Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX20V review
Pocket ultra-zoom cameras combine point-and-shoot simplicity with a big zoom to help frame shots more creatively, and are a worthwhile upgrade to a smartphone's camera that can't zoom at all. The HX20V is the pricier of two such models in Sony current range (HX10V review coming soon). Its specification are uncannily similar to rival models, such as the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS, Fujifilm Finepix F770EXR and Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ30: 20x zoom lens, 3in screen, 10fps continuous shooting, manual exposure control, 1080p videos and GPS for geo-tagging photos. It's pricier than its rivals, though, which cost from £248 to £289 as of today.
One justification is the HX20V's ability to capture 1080p videos and 13-megapixel photos at the same time (lower than the full 18-megapixel resolution because these photos have the same 16:9 aspect ratio as videos). We think it's a tremendously useful feature. There are so many times when we wished we'd captured a photo rather than a video, or vice versa; this camera removes any such worries. It doesn't require a special mode to be selected in advance. As long as videos are recorded at 25fps rather than the top 50fps frame rate, the shutter button keeps on working. Olympus offers the same feature on the Olympus SZ-31MR but is limited to 24 photos per video clip. The HX20V can take photos every couple of seconds for the duration of its 30-minute video clips.
It helps that this camera excels for video capture. The picture was clean and detailed, displaying remarkably little noise in low light. Autofocus was smooth and responsive, and the optical stabilisation did a fantastic job in telephoto shots, delivering smooth pans while eliminating wobbles. Our only grumble is that manual settings are ignored for videos, even down to the white balance setting. That will put creative videographers off, but for everyone else, there's little point in buying a dedicated camcorder.
It's a rewarding camera to take photos with, too. Performance is fast, with just one second between shots in normal use. Continuous shooting is at either 10fps or 2fps, although only for 10 frames per burst. There's a mode dial on top, a wheel on the back for adjusting settings and a Custom button that can be set to exposure compensation, ISO speed, white balance, metering or smile detect. We'd have liked quick access to more than just one of these functions, though. Accessing the others involves delving into the menu, which presents photographic functions in one long list that's easy to get lost in.
The mode dial includes manual exposure but not aperture- or shutter-priority modes. A sweep panorama mode captures and stitches as the camera is slowly turned. A new high-resolution option captures panoramas with the camera in portrait orientation for a taller view, and generates enormous 43-megapixel (10,480x4,096) images. The downside is that the camera must be moved reasonably quickly to capture the panorama before the buffer memory is full, so there was a small amount of motion blur except in very bright conditions.
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