Sony HX30V Review
|Full model name:||Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX30V|
|Sensor size:||1/2.3 inch|
|Dimensions:||4.2 x 2.4 x 1.4 in.
(107 x 62 x 35 mm)
|Weight:||8.8 oz (250 g)
|Full specs:||Sony HX30V specifications|
The Sony HX30V is a rock-solid pocket camera that packs a lot of punch and features into a relatively small body, all at a fair price. Its long and versatile zoom range, fast autofocus and excellent Sony creative effects make it a great companion for travel and on-the-go shooting.Pros
Solid build; Fast autofocus; Excellent zoom range and functionality; Built-in Wi-Fi and GPS; Useful creative effects modes.Cons
Image quality not as good as predecessor; No electronic viewfinder; Confusing menu system and user manual.Price and availability
The Sony HX30V started shipping in May 2012 and currently retails for US$420 or less.Imaging Resource rating
3.5 out of 5.0
$374.94 (21% less)
Also lacks viewfinder
16x zoom (20% less)
$329.00 (31% less)
16.2 MP (11% less)
Also lacks viewfinder
16x zoom (20% less)
Sony HX30V Review
Overview by IR Staff
Shooter's Report by Dave Pardue
If you want an attractive, coat-pocket friendly camera, don't want to sacrifice in terms of zoom reach and resolution, and don't want to fiddle around with cables or swapping flash cards around every time you want to see your photos on your phone, tablet, or PC, the Sony HX30V might be the camera for you. And since its body is manufactured from 99% recycled materials, you can feel comfortable that your choice is better for the environment than many, as well!
AF system and imaging sensor. Sony describes the HX30V's autofocus system as "lightning-fast", claiming a focus time of just 0.13 seconds in daylight, and 0.21 seconds in low ambient light of around 3 EV. (Our lab tests confirm the HX30V's excellent AF speed, as we measured only 0.12 second at wide angle, and 0.15 at full telephoto.) The HX30V's backside-illuminated CMOS image sensor has uncommonly high resolution, capable of capturing 18-megapixel still images. That's a higher resolution than many recent SLRs, although the sensor itself is a 1/2.3-inch type with a diagonal of just ~7.7 millimeters. Since it's a backside-illuminated sensor, light gathering should be better than that of a standard CMOS chip. That's because more of the surface area can be devoted to light-gathering, as the circuitry has been moved below the active layer of the sensor. Sony has selected a generous still-image sensitivity range of ISO 100 to 12,800 equivalents, but for movie shooting, the range is a much narrower 100 to 1,000 equivalents, with the ability to extend to ISO 2,000 maximum.
LCD monitor. Images can be framed and reviewed on a 3-inch LCD panel with 921,600 dot resolution, or 640 x 480 pixels, with each pixel being comprised of separate red, green and blue dots. There's no optical or electronic viewfinder on the HX30V.
Video capabilities. As well as still imaging, the HX30V can also capture high-def 1080p (aka Full HD; 1,920 x 1,080 pixels) AVCHD video at a rate of 60 progressive-scan frames per second, or 60 interlaced fields per second, and movies include stereo audio. There are also three reduced-resolution options: either high-def 1,440 x 1,080 pixel that plays back at 16:9 aspect ratio, but with reduced resolution on the x-axis, high-def 720p (1,280 x 720 pixel) or standard-def VGA (640 x 480 pixel). The 1,440 x 1,080 pixel mode is available at 60 fields per second in AVCHD format, or 30 frames per second in MPEG-4. The other reduced-res modes are all MPEG-4 only, and are captured at 30 frames per second. 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 you can manage an even greater maximum telephoto.)
Zoom lens. The Sony HX30V is based on a powerful 20x optical zoom lens that protrudes telescope-like from the front of its solid body. The HX30V's lens bears Sony G branding, and when shooting still images in its native 4:3 aspect ratio, yields 35mm-equivalent focal lengths from a generous 25mm wide angle to a powerful 500mm telephoto. Maximum aperture falls from f/3.2 at wide angle to a rather dim f/5.8 at telephoto. Thankfully, the HX30V includes Sony's Optical SteadyShot image stabilization, to help fight blur from camera shake at the longer focal lengths and in low light.
Extras. Interestingly, the HX30V can save 13 megapixel still images during movie capture, 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.
Catering to fans of travel, the Sony HX30V includes a built-in GPS receiver and compass. This allows photos and movies to be tagged with the capture location and bearing. The HX30V also allows GPS track logs to be recorded, so you can replay your route on a given day's shooting. Read more about the HX30V's GPS functionality below in our Shooter's Report.
Connectivity and storage. To simplify the chore of offloading your photos to a PC, or sharing them via a tablet or smartphone, the HX30V features built-in Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11 b/g/n) connectivity. The Sony HX30V includes both a USB 2.0 High Speed data port (on the bottom of the camera), and a Micro (Type D) HDMI high-def port for video connectivity. No standard-def composite video output is provided. Images and movies are stored in 105MB of built-in memory, or on SD / Memory Stick Duo cards. Supported SD cards include SDHC and SDXC types, 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.
Battery. Power comes courtesy of a proprietary NP-BG1 or NP-FG1 lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack, with the former in the product bundle. The HX30V is CIPA-rated as good for 320 shots on a charge. The battery is charged in-camera via USB, with the provided AC adapter and USB cable.
Pricing and availability. Available from May 2012, the Sony HX30V was originally priced at around US$420. The only body color for this model is black. The HX20V was announced at the same time as the HX30V, and is identical in nature except for shipping without Wi-Fi functionality and saving you $20 off the initial list price.
Sony HX30V Shooter's Report
By Dave Pardue
I grew up a Sony fanatic, dating back to my first Walkman (and who from that era didn't fall head over heels for the Walkman?). Subsequent decades brought us the Sony portable CD player, the best top-of-the-line portable DAT player (from the audio industry) and all those sweet Handycams. The trend Sony embraced was producing great things in small packages, and often in quite innovative ways. The HX30V promises more great things in a small package, and while a bit on the heavy side, it still slips comfortably into a vest or jacket pocket.
I was surprised by its weight when picking the camera up for the first time. At 8.8 ounces (250g) it's roughly twice as heavy as your average point-and-shoot. I worried about this for only a short time, because the more I shot with the HX30V, the more I came to appreciate how solid it feels in my hands, and the added heft feels a lot more comforting when composing shots, especially tricky ones. I grew to think of it not as bulky, but more like a little tank -- solid and packed full of features.
Controls: To each his own, but I am admittedly old-school when it comes to the controls on a camera: I like knobs, buttons and dials, and I am not fond of touchscreens. I realize many photographers do like them -- and more power to you -- but luckily manufacturers like Sony are listening to both sides. So while you see plenty of new, modern, sleek types (such as the Sony TX20), so too are we seeing a continuing return of retro looks and physical dials on other cameras. The HX30V just feels good to me, with its faux leather (rubber) protruding front grip, its textured indentation on the back for your thumb, and yes, real controls at the ready. From a design standpoint Sony didn't change much about this model physically compared to its predecessor, keeping a similar shape, grip, weight and control features, and this is a good thing considering how much we thought of the HX9V.
Look and feel. As I mentioned, I like the ergonomics of the rubber grip and rear thumb rest of the HX30V as I held it in my hands. I didn't find myself shooting much one-handed, but either way these touches go a long way towards enjoying the feel of the camera. As there is no viewfinder, and with a fixed LCD monitor, I found composing shots was best accomplished with my thumbs supporting the bottom and my forefingers the top. This also made it easy to switch back and forth between settings with my right thumb, and easy to extend the camera outward and away from me so that I could see the LCD while composing shots.
I also love the way the HX30V looks. It's a bit more rugged than your typical point-and-shoot. And yet the rounded corners are a nice touch for a square camera (note to manufacturers: a "pocket" camera should never have sharp edges). The 3-inch LCD is bright and crisp, and has five brightness settings to suit your preference or shooting situation. I found the default '3' setting to be good in most any situation.
Of course, no camera is perfect, and the HX30V has its share of operational pitfalls as well. For starters, I find the menu system confusing at best. For instance, in order to find certain creative modes you have three different places to search to hunt down the one you're looking for. Fortunately the creative modes themselves are quite good (we'll talk more about those in a bit), so once I adopted to the awkward menu layout I didn't have to worry much about it anymore. The printed manual is very little help and mostly confusing, and the same goes for the online User Guide. However, surprisingly, the HX30V's In-Camera Guide wasn't too bad, and got me out of several jams easily enough. I did love the custom button, which allows you to configure it in three different ways -- controlling EV, ISO or white balance -- depending on your preference.
In the field. The Sony HX30V is a fun camera to shoot with. Along with its solid, comforting feel comes a fast and accurate autofocus system, as well as a very well-designed zoom system that's a pleasure to use. The camera's AF system produces lightning-quick results, and the HX30V also gives you a "tracking focus" feature, where you identify the subject by pressing the screen to put the target on that subject, and then you're free to recompose the shot, even change distances, and the camera will keep your target as the point of focus.
The HX30V is equipped with three basic auto shooting settings: Program Auto, Intelligent Auto and Superior Auto. Program Auto is the basic old-school style auto we all know and love, allowing you to change basic settings and letting the camera do the rest of the thinking for you. Intelligent Auto tries to guess the scene you're shooting and choose the best settings for you on the spot. If you have the display settings turned on, the LCD will show you the scene it has selected for the shot. This is good because on the rare instance the camera chooses the wrong one, you can go into "scene" mode and select the right one (more on scene modes in a bit).
Superior Auto is a different animal, and one I grew to really enjoy. It also takes a best guess at what you are shooting, quickly snaps between two and six shots and then bakes them into one image meant to be clearer, sharper and just better overall. The Bionz processor is fast and generally delivers the result within seconds, and I found on most occasions that it did deliver better results than you'd find in the other two auto settings -- I found the images richer, with more dynamic range and more detailed -- so I relied on it quite a bit. However, it's definitely not a shooting mode to be used for every shot, but rather to add a little more drama to everyday scenes as desired.
Zooming is addictive. The Sony HX30V's zoom functions as two different animals, with optical zoom going to a full 20x and digital zoom extending all the way to 40x. I used to cringe when I heard anyone talking about digital zoom, as it used to be a terrible thing to have to see and endure. But Sony has created Clear Image Zoom technology, intended to improve on traditional crop-and-interpolate digital zooms, and has also stabilized the lens with Optical SteadyShot IS. There's even a 3-way Active IS mode with horizontal, vertical and rolling correction designed to advance IS capabilities during video capture. Still, when you zoom way out you greatly magnify the effect that even slightly shaky hands have on an image, so I was really curious to get out and test all these in combination.
Until now I've never been a big fan of long telephoto shots, preferring to be fairly close to the subjects I want to shoot. The Sony HX30V changed that for me to a degree, and I found myself becoming a bit of an overnight zoom junkie. It opens up shooting possibilities that I have not explored much, and the more I used it the more fun it became. Below are a few examples of the power of 20x optical zoom, as well as the incredible results of how clear a 40x handheld optical+digital zoom can be. The power of Optical SteadyShot is clearly on display here, as it would be almost impossible without a tripod and a triggered/delayed shutter to get a shot this clear without IS of this caliber.
Low-light shooting. I have never been a fan of built-in flashes on point-and-shoot cameras, as to my taste they flatten the subject matter and also tend to take away the warm glow of a comfy room or evening outdoor setting. But unless you're shooting a landscape with a tripod, it's hard to produce good results without a flash for handheld shots of moving subjects in low light with a point-and-shoot. Cranking up the ISO to compensate has traditionally yielded images with too much noise and too little color. Cameras with larger sensors than the HX30V (like, say, the RX100) can pull this off rather well due to a bright lens and larger pixels, but cameras with smaller sensors have generally failed here. But the HX30V has a Sony G lens and an Exmor R CMOS sensor that Sony claims has greatly alleviated the issue. This was welcome news to me, but the proof is, of course, in the pudding -- or in this case, the birthday cake!
Image quality. As you can tell by now, I've been enjoying this camera, but it's important to convey to you everything that I found. So while the HX30V can obviously produce a good shot in low light, its image quality is still not stellar. For instance, as you can see below it's not even as good as its predecessor, the HX9V, which came out a year before and has 2-megapixels less in the resolution department. Beginning photographers may find this somewhat puzzling, but sensor size is far more important than the megapixel count, and their sensor size is the same. We have run into this phenomenon with quite a few popular consumer-oriented cameras lately, and it's an unfortunate trend as the relatively tiny sensors are crammed with more megapixels but image quality often suffers the consequence. Still, the difference between the HX30V and the HX9V is marginal, and as you can see from the images here, the decline in quality is only obvious when making larger size prints.
Creative effects and scene selection. Getting back to the plus side, Sony does a terrific job in the creative effects department with the HX30V. Whether you want a good panorama, an HDR painted effect or just general photo enhancements such as a boost in color or contrast, the HX30V has you covered. I found the effects modes to be well thought out and artfully done, without too much over-processing just for processing's sake. Switching the dial to SCN puts you in Scene Mode, which gives your choice of 15 various scene types, allowing the camera to configure the settings to optimize the shot for that scene. Most of these modes also allow you to set the degree of processing that will be done for that mode, which is a nice touch. These settings can be accessed in the menu for the mode you are currently in. My personal favorites were Handheld Twilight for low light situations without a tripod, and Backlight HDR for scenes with high contrast, thus balancing photos where the ambient light has left certain areas too dark or too overblown.
Sweep Panorama. The Sony HX30V and its Bionz processor do a nice job of rendering panoramas rather effortlessly.
GPS. When I first heard about cameras coming equipped with GPS I scoffed at the uselessness of it. But once I tried it out on the Sony HX30V I loved it. The camera locks to the GPS signal within seconds, and I tried it in a multitude of places (all outdoors). Sony's free PlayMemories Home software lets you track your photos on a map as long as they were shot with GPS enabled. The locational coordinates are logged into the image file's EXIF data and are then read by the software. Sony unfortunately didn't feel compelled to provide this software for Mac users like myself, but there are other software packages that work just as well on a Mac.
I used a free download called JetPhotoSoft, which allowed me to track and create the images visible in this animation. What's also neat is that the camera knows -- via a built-in compass -- which direction you are pointing. My daughter and I hiked our local lake trail to test all of this out, and you can see the various places we went and the direction the camera was pointing for each shot. The center of the circle marks our actual location, while the red dot along the perimeter shows the camera direction, as does the numerical display that the software also provides. Consider me a camera GPS convert; using this feature proved to be tons of fun.
Wi-Fi. Adding Wi-Fi functionality to cameras is nothing new, but it is certainly a growing trend. It took me a few minutes to track down the actual menu setting that I needed in order to access Wi-Fi from my location (in the case of manually locating your particular Wi-Fi network it is accessed in "Access point settings" under the Network settings folder of the menu... not particularly straightforward) but once I found it the signal options came through, asked for my password and connected without any issues. Transferring images wirelessly without the need to hassle with a cable or SD card and reader is certainly a desirable alternative when Wi-Fi is available. You can transfer images to a smartphone running Sony's PlayMemories Mobile app (iOS or Android), view them on a Wi-Fi Direct-enabled or networked TV, or send them to a computer running PlayMemories Home (Windows Vista/7/8 only).
Video. The Sony HX30V offers excellent video quality for a point-and-shoot camera, including AVCHD modes across a variety of frame rates and resolutions. It can also shoot MP4 video across three image resolutions. Take note that it's a bit tricky altering video settings on this camera and some other Sony models, as they put the format setting (AVCHD or MP4) in a completely different place than the resolution settings within the menu system. For format settings you need to dig deeper into the camera setup menu itself.
|MTS file / 1920 x 1080 / 60P / 32.4MB||MTS file / 1920 x 1080 / 60P / 59.1MB|
Final impressions. At the end of the day I can honestly say that I very much enjoyed my time with the Sony HX30V. It feels rock-solid, powers up fast, focuses fast and gets the job done. The zoom speed and range are excellent and easy to use, the effects modes quite useful, and the low-light shooting good for its sensor size. Drawbacks like a quirky and sometimes frustrating menu system were problems at first, but I got used to them fast enough to not deter my overall enjoyment of the camera. And the more I grew to rely on things like the excellent HDR capabilities and the terrific effects modes, the more I grew to love this little camera.
Sony HX30V Lens Quality
Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Soft at lower left
Tele: Sharpest at center
Tele: Noticeable blurring, upper right
Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Sony HX30V's 20x zoom shows some noticeable blurring in the corners of the frame compared to what we see at center, with blurring strongest in the lower left corner (though it doesn't extend far into the image area). At telephoto, blurring is visible in all four corners, though overall detail is a little soft throughout the frame.
Wide: Miniscule pincushion distortion; hardly noticeable
Tele: Very low barrel distortion, almost invisible
Geometric Distortion: There is very little noticeable distortion at either of the Sony HX30V's zoom settings (less than 0.1%). Thus, the camera's processor works hard to combat distortion in both directions, likely overcorrecting a bit, since we normally expect barrel distortion at wide angle and pincushion at telephoto.
Wide: Somewhat high and bright
Tele: Also moderately high
Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide angle is moderately high in terms of pixel count, and pixels are quite bright, particularly the stronger blue pixels. At telephoto, results are similar.
Macro with Flash
Macro: The Sony HX30V's Macro mode captures a sharp image with good overall detail, particularly in the center of the frame, though corners are soft (a common limitation among consumer digital cameras in macro mode). Minimum coverage area is smaller than average at 1.26 x 0.95 inches (32 x 24mm), which is quite good. The camera's flash is partially blocked by the lens at this range, which results in a lower exposure with a strong hot spot in the top left. Thus, external lighting will be your best bet when shooting this close (though it too resulted in an uneven exposure).
Sony HX30V Viewfinder Accuracy
Wide: LCD Monitor
Tele: LCD Monitor
Viewfinder Accuracy: The Sony HX30V's LCD monitor showed just a hair over 100% coverage at wide angle and telephoto, which is very good.
Sony HX30V Image Quality
Color: The Sony HX30V produces fairly good color, with only mild oversaturation in bright reds and blues, while yellows and aqua are actually a bit muted. Mean saturation is 107.2% or 7.2% oversaturated, which is a bit less than average but still good. Hue is a bit off in a few cases, as the HX30V pushes cyans toward blue, orange toward yellow, and yellows toward green. The Sony HX30V's average "delta-C" color error after correction for saturation is 5.2 at base ISO, which is about average. Lighter skin tones are a bit cool and low in saturation, while darker skin tones push toward a warmer, reddish-orange cast. Overall, colors are fairly good, though the shift from yellow to green is a little stronger than we'd like.
Incandescent: As is often the case, Manual white balance handled our incandescent lighting
best overall, with the most natural-looking color. Auto produced a noticeable red cast, while the Incandescent setting resulted in a strong warm cast.
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 horizontally and vertically, with extinction at a little past 2,800 lines.
Tele: Pretty good
Flash: Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right) resulted in a dark test target at wide angle, thanks to the white doorway and ceiling that likely interfered with exposure (even though spot metering was used). Thus, our results at Sony's 23 feet flash range rating with an auto ISO boost to 200 are inconclusive. However, the telephoto test came out well at 12.8 feet, though ISO was boosted to 800.
Auto flash produced bright results in our indoor portrait scene, retaining just a hint of the ambient light with a fairly quick shutter speed of 1/60 second at ISO 200. Good results here. Shot taken at ~5 feet (~1.5m) on a stable tripod.
ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail is pretty good and well defined at the lower ISO settings, though softening becomes noticeable at ISO 400. By ISO 1600, the pattern of noise grain becomes more evident and only increases with sensitivity. The combination of noise suppression and noise grain pattern obliterate find detail at ISO 6400 and 12,800. See Printed results below for more on how this affects prints.
ISO 100 prints are sharp at 13 x 19 inches, with crisp detail and good color renditioning. 16 x 20s here are suitable for wall display.
ISO 200 prints are also good at 13 x 19, but are starting to introduce a minor amount of noise in some areas.
ISO 400 images are good and crisp at 11 x 14 inches, but again with some grain in the shadowy areas and minor apparent softening in our target red swatch.
ISO 800 prints a nice 8 x 10, with similar minor issues as seen at ISO 400, and losing most all contrast in our red swatch.
ISO 1600 yields a good, crisp 5 x 7 inch print.
ISO 3200 prints are good at 4 x 6, with only a mild loss of color across the full color spectrum.
ISO 6400 makes a good 4 x 6 as well, but all detail is gone from our tricky red swatch.
ISO 12,800 does not print a usable 4 x 6 and is best avoided.
As stated previously in this review, the Sony HX30V is not quite as good in the image quality department as its predecessor, the HX9V, and that trend continues here in the print quality department. It does, however, still yield a very useful array of common print sizes across much of the ISO spectrum, including a good 8 x 10 at ISO 800, which is a respectable mark for such a small sensor.
Sony HX30V Performance
Startup Time: The Sony HX30V takes about 1.5 seconds to power on and take a shot. That's fast for a 20x travel zoom.
Shutter Lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is very fast at 0.12 second at wide angle, and 0.15 second at telephoto. Prefocused shutter lag is 0.015 second, which is very quick.
Cycle Time: Cycle time is good, capturing a frame every 1.04 seconds in single-shot mode for Large/Fine JPEGs. The Sony HX30V's full-resolution burst mode is rated at 10 fps for 10 frames, which is quite fast, however we did not test that mode in the lab.
Flash Recycle: The Sony HX30V's flash recycles in about 7.3 seconds after a full-power discharge, on the slower side of average.
Low Light AF: The camera's AF system was able to focus down to the 1/4 foot-candle light level without AF assist enabled, and in complete darkness with the AF assist lamp enabled.
USB Transfer Speed: Connected to a computer or printer with USB 2.0, the Sony HX30V's download speeds are pretty fast. We measured 11,608 KBytes/sec.
Battery Life: The Sony HX30V's battery life has a CIPA rating of 320 shots per charge, which is good.
In the Box
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX30V ships with the following items in the box:
- Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX30V digital camera
- Wrist strap
- AC Adapter AC-B10
- Rechargeable battery pack NP-BG1
- Micro USB cable
- Instruction manual
- 1 Year limited warranty
- 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 HX30V Conclusion
The Sony HX30V comes packed with features and is loaded with useful effects and powerful zoom capabilities all in a compact body. It's not tiny like some point-and-shoots yet is not bulky like so many long-zooms, which almost puts this camera in a class by itself. If you want something that really does fit in a coat pocket, but also sports a long zoom range, this is a great option. It has a small sensor, which does limit the image quality and low light shooting capabilities some, and it has some shortcomings like a tricky and often confusing menu system. But all in all this little camera is "long" on quality features.
Well done, Sony. Our love affair with your "great things coming in small packages" continues after all these years, and we humbly dub thee a Dave's Pick.
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