Sony DSC-HX7V Review

 
Camera Reviews / Sony Cameras / Sony Cybershot i Express Review
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX7V
Resolution: 16.20 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/2.3"
Lens: 10.00x zoom
(25-250mm eq.)
Viewfinder: LCD
ISO: 125-3200
Shutter: 30-1/1600
Max Aperture: 3.5
Dimensions: 4.0 x 2.3 x 1.1 in.
(102 x 58 x 29 mm)
Weight: 7.3 oz (206 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $300
Availability: 03/2011
Manufacturer: Sony
Full specs: Sony DSC-HX7V specifications
16.20
Megapixels
10.00x zoom
1/2.3"
size sensor
image of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX7V
Front side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX7V digital camera Back side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX7V digital camera Top side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX7V digital camera Left side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX7V digital camera Right side of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX7V digital camera

DSC-HX7V Summary

Its more modest 10x zoom nonetheless starts out wide, ranging from 25-250mm, making the Sony HX7V a great travel camera. Full HD video, GPS, several flavors of iSweep Panorama, and a multitude of multi-shot modes fill out a very capable camera design.

Pros

Full HD video; Built-in GPS; iSweep Panorama; High-resolution LCD; Fast AF and burst mode.

Cons

Heavy noise suppression obscures fine detail; Superior Auto wasn't; Movie Record button hard to reach.

Price and availability

The Sony HX7V digital camera began shipping from March 2011, priced at around US$300. Body colors include black, white, red, and blue.

Imaging Resource rating

4.0 out of 5.0

Sony HX7V User Report

by Greg Scoblete and Stephanie Boozer
Review Posted: 07/29/2011

Almost ten years ago, an executive at HP remarked to me that a digital camera was little more than a computer with a lens on it (he was denigrating the lens part and playing up the computer part like a typical computer guy). Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-HX7V is very much a fulfillment of that observation: many of its headline features rely on snapping multiple images, analyzing them and using algorithms and the company's BIONZ image processor to merge these exposures to achieve the desired result -- be it a 3D image, a large panoramic photo or a well-balanced image in very low light.

In addition to its computing skills, the Sony HX7V delivers a very nice 10x lens that's both long and wide, ranging from 25 to 250mm equivalent. You'll find a backside-illuminated 16.2-megapixel EXMOR-R CMOS sensor, a 3-inch display, HD movie recording and a Manual mode for greater photographic experimentation. At a retail price of $300, the HX7V packs a solid feature punch for a mid-range model. But how did it stand up in the real world?

Look and Feel: The Sony DSC-HX7V is a beefed up version of the H70 - not just by way of its features but its heft and feel, too. While it has the same 10x lens and claims to size-in at the same thickness (just 1 and 3/16-inch) it definitely feels more substantial. The camera has a nice rubberized grip running down the left side of the front of the camera, helping to steady a one-handed grip.

Aesthetically, the camera's fairly mundane (not that there's anything wrong with that). The front plate is brushed stainless steel, and a black rubber grip provides good texture for a better hold, though it's not as pronounced as the HX9V. The lens barrel protrudes just slightly from the body with a touch of silver trim for accenting. You do have your choice of colors, however: black, white, red and blue.

Lens: You'll find a 10x optical zoom on the Sony HX7V with a focal length ranging from a wide 25 to 250mm equivalent on the telephoto side. While the HX7V isn't the slimmest digicam on the market to pack a longer zoom lens, it's still compact enough to slip into your pocket. The lens offers a maximum aperture of f/3.5 to f/5.5 across its zoom range. It has a two-step aperture using a neutral density (ND) filter, which offers either f/3.5 or f/8.0 at wide angle, and f/5.5 or f/13.0 at telephoto. It's a Sony G-lens composed of 10 elements in seven groups with four aspheric elements.

You'll also find what Sony dubs its "Smart Zoom" technology, which delivers 12x magnification when you're shooting at 10-megapixels. This mode is of limited value because most people will want to shoot at the full 16-megapixel resolution of the sensor; the value is that because the camera is set to only 10-megapixels, it will crop a 10-megapixel image from the center of the 16-megapixel sensor and save it without loss of image quality. It works well, but you have to decide to shoot at reduced resolution for all of your pictures to take advantage of this mode, when you could just as easily crop your images after capture.

If you're not satisfied at 12x, you can zoom still further if you lower the resolution more: at 5-megapixels you'll get 17x total magnification, at 2-megapixels you'll get 24x (when shooting at a 16:9 aspect ratio). If you were inclined to take a VGA resolution photo, the Smart Zoom would propel you all the way out to 72x. Not much point in doing that, though.

There's also a Precision Zoom function, which brings you out to 40x by cropping out a portion of the image and interpolating up to full resolution. Unlike Smart Zoom, Precision Zoom will kick on while shooting at full resolution, but you'll have to turn it on in the menu. I tend to leave digital zoom off.

The Sony HX7V has no Macro focusing mode, because the camera just detects a close subject and switches on its own, even in Program mode.

Controls: Atop the camera, just right of the stereo microphones, you'll find a Power button that's slightly recessed, so it needs a bit of a determined push to turn it on. Right of that, the Shutter button is surrounded by the Zoom ring, followed by a Mode dial. I found the Mode dial a little difficult to turn, but that's better than a loose mode dial.

On the side of the Sony HX7V is a compartment for the mini HDMI output -- the plastic door is sturdy, with a metal pin for a hinge, and snaps into place when closed.

The Sony HX7V brings a fair amount of its functionality out of the Menu and onto the Mode dial. You'll find settings for 3D (which brings you to an on-screen menu where you can choose from one of three 3D shooting modes), Movie Mode, Intelligent Sweep Panorama, Manual, Program Auto, Superior Auto, Intelligent Auto, Background Defocus and Scene Modes nicely rounding out the Mode dial.

On the back of the camera, clustered to the right of the 3-inch display is a dedicated Movie Record button, which sits off center to make room for a little thumb rest. Below your thumb is a small Playback button, a four-way controller wheel that can also be wheeled (literally) around to help you scroll through menu items or images during playback (a nice touch). The four-way buttons serve as Display, Flash, Self-timer, and Drive mode buttons, while the center button serves various functions depending on the mode. Beneath the wheel are small buttons for the Menu and In-Camera Guide/Trash.

The controls on the Sony HX7V are on the small side to make room for the larger display. They're also fairly flush with the camera's body, so some will find them difficult to use.

Modes: The Sony HX7V is very well provisioned with many of Sony's top-shelf photo modes. First, you'll find Program and Manual, no surprises there. What may be a bit surprising to some is that there are no Aperture or Shutter Priority modes. In fact, there is only one true aperture setting on the Sony HX7V. Instead of aperture blades, they use a single neutral density filter to serve as the smaller aperture, blocking some of the light, but not affecting the depth-of-field at all. Since there's only one ND filter, you have only two "apertures" at your disposal. For that reason, it's not really surprising that they omitted the Aperture Priority mode, especially, as there's little to set. For Shutter Priority, you need a range of apertures to select from to match the user selected shutter speed, so again, there's no real mystery why they didn't include it either.

If you enter Manual mode, though, you can press the four-way navigator's center button to switch from Shutter to Aperture to ISO to make the necessary changes, and the LCD will give you an approximation of how the image will appear. As you switch the Aperture from f/3.5 to f/8, you can hear and see (if you look into the lens) the little ND filter lens flip into place.

Additionally, you'll receive the usual assortment of Sony's face finding tricks: Smile Shutter (for pausing the moment of image capture until a subject is smiling) as well as Adult and Child Priority, which lets the camera establish a focusing priority on either an adult or child in the frame. You can also set Face Detection to auto or turn it off entirely in the menu.

Full HD video. 1920x1080i60 with stereo audio. Click image to download 30.7MB .MTS file. (Click here to download a 13.1MB 1440x1080p30 MP4 sample.)

Movie mode: The Cyber-shot HX7V's Movie mode is formidable, though it doesn't quite rise to the level of the newer HX9V. It is one of a new crop of 2011 digital cameras from Sony that records in the full AVCHD format used by expensive HD camcorders. It records HD video at what was until recently the highest bit rate supported by the AVCHD specification: 24Mbp (the HX9V supports the brand new 28Mbps spec). What that means in English is video quality -- on paper at least -- that rivals a traditional high definition camcorder (and not those inexpensive pocket cams either).

This isn't the 720p "Lite" version of the AVCHD format found on some other digicams, but full 1920 x 1080 recording at 60 interlaced fields per second. You can dial back the bit rate to 17Mbps 1920 x 1080 or 9Mbps 1440 x 1080 to conserve card space.

Zoom Range. From top: 25mm, 250mm, 12x Smart Zoom (10 megapixels), 40x digital zoom (16 megapixels).

The video quality is quite good. The lens can zoom during filming, and while the lens will occasionally lose focus on a moving subject, it does a nice job keeping things sharply in focus for most of the shooting. Unfortunately, like the H70, you'll pick up the sound of the zoom motor when filming. This wasn't as pronounced as it was on the H70, where even outdoors the sound of the zoom motor was prevalent, but it's definitely a negative factor on the HX7V, especially in quiet environments.

If you've skipped out on an HD camcorder, keep in mind that while AVCHD video delivers excellent quality, it requires more computer processing power to view and edit than the MPEG-4 files most cameras record video in.

Fortunately, Sony also includes the option to film in the computer-friendly MP4 format. The downside here is that the quality isn't quite as sharp as the AVCHD video and the file sizes are bigger, so you'll be gobbling up more memory card space when filming HD videos in MP4. You'll have the option of HD recording, but at a lower resolution: 1,440 x 1,080, or 1,280 x 720 and VGA recording. (Note that 1,440 x 1,080 plays back at 1,920 x 1,080.)

Audio is recorded via a stereo microphone (located on the top deck), which is always nice. Movies lengths are limited to 4GB, or 29 minutes.

Rounding out the HX7V's impressive Movie mode are several controls, including exposure, there's even smile shutter, which starts filming video when someone starts smiling, as well as face detection and two forms of stabilization. You can shoot in intelligent automatic mode or use one of seven scene modes. Another plus: you can keep snapping still photos (3-megapixel at 16:9 for AVCHD, 2-megapixel at 4:3 for VGA MP4) while you simultaneously capture video, up to 10 shots. Because the Sony HX7V offers more advanced optical stabilization during movie recording, the focal length is somewhat cropped while recording (28-280mm for 16:9, 34-340mm for 4:3).

One complaint with the movie shooting on the Sony HX7V other than the noisy zoom, is the placement of the Record button. Since it's off center you need to slide your thumb over to access it, and this can cause some undue camera shake at the end of your recording if you're not looking out for it and steadying yourself in advance. Another complaint is it's slow to start recording in still mode (3 to 7 seconds after pressing Record button), and slow to save them to the memory card.

Intelligent Sweep Panorama (iSweep): One of Sony's cooler photo features, Sweep Panorama gets some added "Intelligence" in the HX7V -- mainly it does a better job of keeping moving objects in a frame stationary (the first generation of Sweep Panorama could turn moving objects into Matrix-like blurs). This is definitely a stand-out feature on the Cyber-shot line, as it makes panoramic photography much simpler. It's also more functional -- you can choose between horizontal and vertical panoramas, as well as the direction of your pan (up/down and right/left).

Even better, you can get a very high resolution image: 42.9 megapixels, to be exact.

Instant Panorama. With iSweep Panorama, you can swallow up not only the entire field, but the stands as well.

High Resolution Panorama. You can make a 43-megapixel panoramic image in High Resolution mode. Just hold the camera vertically and pan fairly quickly. The resulting image measures 10,480 x 4,096 pixels!

3D: Sony has been pushing 3D technology pretty heavily these days and while the HX7V isn't capturing 3D through a pair of lenses and image sensors, it does offer some software-driven 3D capabilities for still photos only. The Sony HX7V does not offer an LCD capable of displaying 3D images, so you'll need a 3D monitor or HDTV to see your 3D photos. And yes, you'll need 3D glasses too. However, you can view most of the 3D images in 2D on your computer, and Sony's included PMB software will automatically tag 3D images for you.

3D. Shot in 3D Still Image mode, the Sony HX7V will snap two photos that will appear as 3D images on 3D monitors and HDTVs or 2D images when viewed on 2D monitors/TVs. (Click here to download MPO file.)

All of the Sony HX7V's 3D effects are accessed in the 3D setting in the Mode dial. First among the 3D repertoire is 3D Still Image, which will snap two photos at different focus positions while calculating the depths to recreate left and right-eye images for the 3D effect. If you don't own a 3D HDTV or monitor, the photo will appear in 2D (and to view 3D photos out of the camera you'd need an HDMI 1.4 cable, which is not included in the box).

There's also an option for a 3D Sweep Panorama, which essentially duplicates the iSweep Panorama function discussed above, but processes it into a 3D panoramic image instead of a 2D one.

Background Defocus. Notice how the top image's background is sharp, while the bottom one is softer. The algorithm blurred the WhiBal card in the foreground, however, because it didn't conform to the expected "head and shoulders" shape.

Finally, there's 3D Sweep Multi Angle. This works a bit like Sweep Panorama in that you gently sweep the camera in a horizontal panning motion and the camera automatically and seamlessly stitches multiple images together. However, it's not creating a panoramic image but one that, upon playback, gives you a "stereoscopic" effect; it's not quite 3D, in that the image isn't leaping out of the display, but you do see the image shift subtly as you tilt the camera back and forth. Bring that image onto a 2D monitor, however, and it's a 2-megapixel, 16:9 photo, so it's hard to see any practical use for Multi Angle, outside of ogling a few images on your camera's display.

Background Defocus: Another feature Sony puts on the Mode dial is Background Defocus, which does just what it advertises: blurs the background to give your portraits more of a "d-SLR" feel. You'll get a small box on the camera's display to properly frame your portrait and the camera will warn you if you're too close for the effect to work properly.

Background Defocus doesn't actually blur your backgrounds the old fashioned way (by adjusting the aperture, since again, there isn't one) but by snapping two differently focused photos, analyzing them, and applying the blur via software. And it shows. In some areas of the photos I took, the smudge didn't quite cover up everything and some clarity poked through. Around the subject, a sliver -- almost like a halo -- was created between what was in focus and what was blurred. The boundary between your subject and background isn't always uniform, so portions of the background can actually appear in focus, even some not directly adjacent the subject.

GPS: The Sony HX7V has a built-in GPS sensor for geotagging your photos. In theory, GPS is a pretty nice addition to any imaging device as it provides a data record of where you've been and lets you plot out images on Google Earth or other programs that support geotagged images. In practice, it's quite difficult to actually receive the signal on the Sony HX7V. First, it's really an outdoor-only feature, as the signal can't be received indoors.

While you can receive a signal outdoors, you'll wait awhile. I snapped about 20 photos before the camera established a satellite connection (such are the hardships of the 21st century photographer). The camera's display has a satellite icon that alerts you to the GPS status, so you'll know when its receiving positioning data.

When the Sony HX7V did establish a signal, however, it locked on quite accurately, pinpointing my exact location. Any images with geotags will appear in Sony's PMB software with a tag right on the thumbnail, and they'll also be recognized by third party software programs like Google's Picasa, or websites like Flickr that support geotagging. (See the Sony Support video that demonstrates the feature if it's important to you.) And of course, if you're sensitive about your privacy, or a stickler for preserving your battery, you can disable the GPS receiver in the camera's menu.

If you go into the GPS function in the camera's menu, you can view your position information (i.e. your latitude and longitude) as well as a small compass. Unlike Sony's GPS-enabled camcorders, the HX7V doesn't offer a map view of your current location on the display, just the latitude and longitude coordinates.

Shooting: Sony's HX7V provides something of a conundrum to a user who just wants a point-and-shoot experience: which Automatic Mode do you want: Intelligent or Superior? Both sound good!

Superior? iAuto (top) vs Superior Auto.

In practice, I had better luck with Intelligent Auto. First, it's faster. In Superior Auto, the HX7V can spend additional seconds snapping extra frames and processing them. Depending on the setting in question this can tack on a few seconds or more to your shooting. Second, I thought the results in Intelligent Auto simply looked better. Often shots in Superior Auto were a bit over-exposed or the focusing was soft. Superior Auto is Sony's way of getting users to benefit from some of their more advanced multi-shot modes, which really do help get better pictures in some seriously dark conditions. By selecting Superior Auto, you're allowing the HX7V to pick one of these modes automatically. The downside is that sometimes you'll have to deal with unexpected delays when the camera thinks a multi-shot mode is in order.

Even in iAuto, the HX7V isn't a speed demon and a lot of the other modes -- 3D, iSweep Panorama, Background Defocus, etc. -- take some time to process as well. But if you need speed, the camera does deliver a nice burst mode: 10 frames per second (fps) for up to 10 full-resolution frames. Plus, the Advanced Sports Shooting mode does a nice job tracking and freezing fast-moving objects.

I was excited to try the Sony HX7V in some low light environments, but found a lot of my snapshots were blurred -- even in high sensitivity mode. Keeping in mind that often the alternative to a bad shot is no shot, the HX7V does give you something to work with.

One noticeable enhancement on the HX7V as opposed to the H70 is the display, which at 920K dots is considerably crisper. Even in bright sun it offers a very viewable preview, which is good, because there's no viewfinder to turn to.

Menu: The menu system on the Sony HX7V is straightforward enough, with large, bright icons and short descriptive text to guide you along. Pressing the Menu button will bring up a column on the left side of the 3-inch display. Using the scroll wheel helps you zip through the camera's functions and you'll have the option to get into more basic settings, such as time and date stamp, as well.

At any point during your menu surfing you can hit the shutter button and jump back into shooting.

One nice feature is the In-Camera Guide. You can enter the guide via the dedicated button on the back of the camera or in the Menu and it's essentially a more interactive user manual for the camera. If you're unsure what a certain feature does or how to use it, you can use the In-Camera Guide to learn more about it.

Battery & Storage: The Cyber-shot HX7V, like the H70 and all of Sony's 2011 digicams, has a two-in-one memory card slot for accepting Memory Stick Duo and PRO Duo cards or SD memory cards, including SDHC and SDXC varieties. There's no internal memory to speak of (only about 19MB, enough to store three full-resolution stills), so a card is a must.

The Sony HX7V uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery (NP-BG1) which is held in place with a tiny latch that you need to press to pop the battery. Much like the H70, the latch holding the battery in place is small and a bit flimsy and it was often awkward to get the battery out. Fortunately, you charge the camera via USB, so there's not much need to remove the battery. The Sony HX7V's battery is CIPA rated for 300 shots per change.

Both the battery and memory card are housed securely in a latched compartment at the bottom of the camera, which springs open and shut with nary an issue. The plug for the multi-connector cable is adjacent to the battery compartment -- so the door must be closed if you wish to use the connector cable.

Playback: The playback menu in the Sony HX7V isn't very extensive. You can choose to play back your images in a slideshow or a slideshow with music. You can load your own audio tracks using Sony's included PMB software, or suffer through the tracks Sony includes. You'll have some control over the slideshow, such as the ability to choose the effects used (Simple, Nostalgic, Stylish, Active) and the interval between images.

You can output to a 3D HDTV, or manually view photos by folders, movies (either AVCHD or MP4 files) and stills. You have retouch options as well, including the ability to resize, correct red eye or apply an Unsharp Mask filter. Pretty basic stuff.

 

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX7V Lens Quality


Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Quite soft at lower left
Tele: Slightly soft at center
Tele: Also slightly soft, upper left corner

Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX7V's zoom shows a fair amount of blurring in the corners of the frame compared to what we see at center, especially in the bottom left, which extends a small amount in toward the main image area. At telephoto, the entire image is slightly soft, and blurring in the corners isn't that much stronger than what's occurring at the center of the frame.


Wide: A trace of barrel distortion; hardly visible
Tele: A tiny amount of barrel distortion, though barely visible

Geometric Distortion: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX7V's processor does a great job of controlling distortion here, as there is very little barrel distortion at wide-angle (~0.05%) and telephoto (~0.1%). The distortion level is so low that it's barely visible in both shots.


Wide: Minimal
Tele: High and bright

Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide-angle is fairly low in terms of pixel count, and pixels are not very bright, so that the effect appears quite minimal overall. Telephoto, however, shows more noticeable distortion, with bright purplish-blue pixels extending far into the black components of the target, and a hint of red on the opposing side.


Macro
Macro with Flash

Macro: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX7V's Macro mode captures a slightly soft image, though detail is well-defined on the dollar bill, brooch, and coins. Blurring is a bit strong in the corners of the frame (a common limitation among consumer digital cameras in macro mode), and there's some overexposure on the left side. Minimum coverage area is 3.00 x 2.25 inches (76 x 57mm), which is a bit larger than average. The camera's flash is partially blocked by the lens, resulting in a shadow in the lower left corner. It also produced a strong hot spot on the brooch, and an overall uneven exposure. So stick with the external lighting for your closest macro shots.


 

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX7V Viewfinder Accuracy


Wide: LCD Monitor
Tele: LCD Monitor

Viewfinder Accuracy: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX7V's LCD monitor showed close to 100% coverage at wide-angle and at telephoto. Very good results here.


 

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX7V Image Quality


Color: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX7V produced bright, vibrant color that's pleasing overall. Bright reds and blues are pumped a little more than normal, and bright yellows are actually a tad muted, but results are still believable. Hue shifts in oranges, yellows, and cyans are noticeable, but not uncommon. Dark skin tones show a strong shift toward orange, while lighter skin tones show a smaller nudge toward pink. Overall though, good results.


Auto WB:
Fair, though slightly red
Incandescent WB:
Too warm and yellow
 
Manual WB:
Also good, but a hint cool

Incandescent: Both Auto and Manual white balance settings handled our incandescent lighting much better than the Incandescent setting, which came out too warm and yellow. But both also had slight color tints, so personal preference will come into play here. Skin tones are best in Manual mode, though some may find the warmer tint of the Auto setting more to their liking despite the reddish skin tones.


Horizontal: 2,100 lines
Vertical: 2,100 lines

Resolution: Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 2,100 lines per picture height in both directions. Extinction of the pattern occurred at around 2,500 lines per picture height.


Wide: Inconclusive
Tele: Slightly dim
Auto Flash

Flash: Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right) doesn't work well at wide angle when the reported distance goes beyond 16 feet (15.7 feet in this case), because that takes the camera out of the main lab, so the wide-angle result is inconclusive. The telephoto test came out just a little dim at 10.2 feet, despite a big ISO increase to 800.

Auto flash produced overly bright results in our indoor portrait scene, retaining a scant amount of ambient light with a relatively fast shutter speed of 1/60 second at ISO 640. At this shutter speed, you won't need to worry about subject motion blur for most portraits, and the HX7V's image stabilization will help avoid blur due to camera motion. Shot taken at ~5 feet (~1.5m) on a stable tripod.


125
200
400
800
1,600
3,200

ISO: Noise and Detail: Even as low as ISO 125, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX7V produces blotchy-looking detail. Chroma and luminance noise aren't really a problem this low, but it's worth mentioning that fine detail is already less well defined that we usually expect. However, level of detail remains about the same through to ISO 400. By ISO 800, the camera's noise suppression efforts, as well as stronger luminance noise, begin to noticeably soften the image. Results at ISOs 1,600 and 3,200 appear a bit grainy, but not as bad as we've seen with other digital cameras. See Printed results below for how this affects printed images.


Print Quality: Noise suppression is at work even at the lowest ISO, which means printed performance is more important on a camera like the Sony HX7V, because what you see at 100% onscreen may not matter when printing.

ISO 125 shots are a bit too soft for 20x30 or 16x20 prints, looking better at 13x19 inches. Noise suppression reduces the overall image quality, but most people never print at 13x19 inches; this means that you can also crop liberally from images and not notice the noise suppression at ISO 125. Hair at this lowest ISO setting looks better at 11x14.

ISO 200 images look good at 13x19 inches, except in our red leaf test swatch, which is quite soft.

ISO 400 shots are usable at 13x19, though with scattered noise in the shadows and some obviously manipulated detail. This becomes negligible at 11x14.

ISO 800 shots look quite good at 11x14 still.

ISO 1,600 shots are too soft for 11x14, but detail in most colors looks better at 8x10; all but red, which is quite soft at this setting and size.

ISO 3,200 images are better kept to 5x7; though the red is still soft, it's acceptable at this size.

Overall, the Sony HX7V did well for a pocket long zoom. Though its prints aren't what we'd have expected from a 16-megapixel sensor in the strictest sense (12-megapixel sensors of the same size from the past made larger acceptable prints), when you factor in the noise suppression, the size outcomes are pretty good. Watch the quality of hair, however, as this can become a little softer than the surrounding areas, especially red hair, resulting in a reduction of at least one print size.


 

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX7V Performance


Startup Time: The Sony HX7V takes about 2.2 seconds to power on and take a shot. That's pretty good for a pocket long-zoom, but it's much slower at activating the display, varying from 3-8 seconds depending on what you press before it's ready.


Shutter Lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is very good, at 0.29 second at wide angle and 0.32 second at full telephoto. Prefocused shutter lag is 0.016 second, among the fastest out there.


Cycle Time: Cycle time is also good, capturing a frame every 1.19 seconds in single-shot mode. A blazing High-Speed Burst mode captures up to 10 frames at 10 frames per second, with 8 seconds to clear using a fast SanDisk Extreme III SD card.


Flash Recycle: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX7V's flash recycles in about 5.5 seconds after a full-power discharge, about average.


Low Light AF: The camera's AF system was only able to focus down to the 1/2 foot-candle light level without AF assist enabled, though the camera was able to focus in complete darkness with the AF assist lamp enabled.


USB Transfer Speed: Connected to a computer or printer with USB 2.0, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX7V's download speeds are fast. We measured 6,455 KBytes/sec.


 

In the Box

The Sony HX7V retail box includes:

  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX7V
  • Rechargeable lithium-ion battery NP-BG1
  • Battery cap
  • USB charger
  • USB cable
  • Wrist strap
  • Software CD

 

Recommended Accessories

  • Extra battery pack for extended outings
  • Large capacity SDHC/SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo card. These days, 8GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity. You'll need at least a Class 4 SD or Mark2 PRO Duo card to record HD movies.
  • High-Speed Mini HDMI (Type C) to HDMI cable
  • Camera case

 

Sony HX7V Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • AVCHD Full HD recording at 24Mbps
  • 25-250mm eq. lens with good telephoto capability for a compact
  • Ability to zoom in Movie mode
  • 3D still photo and panoramic capture
  • Manual control over shutter and aperture (though see Con regarding aperture)
  • iSweep Panorama with high-resolution mode
  • Stereo audio recording
  • Pocketable design with a comfortable grip
  • Good user interface
  • In-camera user guide
  • Bright 921K dot LCD display
  • Integrated GPS with compass
  • Effective optical image stabilization
  • Hand-held Twilight, Anti-Motion Blur, and Backlight Correction HDR image stacking modes
  • Fast autofocus
  • Fast burst mode
  • Still capture during movie recording (up to 3MP)
  • HDMI output
  • Dual media (SD/MS Duo) support
  • Good printed results
  • Superior Auto slow things down and doesn't always produce better results
  • Soft corners at wide angle
  • Noticeable chromatic aberration at telephoto
  • GPS can be slow to sync
  • Heavy noise suppression gives images a watercolor look
  • No control over NR levels
  • No RAW capture mode
  • Movie Record button in an awkward position
  • Movie recording slow to start in still mode
  • Excessively large USB adapter packaged with camera (USB port is perpendicular to wall outlet, likely blocking an adjacent plug)
  • Only two aperture settings at a given focal length, using an ND filter
  • Poor documentation split between PDF and HTML formats
  • Rendering of hair reduces usable print sizes by one

 

The Sony HX7V meets HP's definition of a computer with a lens, and then some. First, you'll get a wide array of novel features, including the valuable iSweep Panorama and high definition video recording that will probably make you think twice about splurging on a higher-end camcorder. While the camera isn't the fastest on the block in terms of its shot-to-shot time, it does have a speedy burst mode of 10fps. It could probably do without the dueling automatic modes, since "Superior" Auto didn't always live up to its name. But with a 10x wide angle zoom packaged into a compact frame, it's definitely a high-performing point-and-shoot.

Noise suppression dampens some of the potential we hoped for from 16 megapixels, but that's no longer news; ultimately the Sony HX7V does a very good job and has a longish zoom lens, making a good travel companion. Those wanting the latest and greatest as well as a longer zoom should look to the Sony HX9V, but for $50 less, the HX7V is still a Dave's Pick.

Click here to read our Travel Zoom Shootout 2011!

 

Sony DSC-HX7V

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