Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V Overview
If you're looking for an attractive, coat-pocket friendly camera that sacrifices nothing in terms of zoom reach and resolution, the Sony DSC-HX20V might be the camera for you. And with a body crafted from 99% recycled materials, it's probably better for the environment than many, too, giving you a sense of doing the right thing for the planet.
The Sony HX20V is based around a powerful 20x optical zoom lens that protrudes telescope-like from the front of its chunky body. The HX20V's lens bears Sony G branding, and when shooting still images in its native 4:3 aspect ratio, yields 35mm-equivalent focal lengths from a generous 25mm wide angle to a powerful 500mm telephoto. Maximum aperture falls from f/3.2 at wide angle to a rather dim f/5.8 at telephoto. Thankfully, the HX20V includes Sony's Optical Steadyshot image stabilization, to help fight blur from camera shake at the longer focal lengths.
Sony describes the HX20V's autofocus system as "lightning-fast", claiming a focus time of just 0.13 seconds in daylight, and 0.21 seconds in low ambient light of around 3 EV.
The HX20V's backside-illuminated CMOS image sensor has uncommonly high resolution, capable of capturing 18.2 megapixel still images. That's a higher resolution than many recent SLRs, although the sensor itself is a 1/2.3-inch type with a diagonal of just 7.77 millimeters. Since it's a backside-illuminated image sensor, light gathering should be better than that of a standard CMOS chip. That's because more of the surface area can be devoted to light-gathering, as the circuitry has been moved below the active layer of the sensor. Sony has selected a still-image sensitivity range of ISO 100 to 12,800 equivalents, although it's not clear if that is at full or reduced resolution. For movie shooting, the range is a much narrower 100 to 1,000 equivalents, with the ability to extend to ISO 2,000 maximum.
Images can be framed and reviewed on a 3.0-inch LCD panel with high 921,600 dot resolution, or around 640 x 480 pixels, with each pixel being comprised of separate red, green, and blue dots. There's no optical or electronic viewfinder on the HX20V.
As well as still imaging, the HX20V can also capture high-def 1080p (aka Full HD; 1,920 x 1,080 pixels) AVCHD video at a rate of 60 progressive-scan frames per second, or 60 interlaced fields per second, and movies include stereo audio. There are also three reduced-resolution options: either high-def 1,440 x 1,080 pixel that plays back at 16:9 aspect ratio, but with reduced resolution on the x-axis, high-def 720p (1,280 x 720 pixel) or standard-def VGA (640 x 480 pixel). The 1,440 x 1,080 pixel mode is available at 60 fields per second in AVCHD format, or 30 frames per second in MPEG-4. The other reduced-res modes are all MPEG-4 only, and are captured at 30 frames per second. Two different stabilization systems are available for video: either the standard Optical SteadyShot used for still imaging, or a more powerful Active SteadyShot mode that combines optical and digital stabilization, with a resulting increase in the focal length crop. (Translation: wide-angle video is harder to achieve with this enabled, but you can manage an even greater maximum telephoto.)
Interestingly, the HX20V can save 13 megapixel still images during movie capture, without interrupting the video feed. This is achieved using Sony's "By Pixel Super Resolution" technology, a variant of digital zoom that uses both interpolation and pattern-matching to resample the low-res video frame to a much higher resolution.
Catering to fans of travel, the Sony HX20V includes a built-in GPS receiver. This allows photos and movies to be tagged with the capture location and bearing. The HX20V also allows GPS track logs to be recorded, so you can replay your route on a given day's shooting.
The Sony HX20V includes both USB 2.0 High Speed data and Mini HDMI high-def video connectivity. Images and movies are stored in 105MB of built-in memory, or on SD / Memory Stick Duo cards. Supported SD cards include SDHC and SDXC types, while Memory Stick Duo compatibility includes PRO Duo and PRO HG Duo types, as well as Micro and Micro Mark 2 cards with an adapter. Power comes courtesy of a proprietary NP-BG1 or NP-FG1 lithium ion rechargeable battery pack, with the former in the product bundle. The HX20V is rated as good for 320 shots on a charge, although it isn't stated with which pack type this figure was determined.
Available from May 2012, the Sony HX20V is priced at around US$400. The only body color for this model is black.