Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX200V review
The HX200V is a beast of a camera. It's bristling with big numbers and impressive features, including an 18-megapixel sensor, 30x zoom, articulated 3in screen, electronic viewfinder and GPS. Even the cardboard box is a force to reckoned with, with serrated edges that can slice through human flesh.
Thankfully, the camera itself is much gentler on the hands. The substantial handgrip and contoured back plate are a snug fit, and the shutter button and command dial fall neatly under the thumb and forefinger. The sharp, bright screen tilts up and down rather than around to the side, but with it tilted up at 45 degrees and the left hand controlling the zoom with the lens ring, this camera is really satisfying to use.
The viewfinder is a let-down, though. Its 201,600-dot resolution is considerably courser than the LCD screen's 921,600 dots, and the view is quite small. We'd have preferred for Sony to bump up the price to include the fantastic 2.4-million dot viewfinder that graces the Sony NEX-7, or do without one altogether. We'd also have liked an accessory shoe for flashguns and off-camera flash systems.
In-camera GPS functions can be undermined by the slow time it takes to get a lock after switching on. Sony gets around this with a log function, which keeps a constant record of the camera's position, even when the camera is switched off. It's sensibly limited to a 24-hour period to avoid draining the battery, and it has the added benefit of creating a log file to see the route you travelled. This generates a huge amount of data, recording its coordinates every few seconds whereas other cameras only do so every couple of minutes. However, accuracy was often out by around 100 feet, so the plotted route at www.gpsvisualizer.com looked like it was for a hyperactive dog. The same route as recorded by the Fujifilm Finepix F770EXR was less detailed but ultimately more accurate.
There's no shortage of advanced photographic functions, with the camera capturing multiple exposures to reduce noise, create panoramas and capture scenes in 3D. Sony has provided these functions for years, and although its competitors are catching up, it still leads the way. Its Anti Motion Blur mode combines exposures to reduce noise but uses clever processing to avoid ghosting in moving subjects. It's used automatically in low light when Superior Auto is selected on the mode dial.
Priority and manual exposure are available too, and cycling through the exposure-related controls is a simple matter of pushing and turning the command dial. It's a good system once you've found it – we spent a while searching in vain for the ISO speed control in the menu. A dedicated Focus button makes it quick to reposition the autofocus point. There's a custom button that's set to AE lock by default, but can be reconfigured to one of four other functions. Autofocus is responsive, and 1.2 seconds on average between shots is a fine achievement. Continuous shooting is at 10fps or 2fps, but only lasts for 10 frames before taking a seven-second breather.
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