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Sony Cyber-shot HX50V Ken McMahon, June 2013
 
   
 

Sony HX50V verdict

The Sony HX50V is the worlds smallest, lightest camera with a 30x optical zoom. It packs a lens with a 35mm equivalent range of 24 - 720mm into a compact camera that is just about pocketable. The main attraction of a compact super-zoom is it's zoom range and the HX50V gives you more than any other camera without compromising on compactness and portability.

Looking beyond the massive zoom, it has a 20 Megapixel sensor providing photos that can be printed up to A2 size as well as the capacity to crop if 720mm doesn't get you close enough (or there's the built in digital zoom and clear zoom options).

The built-in hot shoe is something of a novelty on a camera like this, and as well as attaching an external flash you can fit a number of accessories including an external microphone and an electronic viewfinder. This of course will add both to the size and the cost, but it's good to have the option all the same. The other big draw is the built-in Wifi and, for the HX50V version, GPS features. The GPS is functional and fuss-free, but I found most aspects of the HX50V's Wifi, from setup to operation were difficult to get to grips with. And, while it has all the usual great Sony fun features and gadgets, like 3D shooting, Sweep panorama, Photo Creativity modes and Picture Effects, the menu system remains convoluted and inaccessible.

Despite those criticisms, the HX50V remains a highly compelling option because of it's unsurpassed zoom range, great quality high resolution images and, ultimately, because you can slip it into your pocket, just.

   
 

 

Compared to Canon PowerShot SX280 HS

     
 
 
     
     

The PowerShot SX280 HS is Canon's 2013 pocket Superzoom and like the Panasonic models will be in competition both with the HX50V and the more economically priced, but less well equipped WX300. Many people (not the ones reading this, of course) won't get beyond the zoom range comparison and with a 30X range that's both a little wider and a lot longer than the 20x range of the SX280 HS, the HX50V is a clear winner here. The PowerShot SX280 HS is a little smaller and lighter than the HX50V, but not only does it have a smaller zoom range, it lacks the HX50V's hotshoe and, crucially for some, the ability to add an electronic viewfinder.

Looking beyond the zoom, both models have the same physical size 1/2.3 inch sensor, but the HX50V packs in 20.2 megapixels, whereas in recent times Canon has resisted the temptation to up the pixel count on it SX range, sticking with 12 Megapixels. My quality tests show the wisdom of Canon's approach, the SX280 HS pips the HX50V on quality and noise results, though, at the base ISO settings, the gap isn't as big as you might expect.

The next headline feature for both of these models is Wifi connectivity and, for the HX50V version, GPS. Remember, if you're in the UK, only the non-GPS HX50 will be available. It's early days for Wifi equipped compacts, and the ones that provide easy setup and accessible features are rare, but the HX50V comes near the back of the pack and, though it lacks smartphone remote control - the one thing the HX50V can do reasonably well once it's set up - the SX280 HS is a better choice for Wifi connectivity.

Both models provide a good range of movie choices, with a 1080p 50/60 best quality HD mode, both offer enhanced stabilisation and both allow you to shoot movies with filter effects. The Canon also offers a couple of low resolution slow motion modes, and allows you to set exposure compensation for movies.

Lastly, it's worth noting that the PowerShot SX280 HS is a more affordable camera than the HX50V. So the extended zoom range, hotshoe, and high resolution all come at a price. You'll need to think hard about whether you really need these features before making a buying decision.

See my Canon SX280 HS review for more details.

 

 

Compared to Panasonic Lumix ZS30 / TZ40

     
 
 
     
     

As with the PowerShot SX280 HS, the big difference between the Panasonic Lumix ZS30 / TZ40 and the Sony Cyber-shot HX50V is the zoom range - 20x on the former compared with 30x on the latter. Both start at the same 24mm wide angle, but the ZS30 / TZ40 stops at 480mm and the HX50V keeps on going to 720mm.

The 20 Megapixel Sony sensor boasts an additional 2 Megapixels over the 18 Megapixel ZS30 / TZ40 and in my tests image quality from the HX50V at the base ISO setting actually looks better.

When it comes to screens though, the ZS30 / TZ40 is a clear winner. Both models have three inch screens with the same resolution, but the HX50V's is badly let down by it's poor performance in bright light. The ZS30 /TZ40's screen not only looks better in bright light, but is touch sensitive, allowing you to set the focus point and take shots as well as more easily navigate menus. It doesn't have a hotshoe though, and, if you add the optional electronic viewfinder to the HX50V, the screen performance is less of an issue. Of course, you by doing so you'd also add to the overall cost of a camera that's already one of the more expensive pocket super-zooms on the market.

The ZS30 / TZ40's Wifi features are broader and work much better than on the HX50V, particularly if you have one of the handful of smartphones or tablets that suport Near Field Communication (NFC) which requires only that you tap the two devices together to start the communications process. And Panasonic continues to offer a more unique GPS experience than its rivals thanks to the inclusion of a landmark database and map.

Like the HX50V, the ZS30 / TZ40 can shoot HD video at 1080p50/60 depending on region and has the same 28Mb/s high quality average bit rate. There are lots of other similarities, you can use the zoom while filming, take high resolution photos, shoot in fully auto or using scene modes, and choose between AVCHD or MP4 encoding. The ZS30 / TZ40 has some versatile slow motion modes that the HX50 lacks, though. Like the HX50V the ZS30 / TZ40 can shoot a continuous burst at 10fps, but only for six frames, compared with ten on the HX50V. However, the ZS30 / TZ40 also has a raft of lower resolution faster coninuous shooting modes that go right up to 60fps at 2.5M resolution. So if you're happy to accept smaller sized images, the ZS30 / TZ40 is a much better bet for capturing fast action sequences.

There's much less of a price difference between the ZS30 / TZ40 and HX50V, and in some regions they're similarly priced. So really it comes down to the draw of the big zoom on the HX50V compared with the better handling and more compact format of the ZS30 / TZ40.

See my Panasonic Lumix ZS30 / TZ40 review for more details.

 

 

Sony Cyber-shot HX50V final verdict

Sony has made a smart move by splitting it's 2013 pocket super-zoom range and offering two options in the form of the HX50(V) and the more affordable 20x WX300. Not everybody needs or wants a 30x zoom but those who do won't mind paying a little extra for it. Meanwhile the cheaper WX300 competes at the more price-sensitive end of the market.

To fit a 30x zoom lens into a compact of this size and weight is no mean achievement, and anyone who spends a lot of time shooting wildlife, sport, or who just likes to get close to the action on holiday, will be delighted with what the HX50V has to offer. Having a 720mm telephoto at your disposal, in your pocket even, opens up a whole new way of seeing things and taking pictures. And while the number of owners who'll fit accessories onto the hotshoe are probably limited, the fact you can slide-on an optional viewfinder, flash or external microphone gives the camera a unique advantage over the competition.

The expansion of manual controls and the inclusion of an exposure dial will also please those who like to take a bit more control of things. But at its core, the HX50V is an automatic compact. Capable intelligent auto modes, smart stacking modes, Sweep panorma, Photo Creativity and Picture effects all add to the package. But picture sharing is what many people are interested in right now and the HX50V's Wifi features have some way to go before they become a crowd puller. The screen isn't great either but for those who simply want the longest zoom in the smallest package, the HX50V has few if any rivals and couples its impressive 30x range with surprisingly good image quality and the option to fit accessories. So while the issues mean it falls short of our highest award, the Sony HX50V remains a camera that earns our Recommended rating for those who want the longest reach in the smallest form factor.



Good points
Huge 30x 24-720mm equivalent zoom range.
Excellent image stabilisation.
Hot shoe with accessory port for EVF.
Excellent 400 shot battery life.
Full PASM modes and Exposure compensation dial.
Built-in wifi and GPS (GPS on HX50V only).

Bad points
Wifi difficult to setup and limited in use.
Screen hard to see in bright conditions.
Limited customisation options.
Miniature effect not available for movies.



Scores

(relative to 2013 advanced compacts)

Build quality:
Image quality:
Handling:
Specification:
Value:

Overall:

17 / 20
17 / 20
16 / 20
17 / 20
16 / 20

83%
   

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