Sony's top-of-the-line megazoom for 2011, the HX100V has a ton of shooting features and a very, very long lens. Check out some examples of what this camera can do.
These are 100 percent crops from our test scene. When viewed at full size, you can see there's little difference from ISO 100 to ISO 400. The only real issue I have is that photos aren't very sharp even at the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V's lowest ISO. Noise reduction kicks in more at ISO 800, which softens details more and dulls color a bit. There's a noticeable increase in noise and noise reduction at ISO 1600 and ISO 3200, making colors more washed out and subjects appear painterly; you'll probably want to reserve these two highest sensitivities for emergencies when you need to shoot in low-light conditions or get a faster shutter speed regardless of the results. But, as with all of Sony's cameras with Exmor R sensors, there are shooting options for improving low-light/high-ISO shots, so what you see here isn't the whole story.
The 16-megapixel resolution is completely unnecessary and doesn't get you much more room to crop or enlarge. If you're looking at buying this instead of a high-resolution digital SLR or interchangeable lens compact, you'll be disappointed--especially at higher ISO sensitivities. That said, prints at 8x10 at ISO 800 with the lens fully extended still looked good, just soft. Overall, anyone looking for a full-size megazoom camera for regularly making 8x10 prints or smaller or for images to be viewed on a TV or computer screen should be more than satisfied with the HX100V.
Despite their long lenses, megazooms generally take some of their best photos in macro mode. If you like to shoot close-ups, the HX100V can focus as close as 0.4 inch from a subject. (With the lens extended you need to be at least 6.6 feet from what you're shooting.) Even when viewing at full size, you can heavily crop and get a decent photo for Web use and small prints.
Understandably, the main attraction for the HX100V is its lens, which goes from a wide-angle 27mm to a very long 810mm (35mm equivalent), or 30x. Of course, using that 810mm position is not easy if you're shooting handheld and trying to track something.
This is a 100 percent crop from the center of the telephoto shot from the previous slide. The results aren't bad for small prints and Web use at small sizes--especially considering the size and price of this camera. If you're considering this for birding or stalking other creatures, don't expect to crop heavily and still get a sharp shot for a large print, though.
I included this photo just to give you an idea of the quality you can expect from photos taken with the lens fully extended when your subject is closer and fills the frame. This was shot at ISO 200, which has about the same noise and softness as ISO 100. At small sizes, the photos look very good to excellent, just maybe in need of a little sharpening. However, for the pixel peepers out there, if you view it at full size (note: this is a large file), you'll see a lot of noise and mushy detail.
There is a full manual option for control over aperture and shutter speed as well as aperture- and shutter-speed-priority modes. Unlike many compact megazooms, the larger HX100V isn't limited to two aperture settings at the wide and telephoto ends and can be used with or without a neutral density filter. Available apertures include: f2.8,
f3.2, f3.5, f4.0, f4.5, f5.0, f5.6, f6.3, f7.1, and f8.0 for wide and f5.6, f6.3, f7.1, and f8.0 for telephoto. Shutter speeds are adjustable from 1/4,000 to 30 seconds.
The f2.8 aperture at the wide end of the lens will get you some macro shots with a somewhat shallow depth of field. However, for portraits and other stationary subjects, you might want to try out the Background Defocus mode. It takes two shots, identifies the background, and blurs it while keeping the subject sharp and in focus. Recommended distance from the subject is about a foot (30cm according to what the camera says onscreen) and you can set the amount of blur to low, medium, or high; this was taken at medium. It works best when your subject is well in front of the background, but even then it's not perfect. Still, at small sizes it can be convincing.
If you want more accurate colors, the HX100V does have a Real color setting as well as three other color modes in addition to Standard. There are also options for increasing and decreasing noise reduction, color saturation, contrast, and sharpness and shifting white balance. However, these things are not available in all shooting modes.
If there is any barrel (top) or pincushion distortion (bottom) from the HX100V, it's minor. Center sharpness is good and is consistent edge-to-edge for the most part, just softening slightly at the sides and corners.
Just about every megazoom has some problems with fringing in high-contrast areas. For the HX100V there's only a little at the wide end and it generally can't be seen until you're looking at photos at full size. At the telephoto end, such as in this crop from the inset photo, you can clearly see a line running around the statue that's visible even at smaller screen sizes.
For scenery and still subjects, take advantage of the HX100V's Backlight Correction HDR mode that takes photos at different exposures and combines them for one photo for a more balanced exposure. The left photo was taken in Program mode, the right with the Backlight HDR mode. You can see the clouds have better highlight and shadow detail instead of being blown out and the building details are more visible, too.
Sitting under in the continuous shooting options is an Exposure Bracketing setting. It'll take three shots at different exposures--one over, one under, and one normal. It does it very fast, too, so you can use it when you're not sure if you should change your exposure, or for creating your own HDR photos with editing software, as in the one pictured.
This camera is capable of capturing 3-megapixel photos while shooting video at all but the highest resolution, 1080/60p. At full size, they look like painterly frame captures, but under ideal conditions (outside in bright lighting) they're good enough for small prints and Web use.
But wait, there's more! Consumers must've been complaining that the regular panorama shots from Sony's cameras were too small. Sony answered with a high-resolution option that uses the full 16-megapixel camera resolution to produce a higher-quality panorama photo. As with the regular iSweep Panorama mode, you just sweep the camera horizontally across your scene, but this time the camera is turned vertically.
The results are better, but the final file is huge, with a resolution of 10,480x4,096 pixels and size of 14MB (and the more complicated the scene, the larger the file size). I reduced the file size so you can take a closer look.