struggle with faster moving subjects. As mentioned, the model features a ring around the perimeter of the lens from which you can control either the camera's zoom or manual focus parameters. This is a welcome addition for the former of the options, offering smooth travel through the focal range, although this is not the case with the latter. When looking to toggle manual focus the ring is unresponsive, taking far too much turning to get the desired change in focus.
The HX200V could also benefit from a magnification box appearing in this mode to aid focus, as its currently sadly lacking. The LCD screen that sits on the rear of the HX200V is certainly striking. Its 3in size fills a large amount of the rear of the camera and, as Sony would no doubt like to claim as a result of its ‘XtraFine TruBlack' technology, is eminently usable in even in difficult lighting conditions. The screen is of the vari-angle variety, as is often the case on similar bridge cameras.
However, the angle around which it can be varied is solely horizontal, with the hinge sitting between the bottom of the screen and the camera. A better implementation of the system is seen of some other cameras and involves a hinge towards the left of the camera, around which the screen can be rotated further to a front facing point. Outside of that gripe, it's an impressive LCD screen on the whole.
The HX200V also features a viewfinder, albeit the electronic variety. It measures in at 0.5cm, or 0.2in, and offers a resolution of 201,600 dots. In real terms, this viewfinder performs well and is certainly one of the better versions to be found on the current crop of bridge cameras. It's clear, offers a good reproduction of the LCD screen - complete with all the shooting info - and also features a dioptre adjustment.
This is all encouraging stuff as all-too-often viewfinders are very much an afterthought on this type of camera. As you would expect from an advanced digital compact from Sony, the HX200V features the full compliment of the manufacturer's proprietary shooting modes, including Sweep Panorama, Backlight Correct HDR, Handheld Twilight and Portrait modes, amongst others.
Although these might not be aimed at the advanced user to whom the HX200V is arguably catered, the good news is that they all perform well in use. A lot of these technologies are now several generations in development, and as a result offer viable one-stop alternatives to images that otherwise could take a long time in both the composition stage and in post-production.
Sony CyberShot HX200V Review - Value
With a market price of over £400, the HX200V is pricier than some of its competitors. While it does distinguish itself from them by way of a host of proprietary Sony technology, it certainly still marks the camera out as a premium product in the market.
Sony CyberShot HX200V Review - Image Quality
Starting with the positives, images captured with the Sony HX200V display an impressive dynamic range right out of the camera, with both shadow and highlight detail retained even in images containing high contrast. The camera's metering also performs well in this regard, with images generally proving evenly exposed and thus needing very little work out of the camera.
The news unfortunately is not all good. The model's 18MP Exmor R CMOS sensor struggles to deal with ISO noise even at its lowest settings. Although no grain is instantly apparent, the model's noise reduction technology operates to effectively smudge fine detail even at its lowest settings.
The good news, if it can be taken as such, is that as the camera moves up through the ISO settings, noise grain remain controlled in such a way and is thus largely absent, although fine detail continues to degrade thanks to said noise reduction. Considering the model's extensive focal range, the HX200V's lens performs well.
A good level of sharpness is maintained through the majority of the frame, although it does fall off marginally towards the edges of the frame. Although there is the occasionally issue with lens flare, as you would expect with a lens covering such a large focal range, this is mostly avoidable and can even be used for creative effect in certain situations.
There’s no escaping the fact that the HX200V is an impressive bridge camera. It not only features a full specification, but also a host of extra imaging technology sure to impress. However, there are a few gripes – first of all, the price tag is a fair whack higher then similar models on the market, and the lack of Raw capture for a camera of this calibre is something of a glaring omission, especially when you take in to account the issues seen with the HX200Vs handling of noise reduction. On the whole, the camera is a worthy purchase, although it must be said that there is stiff competition in this area.