Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V (Black) review: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V (Black)

Along with these options there's Sony's Intelligent Sweep Panorama mode for capturing horizontal or vertical panoramas with one press of the shutter release; this is unlike other cameras that require you to take several shots. Intelligent Sweep separates itself from Sony's regular Sweep Panorama by automatically detecting faces and moving subjects to avoid distortion. It's definitely one of those features you might not care about until you try it. Once you realize that it's fun and works well, you end up using it all the time. Added in to this mode is a high-resolution option that produces larger and better-looking results. And by larger I mean huge: the resolution is 10,480x4,096, and a single shot can be more than 20MB.

The HX100V's movie mode is the best I've seen on any point-and-shoot. It's capable of recording in full HD at 1080/60p at 28Mbps in AVCHD. It'll record at lower bit rates, too, in AVCHD or you can switch to MPEG-4 at resolutions up to 1,440x1,080. You get use of the optical zoom while recording, and there's a stereo mic. While you can actually enter a dedicated movie mode, you can also just press the record button anytime you want to start shooting. Pressing the shutter release while you're recording will grab 3-megapixel stills, too.

Lastly, there are three 3D shooting modes. The 3D Sweep Panorama works just like the Intelligent Sweep, but creates both a normal panorama shot and one that can be viewed in 3D on a 3D-enabled HDTV. As you sweep the camera it shoots separate photos for the left and right eyes, which is how it's able to create 3D images with just one lens. The Sweep Multi Angle works similarly by taking 15 photos at different angles as you sweep across a scene. The camera then converts those into one photo. By tilting the camera back and forth during playback, the camera's built-in gyro sensor displays the image in a 3D-like view on the camera's LCD. Finally, there's the 3D still image mode that quickly takes two shots, analyzes subject distance between foreground and background, and creates a single 3D photo. The results are OK, but there's definitely room for improvement. For example, the modes can't handle anything moving, so it's really just for landscapes or stationary subjects. Also, it's pretty easy to see the image slices that are stitched together. Still, if you were already planning to buy an ultracompact camera and have already started collecting 3D equipment, this is one more reason to pick up the HX100V.

As for shooting performance, the HX100V is on par with other CMOS-based compact megazooms. From off to first shot is 2 seconds with a shot-to-shot time of 1.5 seconds. Turning on the flash, though, slows the camera down to 3.1 seconds between shots. Its shutter lag--how quickly a camera captures an image after the shutter-release button is pressed--is very good at 0.3 second in bright lighting and 0.6 second in dim conditions with less subject contrast. The camera's burst shooting mode is capable of up to 10fps. However, this burst shooting sets focus and exposure with the first shot, and once you've fired, you're stuck waiting for the camera to save the photos, generally a second or two per photo.

With all its capabilities, the HX100V can be tricky to use, particularly if you're not familiar with more advanced compact cameras. Menus are easy enough to navigate, and if you're not sure what something does, there's a full manual stored on the camera. That's good because some of the shooting modes have a lot of settings and there are a lot of buttons on this model. It might take some time to get acquainted with all this camera can do.

The HX100V's controls
The HX100V has more buttons than your average point-and-shoot and might take some practice to remember their functions.

The body is bulky and somewhat heavy, but all things considered it's still remarkably compact. The screen is large and bright making it easy to see in bright conditions; you'll still struggle in direct sun, but you can always use the electronic viewfinder. (Note: There is a proximity sensor next to the EVF allowing the camera to jump from the LCD to the EVF when you bring it to your eye. It takes a second or two to switch, which might anger some users. There is a button to just change between the two, but you have to cycle past the sensor option.) The display also tilts out from the body making shooting above or below eye level easy.

There's a zoom control around the lens barrel, which is good for small zoom adjustments and can be used for manually focusing the lens, too. There's a nice rubberized grip on front and a textured thumb rest on back. You'll also find a programmable Custom button on top, right behind the shutter release and zoom ring that can be used for an exposure lock, white balance, ND filter, metering, and Smile Shutter, Sony's smile-activated shutter release. Next to that is a Focus button that can change your autofocus mode or, if manually focusing, it gives you a focus check so you can see if your subject is actually in focus. Lastly, there's a jog dial to the right of the thumb rest for changing ISO, exposure compensation, shutter speed, and aperture. You have to press in on the dial to advance through until you arrive at the one you want to change. If you make a lot of changes to these things, it can get tiresome.

Lastly, with all of this camera's capabilities it's easy to forget that it has a built-in GPS receiver and compass. In fact, Sony even neglects to mention it on the HX100V's product page on its site. Turning on the receiver requires digging into the main menu system (since it cuts into your battery life, it really should be easier to turn on and off), but once it's on it'll start searching for satellites. That can take up to several minutes depending on how much open sky is above you. The tagging abilities aren't as full-featured as those in Panasonic's Lumix DMC-ZS10, but the Sony's longitude and latitude information seems more accurate. The camera seamlessly adds the information to a photo's EXIF data, so you can use software like Picasa or Google Earth to see where you were when you took your photos.

Like Sony's other 2011 HX-series cameras, the Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V can be a lot of fun thanks to an ample feature set. Its photo and video quality are excellent at small sizes, but less so for those expecting dSLR-quality at this price and size. Getting the most from it will require learning all that it can do and its limitations; probably more so in some cases than a lower-end megazoom. Still, if you're looking for something to do double duty for movie clips and photos with a very long lens, it's worth seeking out this camera.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100
Nikon Coolpix P500
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

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