Sony HX50V Preview
by Roger Slavens
Apparently the pocketable Sony HX30V long-zoom digital camera and the DSLR-like Sony HX200V bridge camera have had a love child. The new Sony HX50V carries some excellent DNA from both "parents," packing a 30x optical zoom lens like the HX200V into a body that's almost as compact and lightweight as the HX30V. In fact, Sony calls the HX50V "the world's smallest and lightest 30x optical zoom camera," measuring about 4.3 x 2.5 x 1.5 inches and weighing approximately 9.6 ounces (with battery and Memory Stick Duo). And if the HX50V's DNA carries over more than just specs and appearances from its predecessors -- we gave the HX30V and HX200V rave reviews -- then their offspring should prove to be an incredibly versatile, convenient and high-performing pocket camera geared for casual photographers and enthusiasts.
Stable, steady and detail-oriented. What's more, Sony claims the HX50V is twice as stable and fast-focusing as the HX200V. Enhanced Optical SteadyShot image stabilization technology has been integrated into the camera to minimize shake and blur, which is especially critical at full zoom when the slightest camera movement can make a major impact. The camera's autofocus system, which includes Multi Point, Center Weighted, Spot, Flexible Spot and Face Tracking AF, was designed to lock onto subjects -- even at full zoom -- quickly and efficiently. The camera also allows for manual focusing, a nice touch for serious photographers who want as much control as possible.
The HX50 features a 20.4-megapixel (effective), 1/2.3-inch type Exmor R CMOS sensor that offers even more resolution than the HX30V and HX200V, which both carry an 18.2-megapixel chip. Combined with a Sony BIONZ processor, the camera is designed to capture highly detailed images in a variety of lighting conditions. While we're not typically fans of cramming more pixels into small sensors -- a practice we continue to see more and more from manufacturers that often results in reduced image quality -- ultimately the proof of how good a camera the HX50V is will be how the sensor works with its lens and processor. We'll be sure to share the results with you as soon as we get a test unit.
30x optical zoom lens. Superzoom cameras often don't boast ultra-fast lenses, and the HX50V is no different. It's a Sony G lens, with a maximum aperture ranging from f/3.5 at wide angle (24mm equivalent) to f/6.3 at full telephoto (720mm equivalent). The lens incorporates 11 elements, including 5 aspheric, in 10 groups, and employs a five-bladed aperture engineered to produce pleasing defocusing (bokeh) effects. It can focus as closely as 5cm open wide and 200cm at 30x zoom.
Advanced controls and features. Up top on the HX50V resides a physical mode dial, with PASM, Superior Auto, Intelligent Auto and Scene modes, as well as a dedicated exposure compensation dial -- a new and welcome feature to the HX series. The camera also comes with a current Sony standby, the Multi Interface Shoe, that offers significant expandability by connecting the camera to a flash, electronic viewfinder or microphone.
Additional features include a 3-inch Xtra Fine, 921,000-dot LCD monitor, a 10 frames-per-second burst shooting mode that can capture up to 10 shots at full resolution, a Memory Recall mode that allows you to swap between your favorite camera settings, a custom setting button, built-in flash and tons of in-camera editing functions.
Sensitivity ranges from ISO 80 to 3,200 in normal mode, with ISO 12,800 possible in high-sensitivity mode. Shutter speed reaches as fast as 1/4000-second. Unfortunately, the Sony HX50V only records images as JPEG files; you can't shoot RAW.
Creative filters and effects come aplenty, including Sony's Intelligent Sweep Panorama, which can capture even a full 360-degree image. Other artistic options including Pop Color, Soft High-Key and more.
WiFi and GPS. The Sony HX50V has built-in WiFi capabilities that take advantage of Sony's PlayMemories apps (available for both Android and Apple mobile devices) so you can transfer photos and videos wirelessly. PlayMemories also empowers your connected smartphone or tablet to act as a wireless remote to control the camera for self-portraits -- or for more creative uses.
With the camera's built-in GPS, you can geotag your photos and keep track of your photographic journeys.
Hi-Def video. Full 1080p HD video capabilities are becoming pretty much standard on compact cameras these days -- except for the most basic models -- but the HX50V surprises by allowing for fast-and-smooth 60p recording at 1920x1080. Filming gets the benefit of Sony's Optical SteadyShot Active mode, which reduces camera shake and blur during panning or other camera movements.
The HX50V records video in both AVCHD and MP4 formats, although MP4s are shot at reduced resolution and speeds. To help achieve better audio, the HX50V incorporates a stereo microphone and a wind noise-reduction feature.
Battery and storage. The Sony HX50V uses a 3.6-volt, 1240mAh, X-type lithium-ion battery (model NP-BX1) that's the smallest ever to be used in an HX-series camera, according to the company. It's CIPA-rated up to 400 shots on a single charge.
For file storage, the camera is compatible with Memory Stick Duo, PRO Duo and PRO-HG Duo media, as well as SD/SDHC memory cards, Class 4 and higher.
Pricing and Availability. The Sony HX50V, available in black only, starts shipping in May 2013 for an estimated retail price of US$450. It comes with a rechargeable battery pack, AC adapter, Micro USB cable, shoulder strap, shoe cap and instruction manual.
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