Basic Specifications
Full model name: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX99
Resolution: 18.20 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/2.3 inch
(6.2mm x 4.6mm)
Lens: 28.00x zoom
(24-720mm eq.)
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
Native ISO: 80 - 3200
Extended ISO: 80 - 12,800
Shutter: 1/2000 - 30 sec
Max Aperture: 3.5
Dimensions: 4.0 x 2.3 x 1.4 in.
(102 x 58 x 36 mm)
Weight: 8.5 oz (242 g)
includes batteries
Availability: 11/2018
Manufacturer: Sony
Full specs: Sony HX99 specifications
18.20
Megapixels
28.00x zoom 1/2.3 inch
size sensor
image of Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX99
Front side of Sony HX99 digital camera Front side of Sony HX99 digital camera Front side of Sony HX99 digital camera Front side of Sony HX99 digital camera Front side of Sony HX99 digital camera

Sony HX99 Review -- First Impressions

by
Preview posted 10/24/2018

A few years back, Sony debuted two cameras which it said were the world's smallest to feature both a 30x zoom lens and a built-in viewfinder, the pocket-friendly HX90 and its near-identical sibling, the HX90V. Now, those all-rounder compacts have successors, in the form of the Sony HX99 and (in some markets, but not the USA) the closely-related HX95.

A very familiar body hides major changes inside

Externally, the new models look almost identical to those they replace, with differences only in some screen-printed markings and the texture of the front hand grip, which now matches the smaller rear thumbgrip texture. On the front, a 4K logo replaces the earlier 30x Optical Zoom badging, hinting at a change which we'll come to in a moment. And on the top deck, the Mode dial no longer distinguishes between iAuto and iAuto+ modes, combining both into a single position. The Panorama mode also loses its 'i' designation on the dial, and the extra position freed up by combining the Auto modes into a single item is used to add a second Memory Recall position to the dial.

But although the body is the same size and looks almost identical, there have certainly been some changes in the optical pipeline. The weight of the HX99 has grown by a scant two or three grams, and where the built-in long-zoom lens was previously a 30x zoom unit, it's been replaced by a slightly shorter 28x optical zoom. Yet curiously, Sony still says the HX99 has a 24-720mm equivalent zoom, which equates to a 30x range.

A brand-new lens with a slightly abbreviated zoom range

What this tells us is that the lens itself is new, and that even though its basic specifications look similar, the sensor may be new as well. And we know for sure that its output is handled by a new image processor, ably assisted by a standalone front-end LSI chip as in many of Sony's other recent cameras. So in other words, even though the HX99 looks quite similar to its predecessors, we can expect to see significant differences (and hopefully, improvements) on the image quality front.

So why do we believe the lens and perhaps sensor are new? As we noted, Sony now states that this is a 28x optical zoom, even as it lists a 30x equivalent zoom range. The company has also revealed that while the maximum aperture remains the same at wide-angle and telephoto, the actual focal range has changed noticeably. In place of the earlier 4.1-123mm f/3.5-6.4 lens, the Sony HX99 now uses a 4.25-118mm f/3.5-6.4 zoom.

(Note that while the maximum aperture at wide-angle and telephoto is identical, the available aperture somewhere in the middle of the range could easily differ between cameras, incidentally.)

A new processor, front-end LSI and perhaps sensor too

So the lens itself is certainly new, and a little quick math reveals that it's actually about a 27.8x optical zoom. So where does Sony get the 30x-equivalent zoom range of 24-720mm? The company could potentially be using a modest digital zoom at the telephoto end of the range. It could also be using a bit more of the sensor area at wide-angle, including pixels that ordinarily aren't used to create the final image at less-wide focal lengths. Sony doesn't specify a total pixel count for the sensor, and so we have no way to know which is the case (and it could even be both) until we lay our hands on the camera, though.

A touch-screen interface for quick and easy subject selection

So what else is new in the Sony HX99? Perhaps the next-most important change is the addition of a touch-screen overlay to the top-tilt style LCD monitor on the rear deck, which can be flipped upwards for selfie shooting. The touch panel allows not only touch focus and touch shutter functionality, but also can serve as a touch pad to control the active focus area when shooting through the dedicated viewfinder. (Which, incidentally, is still based around a 638.4k-dot, 0.2-inch Organic LED panel.)

A much bigger buffer and better movie resolution, too

Sony has also vastly increased the buffer size. Where previously, even with focus locked the HX90 and 90V were capable of a swift 10 frames per second but for only 10 frames, the HX99 is now capable of a whopping 155 frames in a focus-locked burst. There's also new 4K XAVC S-compressed video capture -- the HX90-series cameras topped out at Full HD in AVCHD-- as well as support for raw image capture, not just JPEGs. (That answers a frequent criticism of the earlier models.)

Battery life has fallen just slightly

Along with these changes, battery life has fallen just slightly, perhaps because of the power draw for the new front-end LSI chip and next-gen BIONZ X processor. Where previously, the HX90V was rated for 390 shots on a charge under standard CIPA testing conditions, the HX99 will manage around 20 frames fewer, at 370 per charge. That's from the same NP-BX1 lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack as before, incidentally. Storage options have changed, with support for an assortment of smaller MicroSD and Memory Stick Micro card types instead of SD and Memory Stick Duo cards.

What's the difference from the HX95?

Those of you in markets where both the HX99 and HX95 are available will doubtless want to know the differences between the two. There are only a couple of these: The HX99 sports a control ring around its lens which the HX95 lacks, and it also includes a touch-screen display that's absent in the lower-cost model. (Which means that if you want to use features like Touch Focus or Touch Shutter on the HX95, you'll need to do so by controlling the camera from your Android or iOS smartphone.)

Sony HX99 pricing and availability

Available from November 2018, the Sony HX99 is priced at US$450 or thereabouts in the US market. As noted at the outset, the HX95 is not available in the US market.

 

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