Gordon asked if I would do a review of the HX5. So here goes.
I purchased the HX5 (relying heavily on Gordon's review) to supplement my Panasonic LX3. Prior to getting my LX3 I was using an Olympus E3 SLR. A super camera, but just too heavy and bulky for me. I was missing a lot of photo opportunities because I did not have it with me. The LX3 is a fine compact camera with an excellent very fast lens, but its focal length at the long end is limited to 60mm. I wanted the HX5 for its 250mm focal length at the long end and for its 10fps. When I started using it I found that its picture quality was better than I expected, especially its dynamic range, and that it did well in low light for a compact. With its 25mm to 250mm focal length it was much more versatile than my LX3. As a result I switched to the HX5 for all my photography.
Picture Quality - First of all I think the overall picture quality is excellent (see my exceptions below). I was really surprised by its JPEGs dynamic range, even in normal modes like Program. I feel it is the best of any camera's JPEGs that I have owned and as good as RAW in some of my previous cameras. Sharpness is excellent except for some smearing of very fine detail, probably due to too zealous noise reduction. Also, there are sometimes halos, I think from the in-camera sharpening. I sharpen my pictures more in post processing and that is difficult to do without making the halos worse. I have all the resolution I need. I have only printed one photo (I expect to print more from my trip to Ireland) at 8x10 and am satisfied with it. Almost all of my photos are displayed on the internet and 10mp is more than enough resolution, even allowing me to crop.
I do not like the fact that Sony did not include in-camera ability to adjust picture parameters, such as sharpness, noise reduction contrast, etc.. Fortunately, I always post process and the base JPEG meets my needs, although I would like to be able to turn down sharpening and noise reduction. For anyone, considering the HX5 who does not do post processing it is important to satisfy yourself the the out of the camera images meet your needs. I would love it if in the next version there was a RAW option.
I think, that for a compact camera, the HX5 does well in low light. The Hand-held Twilight Mode can be useful in controlling noise. However, I have been very pleased with the results in Program Mode and Manual Mode. I sometimes use noise reduction in post-processing. I use the Topaz DeNoise 5 plug-in in Photoshop and like it very much.
Features - I am not a point and shoot photographer, so I typically do not use anything, but Program Mode or Manual Mode. One exception is Hand-held Twilight Mode (see above). Also, I occasionally use the iSweep Mode.
10 fps - A marvelous feature not found in very many cameras - DSLR or Compact - period. This is a great help with action shots in capturing the 'moment'. Also, I sometimes use it at slow shutter speeds and pick the sharpest result. Here is an example.
Manual Mode - This is actually very limited, as it has only two apertures and the smaller aperture (f8 at 25mm) is obtained with a filter, so there is no difference in depth of field ( the depth of field is much greater than with a DSLR, so the increased depth of field at the smaller aperture is not missed too much). Manual Mode it is still a very valuable feature for action photography, as it allows you to select the largest aperture and thus get the fastest shutter speed consistent with correct exposure.
iSweep Panorama - Fun and I use it occasionally. It uses the video processing, so the resolution is not that great. Best results in terms of resolution can be obtained by panning holding the camera vertical.
Video - I never use it.
GPS - This has turned out to be useful. Having returned from our holiday in Ireland I found it quite helpful in locating where I was when I took a particular photo. It is also fun to click on the location and have it appear on my computer. I think I could live with out it, but it is a worthwhile feature for me.
Handling - I am happy enough with it, but the LCD could be better in bright light and it could use more pixels. If they could include some sort of viewfinder, without increasing size or weight that would be nice. I find the biggest negative when compared to my previous DSLRs is the lack of a viewfinder. I find that it is harder to compose my pictures and that I crop more often in my post processing.
Body - The body seems of decent quality to me. My main problem, is that I now have some 'stuff' inside my lens and I often have to remove a splotch when post processing. I expect I will send it in to Sony to be cleaned. I love the compact size and weight. It is a little smaller and lighter than the LX3, so it is easier to get in my pocket,
Macro - I am happy with my close-ups. For maximum magnification it appears best to move the lens out from 25mm to about x1.4.
FINAL THOUGHTS - I don't think I will ever go back to a camera that I can't carry in my pocket. There is no other compact currently available that would meet my needs as well. They simply do not have the combination of very wide to strong telephoto, low noise (for a compact), sufficient manual control, and 10 fps.
Here is a link to my Sony HX5 Gallert: