Super-zoom cameras in a mini-DSLR frame are a segment that is seeing a lot of growth in recent times. Sony’s offering in this segment is the HX100V which boasts of a 30x optical zoom lens. Its closest competitors the Nikon Coolpix P500 and the Canon Ixus 30IS have optical zoom of 36x and 35x respectively. But the HX100V makes up for the loss of optical zoom with a plethora of features that may take me pages to pen down. Let’s cut the small talk and get down to business.
Features and Specs
The Sony HX100V has a 1/2.3 Exmor R CMOS Sensor with 16.2MP effective megapixels resolution and apart from that it has 30x optical zoom lens. Sony is trying its level best to promote the HX100V as the ultimate super-zoom camera in the market with the smart-zoom feature. Ideally it is better than precision digital zoom (120x on the HX100V) because it crops a portion of a photo taken at the maximum image size to obtain a zoomed image. When compared with normal digital zoom functions that directly enlarge the image data, smart zoom provides better image quality by cropping the data. However, test results show that these images are also not appropriate for printing. These are the smart zoom points at which the camera works, 10MP: Approx. 37x, 5MP: Approx. 53x, VGA: Approx. 216x, 16:9(2MP): Approx. 72x.
The 3 inch LCD which can also tilt crams 921k pixels inside the small screen making it a treat to view captured images. Apart from the LCD, the optical viewfinder has a sensor that automatically detects when you place your eye on it. The Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar T lens has a focal length of 27 - 810mm (35mm equivalent) which is not the best in class but should suffice as a great telephoto lens. However, at least a 24mm at the telephoto side would have made the deal even sweeter. The maximum aperture of f/2.8 on the HX100V is again another great plus.
The HX100V doubles up as an efficient video camera as well because it can capture 1080p AVCHD at the highest resolution setting at a great 60fps and add to that the 30x zoom on while shooting the video, you are bound to capture some breathtaking videos.
The camera also comes with an automatic pop-up flash. The ISO range of the camera starts at 100 / 125 / 160 / 200 / 250 / 320 / 400 / 500 / 640 / 800 / 1000 / 1250 / 1600 / 2000 / 2500 / 3200. There is a plethora of shooting modes for you to experiment with which includes the full manual mode, program mode, iAuto mode, Speed Priority and Aperture Priority. Some other photo modes include Superior Auto, iSweep Panorama, 3D Sweep Panorama, 3D Still Image, Handheld Twilight, Backlight Correction HDR and Anti Motion Blur. The scene selection includes Advanced Sports Shooting / Twilight / Twilight Portrait / Landscape / Soft Snap / Snow / Beach / Fireworks / High Sensitivity / Gourmet / Pet / Soft Skin.
Another glowing feature of the camera is the in-built GPS tracker. With such a gamut of features (I do not know if I missed anything), my only question is why didn’t Sony include a touchscreen? Asking for too much? Okay. Read ahead.
Design, Usability & Controls
In a day and age where manufacturers are constantly trying to incorporate ultra-zoom lenses within a compact frame, a few manufacturers like Sony, Nikon continue to prefer adopting the mini-DSLR frame to house super-zoom lenses. I particularly loved the design and the build quality of the HX100V. The ease of use of this Sony camera is exceptional. Despite the fact that the camera weighs around 525grams, it doesn’t feel too heavy or bulky.
The camera is entirely black and grey spots, to give it a tainted look, run around the hand rest and some other areas. The grainy effect that these spots create is a little bit of an eye-sore and a design element that Sony could have very well avoided.
The 3.0 inch LCD which can tilt is flanked on the left by the hardware controls which include the dial, menu, delete, video record and the play buttons. All these are quite accessible but I feel the build quality of these buttons could have been much better. The shutter button was very loose and the distinct click that you get with half-shutter was absolutely missing which meant that I ended up clicking pictures which were of no good at all. However, I suspect that this could be an issue with the model I tested.
With Sony cameras, the one thing that users can be confident about is the ease with which most of the features are accessible in the user interface. With the Sony HX100V, the company has gone a step further and has introduced a live guide at almost every step and it is extremely useful. However, I did notice a considerable lag time while changing of modes using the circular dial on the top of the camera and the time the screen showed the change.
The GPS module on the camera is a totally bare one which just lets you tag the image with the latitude and longitude of the area in which the picture is captured. It caught signal in a jiffy and was faster than some really fast smartphones.
Image and lens quality
The HX100V does not capture terrible images but does not capture great images either. All I can say that in the still images department the camera is just about good.
The problem with the captured images was the over-saturation of colours which according to me made the pictures look unreal. The images captured in broad daylight had absolutely no chromatic aberration or barrel distortion whatsoever which is good. The colours were good but over-saturation just glazed over my eyes.
The 30x zoom is definitely an added advantage. The camera managed to focus quite fast despite full zoom. Take a look at the pictures below for more reference.
I played around with the manual mode changing the settings here and there to capture some images in lowlight. The HX100V did manage to bring out some decent details. But the problem was with the fact that you need a tripod if you are experimenting with such shots and apart from that the amount of light that seeped in wasn’t a great deal so the exposure, most of the times was a little lower than normal. However, let me assure if you can play around with this camera for a while it might just let you capture some great details. Keep in mind though; the HX100V can capture only 72dpi images at the highest resolution making it unusable for printing. You need to ensure that you resize the images to 5MP resolution to print images. I tried the capturing 3D pictures but couldn’t view them on a screen. However, the LCD of the HX100V had an option to tilt the entire camera at a certain angle to view the image which felt more like a gimmick.
Lastly the ISO test was another crack in the dam for the HX100V because at almost all the ISO settings, the images looked washed out. But they weren’t grainy until ISO 800. Despite that, I believe these images could be used. Images shown below are ISO 100/200/400/800/2600/3200 respectively.
The major perk with the HX100V is in the form of superior captured video quality. When a camera can capture 1920x1080 full HD AVCHD videos at 60fps at maximum resolution you know that you have got a winner. But the best part is that Sony’s super-zoom offering passes with flying colours with the colour contrast and super smooth zooming while shooting the video. Focussing was again not much of a problem when you zoom in or zoom out of something and if you need more proof regarding the excellent video quality just check the embedded video below in 1080p resolution.
This is one area where the camera is very impressive. On full charge the Sony HX100V can actually take 410 shots or 215 minutes of video.