Sony DSC-HX1 Review

 
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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 Exposure


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Near accurate color with oversaturation in strong reds and blues, and slight hue shifts.

In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located towards the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center.

Saturation. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 oversaturates strong reds and blues quite a bit, but this is fairly common among consumer digital cameras. Yellows are actually undersaturated a fair amount. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. Here, with the color balanced properly for the light source, the DSC-HX1's Caucasian skin tones had a moderate pink cast, while darker skin tones were pushed quite a bit toward orange. However, performance here is still pleasing. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 showed several color shifts relative to the correct mathematical translation of colors in its subjects, pushing cyan toward blue, magenta toward red, and yellow toward green. Performance here is a little less than average, but overall color is generally good. Hue is "what color" the color is.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Best color with Manual white balance, just a slight nudge in positive exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance
+0.7 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+0.7 EV
Manual White Balance
+0.7 EV

Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was quite warm in both the Auto and Incandescent white balance modes, while the Manual setting produced near accurate results. White values measure out to be just slightly on the cool side, but overall color still looks best here. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 required a +0.7 EV exposure compensation boost to get a bright exposure, which is just a little higher than average. Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.

 

Outdoors, daylight
Bright color and generally good exposure outdoors, though contrast is a little high.

Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure
Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure

Outdoors, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 handled harsh lighting pretty well, producing somewhat high contrast, though with pretty good midtones. Shadow detail is smudgy and indistinct, however, due mostly to noise and noise suppression efforts. The camera's adjustable contrast setting did help even out the exposure some, without resorting to brightening the overall exposure. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 also has an adjustable Dynamic Range Optimizer setting, which automatically adjusts the range depending on the severity of conditions. It also produced fairly good results here.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
High resolution, 1,700 lines of strong detail.

Strong detail to
1,700 lines horizontal
Strong detail to
1,700 lines vertical

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,700 lines per picture height in both directions. While lines are distinguishable here, they aren't overly clear. Extinction began around 2,050 lines. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Fine detail is slightly soft from noise suppression, though high contrast areas show noticeable edge enhancement.

Definition of high-contrast
elements is affected by
noise suppression and there's
evidence of edge enhancement.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression blurs
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
as in the darker parts of hair here.

Sharpness. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 captures some fine detail, though detail definition suffers from both noise and noise suppression. In high contrast areas, the camera produces bright enhancement artifacts, such as along the trim in the crop above left. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows strong noise suppression, with the darker areas of hair showing only limited detail. Individual strands become lost even in the moderate shadows. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

ISO & Noise Performance
Noticeable noise at the lower sensitivity settings, though noise suppression becomes fairly strong at the moderate settings.

ISO 125 ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1,600
ISO 3,200

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 shows some moderate noise at its lowest ISO setting of 125, though detail is still fairly strong. Starting at ISO 200, noise suppression efforts begin to interfere, blurring fine detail. By ISO 800, the entire image looks like a pastel drawing, with very little definition at all. At ISO 1,600 and 3,200, noise grain becomes more pronounced though noise suppression remains strong. The other side effect here is slightly cooler color casts at the highest ISOs (1,600 and 3,200), due to more prevalent blue noise pixels. See the Print Quality section below, to find out what the recommended maximum size print is at each ISO setting.

Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with pretty good overall detail, though limited shadow detail. Bright contrast, but still good results overall. Good low-light capabilities under average circumstances.

Default Exposure +0.3 EV +0.7 EV

Sunlight. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 performed fairly well under the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, though contrast verges on being too high. Shadow detail is limited, mostly due to noise suppression, and some noise pixels are visible even in the midtones. At the default exposure, the face is just a hint dim, but overall exposure is much better than the too-bright whites of the +0.3 EV adjustment. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 features an adjustable contrast setting, as well as Dynamic Range adjustment. Both options do a pretty good job of reigning in contrast without brightening the exposure too much. Be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; and it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.



Dynamic Range Examples
Off Standard Plus

Active D-Lighting. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 offers three levels of Dynamic Range adjustment, which includes an Off setting. Sony's Dynamic Range does a good job moderating the extreme range in contrast without increasing the exposure too much. The Plus setting does push exposure slightly, but results aren't so bright to render the image unusable, retaining a good amount of detail in the shirt.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)




Low Light (One Foot-candle)
ISO 125, 1.3 sec, f/2.8 ISO 200, 0.8 sec, f/2.8 ISO 400, 0.4 sec, f/2.8
ISO 800, 1/5 sec, f/2.8 ISO 1600, 1/10 sec, f/2.8 ISO 3200, 1/20 sec, f/2.8

Low Light. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 produced bright images under the equivalent of standard city street lighting at night, which equates to about one foot-candle. Color balance was cool from the Auto white balance in many shots, but results were still usable. The camera was able to focus down to the 1/4 foot-candle level without any AF assist, and in near darkness with AF illuminator enabled.

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.

Flash

Coverage and Range
Very good flash power, with slightly uneven coverage. Auto flash performs well in our portrait shot.

26mm equivalent 560mm equivalent
Auto Flash (ISO 200)

Coverage and Exposure. Flash coverage was slightly uneven at wide angle, though quite dim at telephoto. In the Indoor test, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1's Auto flash mode produced a fairly bright exposure without any positive compensation, though it did raise ISO to 200. There's a slight orange tint from the background incandescent lighting, which actually helps to preserve the mood of the scene.

Flash Range: Wide Angle
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see HX1FL06W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 125
Click to see HX1FL07W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 125
Click to see HX1FL08W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 125
Click to see HX1FL09W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 125
Click to see HX1FL10W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 125
Click to see HX1FL11W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 125
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see HX1FL12W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 125
Click to see HX1FL13W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 125
Click to see HX1FL14W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 125
Click to see HX1FL15W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 125
Click to see HX1FL16W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 125

Flash Range: Telephoto
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see HX1FL06T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.2
ISO 125
Click to see HX1FL07T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.2
ISO 125
Click to see HX1FL08T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.2
ISO 125
Click to see HX1FL09T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.2
ISO 125
Click to see HX1FL10T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.2
ISO 125
Click to see HX1FL11T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.2
ISO 125
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see HX1FL12T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.2
ISO 125
Click to see HX1FL13T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.2
ISO 125
Click to see HX1FL14T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.2
ISO 125
Click to see HX1FL15T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.2
ISO 125
Click to see HX1FL16T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.2
ISO 125

ISO 100 Range. The lowest sensitivity supported by the Sony HX1 is ISO 125. At wide angle and ISO 125, flash intensity remained bright to 16 feet. At telephoto, flash power maintained the same intensity to about 9 feet, decreasing in brightness at 10 feet and beyond.


Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range
Wide Angle Telephoto
Click to see L210FLMFR_154WA0240.JPG
30.1 feet
ISO 200
Click to see L210FLMFR_082TA0160.JPG
16.7 feet
ISO 500

Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. In the shots above, the Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 performs about as Sony says it will, though wide-angle results are really inconclusive, since the 30.1-foot distance takes the camera too far out of the lab. Results are good at telephoto, however, the camera raised ISO to 500 to achieve this. Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100 (or the lowest ISO, whichever is higher), to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We've now also begun shooting two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Good print quality at 11x14 inches. ISO 400 images are soft but usable at 11x14, ISO 800 shots are better at 8x10.

The Sony HX1 was able to produce good 11x14-inch prints at ISO 125. 13x19-inch prints were too soft in areas of fine detail at this, the Sony HX1's lowest ISO.

ISO 200 shots are also acceptable at 11x14 inches, and ISO 400 shots are usable at this size, though there is more noise in the shadows, and less detail overall. This gets less noticeable as the image size is reduced to 8x10.

ISO 800 shots start to show some weakness, with oversaturated colors and deep, dark shadows, but the detail at 8x10 is still decent. ISO 1,600 shots are usable at 5x7, but shadows are dark and saturation a little too pumped for our taste, eliminating detail in colors. ISO 3,200 makes a usable 4x6-inch image in terms of major detail, but the dark shadows and pumped colors continue.

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon Pro9000 Mark II studio printer, and on the Canon iP5200 here in the office. (See the Canon Pixma Pro9000 Mark II review for details on that model.)

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 Photo Gallery.

Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!

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Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

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