Sony Cyber-shot HX50 review
Sony has officially revealed the DSC-HX50V, the world's smallest and lightest 30x optical zoom compact camera, in the hope it can tempt amateur photographers away from their smartphones, even if they aren't yet ready to upgrade to an interchangeable lens camera. We got a sneak preview of Sony's latest, so read on for our hands on impressions.
The Sony G lens, which has a 24-720mm focal equivalent, sits in front of a 20.4-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor. Paired with Optical Steady Shot image stabilisation and extended ISO shooting up to 12800, you should be able to take hand-held shots at 30x zoom without worrying about blurry images. We put a pre-production sample through its paces at the London launch event, and contest that the system is impressively effective, letting us snap clear shots from atop one of London's tallest buildings. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take home our test shots, so we'll have to wait until we've used a final model to judge image quality. You'll also be able to shoot 50p Full HD video, although we won't know how well it handles filming at such high zoom levels until we get a review unit into the office.
The HX50 looks every bit the premium compact camera, with retro-inspired styling in a diminutive frame that will easily slip in a pocket. It is finished entirely in black, including the rubberised hand grip - an alternative silver model was developed, but rejected in favour of this slightly less ostentatious version, which we think looks great. Twin dials on the top of the body let you quickly switch between camera modes and adjust the exposure compensation, with the shutter and zoom controls just in front.
Unusually for a compact, the HX50 has an MI Shoe for adding accessories like the electronic viewfinder pictured here, several Sony microphones and flash units, or any third party accessory that uses the standard. This will come as a welcome addition for keen photographers who were put off compact cameras in the past due to their lack of flexibility. For most people though, the pop-up flash to the left of the shoe should be more than sufficient.
All the controls are located on the back of the camera, along with an 3in LCD display which unfortunately doesn't support touch - you'll need to use the buttons to the right to navigate the menu screens and choose between Sony's numerous picture effects.
All the usual Sony-specific effects are present, including Toy camera, miniature and soft high key modes, along with sweep panorama and a beauty effect that enhances skin tones and whitens teeth. Even intelligent Auto (iAuto) gets some enhancements, in the form of superimposing multiple shots automatically to create the sharpest, noise-free image possible.
For more advanced users, the P/A/S/M modes are available, along with a Custom button which lets you save up to three sets of settings for quick access. True professionals will likely be put off by the lack of RAW image support, however.
Integrated Wi-Fi lets you use your smartphone as a viewfinder, trigger the camera shutter remotely, view your images on a DLNA-compatible TV and wirelessly transmit your saved photos to a PC. There's also built-in GPS for geo-tagging your photos, but unfortunately no NFC functionality tos make pairing devices that little bit easier.
Sony expects the HX50 to last around 400 shots on a single charge, although it isn't clear if that's with Wi-Fi enabled or not - we'll know more once the camera goes on sale.
If you like the idea of a compact camera but have been put off by a small zoom, lack of features or image quality that's only marginally better than your smartphone, the HX50 could be exactly what you've been waiting for. It goes on sale at the beginning of May for around £350.