Sony HX200V Review
|Full model name:||Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V|
|Sensor size:||1/2.3 inch|
|Viewfinder:||EVF / LCD|
|Dimensions:||4.8 x 3.4 x 3.7 in.
(122 x 87 x 93 mm)
|Weight:||20.8 oz (591 g)
|Full specs:||Sony HX200V specifications|
Offering an impressive 30x optical zoom (27-810mm equivalent) and a ton of features, this DSLR-like superzoom camera is a great all-in-one imaging solution for travel photographers, and is capable of yielding good prints up to 16 x 20-inch.Pros
Extremely versatile superzoom that covers everything from wide angle to mega-telephoto; Portable design doesn't sacrifice comfort; Detailed images thanks to high-resolution 18.2MP BSI CMOS sensor.Cons
Slow to use overall; Poor image quality at high ISOs; Images not as sharp or as bright at full telephoto as we had hoped.Price and availability
Started shipping in March 2012; current list pricing is US$480.Imaging Resource rating
4.0 out of 5.0
16.1 MP (12% less)
Also has viewfinder
24x zoom (20% less)
$342.65 (18% less)
16.1 MP (12% less)
Also has viewfinder
42x zoom (40% more)
20.4 MP (12% more)
Also has viewfinder
50x zoom (67% more)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V Review
by Dan Havlik and Stephanie Boozer
Review posted: 11/13/2012
True camera geeks tend to look down their noses at superzoom cameras, arguing that stuffing a 20x (or longer) zoom lens into a relatively compact camera body can't possibly result in a good image quality. The general public however still goes ga-ga over these Swiss-Army-knife-style cameras, which offer a ton of features in a portable package for not a lot of money. Indeed, if you've gone on a trip to a popular tourist destination lately, you probably saw as many superzoom cameras as digital SLRs and compact system cameras combined. The reason? Convenience just never goes out of style.
Speaking of convenience, I recently had a chance to test out the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V, which sports a whopping 30x (27-810mm equivalent) optical zoom lens in a small SLR-style camera body that weighs just more than a pound. The Sony HX200V boasts an 18.2 megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS image sensor. Unlike regular CMOS imagers, BSI sensors place their circuitry on the rear of the chip so it doesn't block the incoming light.
The HX200V adds a ramped up autofocus system which, according to Sony, harnesses the power of the camera's Exmor R CMOS sensor and BIONZ processor to produce focusing speeds as fast as a DSLR -- even in low light. If you like shooting action, such as sports or candid, documentary-style photography, the HX200V's 10 frames-per-second shooting speed is designed to help you always get the shot. (Read on to see if the autofocus speed lives up to its hype.)
In addition to being able to capture still photos with nearly as much resolution as many digital SLRs, the HX200V can shoot full 1080 HD videos at a rate of 60 fps with stereo sound.
On the back of the Sony HX200V, there's an articulating three-inch LCD screen with lots of resolution for framing shots via live view, or reviewing photos you've captured. There's no optical viewfinder, but the HX200V does have a small electronic viewfinder in the eyepiece with a relatively modest resolution.
Other interesting functions include 3D still image shooting including Sweep Panoramas, and Picture Effect / Photo Creativity features that add funky filters and editing tweaks to your images. For travelers, the Sony HX200V has a built-in GPS receiver, letting you geotag your photos. (In some markets, Sony also offers an HX200 model that lacks the GPS receiver, either in addition to or instead of the GPS-capable HX200V.)
But can the Sony HX200V capture high-quality photos? That, as always, is the potential Achilles Heel in such a loaded superzoom camera. We shot with the all-black HX200V ($480) both in the lab and out in the field, and here's what we found.
Look and feel. Sony has done a good job of bringing the curving and elegant look of its higher-end SLR-style Translucent Mirror interchangeable lens cameras to its HX200V fixed-lens superzoom. In the past, all-in-one cameras with long, built-in zooms have looked a little on the chunky side, but the Sony HX200V is sculpted and compact with decent balance.
The Sony HX200V has dimensions of 4.8 x 3.4 x 3.7 inches (122 x 87 x 93 mm) and weighs 20.8 ounces (591 g) with its rechargeable battery and memory card installed.
If you didn't know better, from the front the HX200V looks like an entry-level digital SLR. When powered down, the built-in 30x zoom's housing sticks out from the camera body only a little over an inch and a half. Press the On/Off button on top and the lens extends to a bit more than 2.5 inches, which gives you the 27mm equivalent wide lens setting. Zoom out all the way to 30x (810mm equivalent) and the lens telescopes out slightly beyond four inches.
That's a significant extension from the front, but considering how much optical zoom you're getting from the HX200V's lens, it's amazing it doesn't protrude further. (If you've ever seen a professional 800mm lens on a DSLR, you'll know what I'm talking about.)
On the left front while facing the camera is the Sony HX200V's rubberized handgrip. It's textured to resemble leather, and -- as on Sony's SLT cameras -- there's an indent for your middle finger. On the whole, the HX200V feels like a comfy, entry-level DSLR.
From the top looking down, you'll see the camera's stereo microphone behind the pop-up flash. The HX200V's small left shoulder has no buttons, dials or switches, just the model name and markings. These indicate the camera records HD video in AVCHD Progressive, and includes a GPS receiver.
The right shoulder of the camera is significantly longer, providing space for many of the HX200V's main controls. These include the Mode dial all the way to the right; the oval shaped On/Off button in the middle; and a button that lets you switch between using the viewfinder and the LCD for viewing images in playback and menus, as well as in live view. (The decision can also be made automatically as you raise the camera to your eye, thanks to a small proximity sensor to the right of the viewfinder.)
In front of the Mode dial on top of the handgrip are a pair of buttons: one that lets you select the Focus mode (Multi AF, Center AF, or Flexible Spot AF) by turning the jog dial on the back of the camera or pressing the directional keys; and a programmable Custom button (which defaults to Exposure lock). On top of the front of the handgrip is a glossy, gunmetal-gray shutter button surrounded by the zoom ring.
LCD and back-of-the-camera controls. The rear of the HX200V is dominated by the three-inch, fold-out LCD screen, which juts out a quarter inch when retracted against the camera body. It's a nice screen for framing and reviewing shots, offering 921,600 dots of resolution. That's around 640 x 480 pixels, with each pixel being comprised of separate red, green and blue dots. The LCD is not a full, side-swiveling flip-out screen, but it does let you pull it out and tilt it down or up, which helps with composing over-the-head or waist-level and low-to-the-ground shots. The screen does not offer touch functionality.
While there's no optical viewfinder, if you're more comfortable with putting your face to the camera for composing shots, the HX200V has a small, 0.2-inch electronic viewfinder with 201,600 dots of resolution. While it's not as sharp or detailed as the LCD screen, the electronic viewfinder provides a nice alternative when you don't want to frame at arm's length. It potentially saves just a little battery power, too.
Above the LCD display is a Playback button, and the one-touch Movie start/stop button for video recording. To the right under the Mode dial is the jog wheel, which you can press in so that it functions as a button as well. (More about this later.) Below that is the four-way directional pad, which also lets you adjust the display, the flash, timer, burst shooting and other features. It's adjacent to the Menu button.
At the very bottom of the back of the camera is the Delete button which doubles as the In-Camera Guide button when the Sony HX200V is in shooting mode.
Lens. The headline feature of the superzooming Sony HX200V is, of course, its 30x optical lens, which I've mentioned briefly already. It carries Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* branding. When shooting still images in the HX200V's native 4:3 aspect ratio, this mighty optic yields 35mm-equivalent focal lengths from a useful 27mm wide angle to a see-into-the-next-state 810mm telephoto. Maximum aperture falls from f/2.8 at wide angle to a rather dim f/5.6 at telephoto -- so you'll probably not be shooting at maximum telephoto in less-than-ideal light, even when considering the camera's Optical Steadyshot image stabilization.
Sony describes the HX200V's autofocus system as "lightning-fast," claiming a focus time of just 0.13 seconds in daylight, and 0.24 seconds in low ambient light of around 3 EV. More about our own results with the lens and its autofocus later.
Sensor. Along with being able to capture 18.2MP images that match the pixel resolution of many DSLRs, the HX200V's CMOS sensor is a BSI chip with more of its surface area devoted to light gathering. (The chip's circuitry has been moved below the active layer of the sensor so it doesn't block the incoming light.) While the HX200V's ISO range is similar to that on DSLRs -- ISO 100 to 12,800 -- the sensor itself is point-and-shoot sized: a 1/2.3-inch chip with a diagonal of just 7.7 millimeters. Also, when shooting above ISO 3,200, the HX200V enters its "extended ISO" setting, where several images are automatically shot in quick succession and then combined.
For movie shooting, the HX200V's ISO sensitivity is controlled automatically.
Storage and battery. Images and movies are stored in 105MB of built-in memory, and on Secure Digital or Memory Stick Duo cards. There's just one slot, shared by both card types. Supported SD cards include both SDHC and SDXC, 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. For movie capture on SD media, Sony recommends at least a Class 4 cards.
Power comes courtesy of a proprietary NP-FH50 InfoLithium rechargeable battery pack, rated as good for 450 shots on a charge with the LCD display, or 490 shots with the electronic viewfinder. A DC-input jack is provided to charge the battery while in the camera via the included AC adapter. The battery can also be charged via USB. Nice. A optional battery charger is available for about US$50.
Connectivity. The Sony HX200V includes a Micro USB 2.0 port for data connectivity, and a Mini (Type C) HDMI port for high-def video output. Composite A/V output is not provided.
Shooting with the Sony HX200V
By Dan Havlik
I took the 18.2MP Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V on a trip to Berlin, Germany hoping it was enough camera for all my needs. And in many ways, it was. With such a versatile, long zoom and a boatload of features, it's no wonder the Sony HX200V and loaded superzooms like it are so popular with travelers and tourists.
The HX200V has a nice, solid -- but not heavy -- build and is designed very much like a small DSLR. But with a 30x built-in zoom lens equivalent to having a 27-810mm lens, the $480 HX200 is a relatively inexpensive all-in-one camera that's a handy alternative to bigger DSLRs. It also makes it unnecessary to bring along a bevy of interchangeable lenses to achieve a variety of focal lengths.
My trip to Berlin was business-oriented so I was trying to travel as light as possible, figuring I'd be spending a lot of time in meetings. Luckily, we got one day to explore the city as part of a guided tour and the feature-rich HX200V was a great picture-taking companion. There are some trade-offs though, especially for using this camera as a candid street shooter, which is primarily how I like to shoot.
Speed. First of all, the HX200V is not a particularly fast camera to use. We averaged 2.2 seconds to start up the camera and get to first shot in our lab testing, and that time carried over, approximately, to my real world shooting experience. That's not bad when you consider the HX200V has to unfurl its long zoom lens before you can start taking pictures, but it's not fun if you're in a hurry. We measured the HX200V's shutter lag at about half a second when shooting at the lens' widest angle and about a tenth of a second faster when shooting at telephoto. Again those aren't necessarily bad speed ratings, but those who have shot with a digital SLR or fast pocket camera might find the HX200V a step too slow.
Because most of my time with the Sony HX200V was spent shooting outdoors in decent to bright natural light, I found myself switching between using the camera's crisp three-inch, fold-out LCD screen for composing photos and the small electronic viewfinder, when the sun was too bright to see the rear screen. The second it took for the sensor in the HX200V's eyecup to detect that I had put my eye to it and switch on the EVF was frustrating. The brief blackout I experienced with my eye placed on the EVF caused me to miss a couple of good shots. The low resolution of the EVF produced grainy and coarse previews, making it hard to get a good bead on what I was focusing on.
Different angles. When the light was not too bright to wash out the higher resolution rear LCD, I preferred using it to set up photos with the Sony HX200V. Though I missed having a side-swiveling screen, which lets you compose images from a range of difficult angles, the HX200V's fold-out LCD helped for capturing above-the-head and down low shots.
This came in handy when I unexpectedly stumbled onto two protests while in Berlin. One was a large "Occupy Berlin" protest march that trundled past us one afternoon as we left the hotel. The tilting LCD screen let me put the camera above my head to photograph the colorful crowd and their banners and signs as they marched past. Later that afternoon I also came across a "Free Syria" protest, and the HX200V with its 1080p video and stereo microphone helped me capture the sights and sounds of the event.
It proved to be a busy weekend in Berlin. Along with the two protests, the city was also hosting the finals of the German Cup in soccer and fans of the two teams playing -- Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich -- filled the city with their colorful jerseys and team scarfs. Again, while the HX200V wasn't the fastest performer, the versatility of the camera's big zoom let me capture wide shots and candid close-ups of soccer fans with just a toggle of the zoom ring.
As part of our tour of Berlin, we also visited Checkpoint Charlie, which was one of the most well-known Berlin Wall crossing points between West Berlin and East Berlin during the Cold War. Not surprisingly, the area is now overrun with tourists and while it's hard to get a decent shot that's not overcrowded with sightseers, the Sony HX200V's long zoom helped me isolate people around the preserved checkpoint booth for portraits. As luck would have it, a group of American servicemen reenactors (actually Germans) were there that day in period uniform handing out simulated rations to the crowds. I was able to a get a handful of great shots of them.
Lens. While having the power and distance of an 810mm-equivalent lens on the HX200V's telephoto end was nice and helped me capture close-ups of the dramatic statues on top of the Brandenburg Gate, I found myself using the wide 27mm setting more often. Firstly, it was great for photographing large landmarks such as the sections of the Berlin Wall that were preserved. And secondly, while it's nice having such a wide optical zoom range, you do sacrifice on the aperture when you zoom in. Maximum aperture when you zoom all the way to 30x is just f/5.6, making the camera a sub-par performer in low light at full telephoto.
At the wide angle, you can shoot at f/2.8, which I found to be a lot more useful in mixed lighting situations. And because the Sony HX200V is only a mediocre performer at high ISOs -- more about that below -- you'll find yourself leaning on that f/2.8 aperture as much as possible.
Image Quality. Though the HX200V can shoot at high ISO levels on par to what's achievable with some entry-level DSLRs, take our advice and don't go there. DSLRs and their larger APS-C size image sensors can manage higher ISOs without too much noise. This superzoom camera cannot.
I've got to question Sony's choice of making the HX200V an 18.2MP megapixel camera, despite the fact that its CMOS imaging chip is the same size as what's in small point-and-shoot models. Even at ISO 800 we saw ugly luminance noise, and at ISO 3,200 our JPEG images showed excessive pixel smearing which is a result, no doubt, of Sony's processing algorithms trying to blur the distracting digital grain.
Though the camera can shoot above ISO 3,200, it does so by firing off several images at once, which are then combined into one. Though the noise has been tamped down somewhat in the HX200V's extended ISO settings, images captured at ISO 6,400 and especially at 12,800 had so much smeared detail they resembled watercolor paintings.
In short, we were disappointed by the Sony HX200V's poor performance at high ISOs. At lower ISOs in good lighting, however, image quality proved to be not too bad, contained impressive detail -- thanks to the high resolution sensor -- and displayed true color. Those looking for something on par to what you'd get with a DSLR will likely still be disappointed somewhat.
Video quality. The camera's high-def video skills were also good in decent light but somewhat noisy under tougher shooting conditions. The HX200V captures full 1080p AVCHD video at 60p or 60i with stereo sound. There are also three reduced resolution options, but I stuck to full HD, and while video looked fine when played back on my 27-inch iMac display screen, shadow areas showed lots of visible grain.
On the plus side, I noticed very little of the wobbly rolling shutter effect when I panned quickly and aggressively. 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 it helps you manage an even greater maximum telephoto.)
The HX200V also adds an interesting feature: it can save 13 megapixel still images during movie capture, all 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. Image quality wasn't fantastic but a lot better than the lower resolution video snapshot effects from some competing models.
Burst Shooting. Despite its fast 10fps burst shooting speed and its long zoom for getting close to the action, the Sony HX200V was only a mediocre performer for capturing sports. When I returned from Berlin I tried out the HX200V's burst shooting skills at a local playground here in New York City. Though I could isolate the players on the court with the help of the zoom and the camera has built-in optical image stabilization, the images weren't as sharp as I had hoped for.
I also wasn't crazy about the HX200V's burst function. When the HX200V fired off a ten-frame burst with a sustained press of the shutter button, the camera would lock up as the multiple frames were recorded to the memory card. For anyone who has used a digital SLR with a bigger buffer that lets you keep on shooting, this is a frustrating experience. (Beginner photographers moving up in class to the HX200V might not notice as much.) This burst function / lock-up also lends credence to that old sports photographer's axiom of "spray and pray," in that once you've shot a 10-frame burst with the HX200V, you can't do anything except pray that you got something good.
Sony HX200V Lens Quality
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V features a 30x zoom lens, with 35mm equivalents of 27-810mm.
Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Quite soft at upper left
Tele: Slightly soft at center
Tele: Soft, upper left corner
Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V's zoom
shows some noticeable blurring in the corners of the frame compared to what we see at center,
though the strongest blurring is fairly confined to the corner and doesn't extend far into the frame. At full telephoto, the entire image is a bit soft, with only slightly more blurring in the corners. Good results at wide angle, but more blurring than we'd like to see at telephoto.
Wide: Very slight barrel (top) / pincushion (bottom); hardly noticeable
Tele: A tiny amount of barrel distortion, though barely visible
Geometric Distortion: There is very little distortion at the Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V's wide-angle setting (0.2%), though barrel distortion at the top of the frame changes to pincushion distortion at the bottom. There's almost no perceptible distortion (less than 0.1% barrel) at telephoto. Thus, the camera's processor is doing a good job keeping distortion down, particularly important in such a long zoom.
Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide-angle is moderate
in terms of pixel count, though purplish pixels are fairly bright and noticeable in the target. At full telephoto, distortion is again on the moderate side, though this time blue pixels are bright and visible.
Macro with Flash
Macro: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V's Macro mode captures a very sharp
image with strong detail, and manages to do so without any noticeable blurring
in the corners of the frame (a common limitation among consumer digital cameras
in macro mode). Though, exposure is so bright along the left side that blurring is also hard to pinpoint. Minimum coverage area is 1.31 x 0.98 inches (33 x 25mm), which
is very good. The camera focuses so closely that the flash is blocked by the
lens in the lower right corner, however, the effect here is more of a diffused flash from the top of the target which is actually a little brighter than the non-flash exposure. Bottom line, the flash will most likely be unreliable this close, though non-flash exposures will likely be a tad dark.
Sony HX200V Viewfinder Accuracy
Wide: LCD Monitor
Tele: LCD Monitor
Viewfinder Accuracy: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V's electronic viewfinder and LCD monitor both showed essentially 100% coverage at wide-angle and at full telephoto, which is excellent.
Sony HX200V Image Quality
Color: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V produced good overall color, though bright yellows are quite muted and bright reds and blues are pumped a little high (blues more so than reds). Hue shifts are also noticeable, particularly in yellows (toward green) and cyans (toward blue). Oranges are also pushed toward yellow. Dark skintones show a moderate push toward orange, while lighter skin tones are actually a little cool and magenta. Overall, the Sony HX200V's default settings are a little less saturated than most cameras, and hue accuracy is a touch below average.
Too warm and yellow
Incandescent: Manual white balance produced the best overall color here, as the Auto setting was a tad too red and the Incandescent setting produced yellow, warm results.
Horizontal: 2,200 lines
Vertical: 2,200 lines
Resolution: Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct
line patterns down to about 2,200 lines per picture height in both directions.
Extinction of the pattern occurred at around 2,600 lines per picture height.
Tele: Fairly bright
Flash: Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right) showed fairly bright results at the telephoto rated distance of 19.4 feet, though the camera increased ISO to 800 to achieve this. Results at wide-angle were inconclusive given the flash range (40.7 feet) and relative size of the target, so we didn't include a shot at wide-angle here.
Auto flash produced very bright results in our indoor portrait scene, retaining just a hint of ambient light by using a shutter speed of 1/60 second at ISO 200. A shutter speed of 1/60 second should be sufficient to avoid subject motion blur for most adult portraits, however squirmy kids may need a higher shutter speed. Shot taken at ~5 feet (~1.5m) on a stable tripod.
ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail is strong and fairly well-defined at ISO 100, with minimal degradation at 200, though luminance noise and sharpening artifacts are a little high, particularly in the shadows. Some more noticeable blurring begins at ISO 400 and 800, though detail is still pretty good. Results at 1,600 and 3,200 are also a little better than average, despite more noticeable noise grain and noise suppression. At the highest ISOs (6,400 and 12,800) results are quite splotchy and fine detail is lost, as you might expect, but the overall results aren't too bad considering the very high sensitivity settings. See Printed section below for more on how this affects printed images.
ISO 100 images have a surprising amount of luminance noise, as well as other artifacts, which keep them from printing well at 20 x 30, despite their 18.2-megapixel size. Of course, 18 megapixels compressed down to a 1/2.3-inch sensor isn't likely to produce a super-clean image anyway. 16 x 20-inch prints still show artifacts in the shadows, but detail is good enough at this size.
ISO 200 prints are softer overall, with both noticeable artifacts and softening due to noise suppression, but these and detail are at acceptable levels when printed at 13 x 19 inches.
ISO 400 prints look good at 11 x 14.
ISO 800 shots look good at 8 x 10.
ISO 1,600 shots are good at 5 x 7, but red lacks detail.
ISO 3,200 shots are good at 5 x 7, with more murky color, and detail is softer.
ISO 6,400 images are usable at 4 x 6, but fine detail is not really present.
ISO 12,800 images are more like a watercolor painting than a photograph, even at 4 x 6 inches. Solid colors have almost no detail.
Overall, the HX200V does fairly well for packing so many pixels into such a small space. The noise-processing and sharpening artifacts at ISO 100 are a little disappointing, but reducing the print size minimizes that problem.
Sony HX200V Performance
Startup Time: The Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V takes about 2.2 seconds to power on and take a shot. That's about average for a megazoom these days.
Shutter Lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is fair at wide-angle, at 0.50 second. At full telephoto, it's 0.39 second, which is good. Prefocused shutter lag is 0.014 second, among the fastest on the market.
Cycle Time: Cycle time is also fair, capturing a frame every 1.57 seconds in single-shot mode. Sony says the HX200V can capture up to ten full-resolution shots in one second (10 fps), which is very fast, however we did not test burst mode in the lab.
Flash Recycle: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V's flash recycles in about 8 seconds after a full-power discharge, on the slow side.
Low Light AF: The camera's AF system was able to focus down to just below the 1/4 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 Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V's download speeds are very fast. We measured 10,708 KBytes/sec.
Battery Life: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V's battery life has a CIPA rating of 450 shots per charge with the LCD monitor and about 490 shots with the electronic viewfinder, which is very good.
In the Box
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V ships with the following items in the box:
- Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V digital camera
- Lens cap
- Shoulder strap
- AC Adapter AC-L200C or AC-L200D
- Power cord
- Rechargeable battery pack NP-FH50
- Micro USB cable
- Instruction manual
- Warranty card
- Extra battery pack for extended outings
- Protective case
- Large capacity, high-speed SDHC/SDXC memory card. These days, 8GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity, but if you plan to capture HD movie clips, look for larger cards with Class 4 or faster ratings.
Sony HX200V Conclusion
Sony packs a ton of features into the HX200V superzoom and, for many people, it will offer more than enough camera for a range of shooting situations. Anyone who likes to travel but doesn't want to lug around an expensive DSLR camera body and a bevy of interchangeable lenses might find the Sony HX200V to be the ideal traveling companion. And that's before we even mention the built-in GPS function that lets you geo-tag your shots, which is a nice plus. When you consider that the HX200V 30x zoom (27-810mm) will let you capture an entire European square or the full expanse of a beach or mountain range when pulled back, and then let you zoom into the face of a far off person or statue, you may wonder why anyone bothers with a DSLR.
There are some big trade-offs, however. For one, because its long zoom takes a while to unfurl and operate, the Sony HX200V isn't the fastest camera to use. It also has some strange operational elements, making it difficult to change basic settings in a rush. And while we loved the versatility of the HX200V's zoom, at the full 30x telephoto image results were dim and not as sharp as we would have liked. Its 10fps continuous shooting was nice for capturing bursts of action, such as sports, but the camera locks up once a burst is underway, preventing you from shooting more images.
Though the 18.2MP CMOS sensor in the HX200V offers as much resolution as many DSLRs -- because the chip size is as small as what's in a point-and-shoot camera -- it struggled at high ISOs. It didn't help that Sony's aggressive anti-noise image processing smeared pixels at ISO 3,200, producing soft images. And above ISO 3,200, the HX200V automatically fires off several images at once, which are then combined into one photo. This helped reduce noise but produced images that were noticeably blotchy.
Despite those issues, it's hard to overlook some of the HX200V's other pluses, including: a nice three-inch rear LCD that folds up or down for composing shots from difficult angles; good 1080p HD video capability with built-in stereo recording; and its tried-and-true Sweep Panorama function, which is another great feature for travel. Though we had some problems with image quality from the HX200V, it was on par with other ultrazoom cameras on the market, and despite its 18-megapixel resolution it managed to make good 16 x 20-inch prints, so we think it warrants a Dave's Pick.
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