Sony HX300 Preview
by Roger Slavens
Evidently believing you can't extend yourself too far -- or bring the action too close -- Sony has introduced the new HX300, a 50x optical zoom camera that supplants the HX200V (and what now seems like its relatively paltry 30x optical zoom) in the manufacturer's bridge camera lineup. Boasting an equivalent range of 24mm-1200mm, the Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens (with a max aperture range of f/2.8-f/6.3) combines with a new Sony 20.4-megapixel (effective), 1/2.3-inch Exmor R CMOS sensor to deliver high resolution images from even afar. The range of the camera gets outright ridiculous when you factor in the HX300's up-to 100x "Clear Image" digital zoom.
Bridging the gap. Like the HX200V, the new Sony HX300 features a DSLR-like look and feel, without the hassle -- and weight -- of interchangeable lenses. But we know, of course, that there are some serious image quality compromises with choosing a bridge camera over a DSLR. However, Sony hopes to "bridge" that gap as much as it can with the HX300.
The company claims the camera features a first among its Cyber-shot cameras: a new generation of Sony's Optical SteadyShot system that delivers nearly twice as powerful optical image stabilization than its predecessor -- with the OIS located on the telephoto end to improve distant framing and composition -- as well as improving low-light performance. Additionally, Sony says the HX300's sensor and processor work together to double the autofocus speed over the HX200V in an attempt to equip photographers with a more responsive, more powerful super-zoom camera experience.
Design tweaks and performance enhancements. The camera body features a newly designed ergonomic grip, and a diverse collection of controls, including a manual ring, custom button, jog dial and Memory Recall mode. There's also a tilting, 3-inch, 921K-dot LCD monitor and a Multi-Terminal to communicate between the HX300 and compatible accessories. And a better Lithium-ion battery now extends life to 310 shots on a single charge.
Other performance enhancements include high-sensitivity ISOs up to 12,800 with the help of Sony's "By Pixel Super Resolution" upsample algorithm and multi-shot overlay (ISO for standard images tops out at 3,200), and 10 frames-per-second full-resolution burst shooting, as well as Full HD 1080p video recording. The Sony HX300 also comes with a new generation of Superior Auto Mode that automatically selects the proper settings to make composition and exposure easier, as well as Picture Effects ranging from Toy Camera to Partial Color. And, like many Cyber-shots, the HX300 lets you take 360-degree panorama shots.
Availability. The Sony HX300 will start shipping in the U.S. in March 2013 for about US$500, and will be available in black.
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