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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V review:

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V

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Typical Price: $599.00
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The Good High-resolution LCD screen. Superior auto mode works excellently. Very good video mode. Equipped with all the photo filters and GPS tools you'll need.

The Bad Expensive compared to other travel cameras. Lens sharpness drops off at the sides of the frame. Images get very noisy at higher sensitivities.

The Bottom Line Offering a wide range of features from a 20x optical zoom lens to excellent low-light modes, the HX20V is a great buy for the cashed-up traveller.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

8.2 Overall

Review Sections

Are you a fan of travel cameras? If so, there are plenty of options on the market for 2012, including the newest addition to the range, Sony's HX20V. Continuing on the same track as its predecessor, the HX9V, this camera boasts a longer optical zoom lens (20x), as well as a few more features to improve the package.

Design and features

There's no doubt that the HX20V is one of the best-built travel cameras around. There's a firm but comfortable hand grip, which offsets the camera's sturdy construction. The mode dial at the top of the camera is pleasing to turn and responsive, while the buttons at the back do their job without taking up too much space. Above the 20x optical zoom lens is a stereo microphone, and there's also a pop-up flash alongside it that raises automatically when needed.

It's a camera simple enough for beginners to use and leave in automatic mode, and be done. Fortunately, for more experienced photographers, there's also a built-in manual mode, as well as program mode, and enough other shooting options to make most people happy.

Shooting options come in the form of intelligent auto; superior auto for reducing blur and noise; program; manual; MR or memory recall; iSweep panorama; movie; 3D; and scene or background defocus modes. There's a built-in GPS for automatically tagging location data on photos.

Photo filters are fun, just like we've seen on other Sony compacts, ranging the gamut from pop art to watercolour effects, and a painterly HDR mode.

Just a few of the photo filters on the HX20V, clockwise from top left: HDR painting, toy camera, watercolour and partial colour.
(Credit: CBSi)

While we're not fans of companies arbitrarily increasing sensor resolution just for the sake of marketing a few more megapixels, the HX20V could strike the balance right. Sony claims that the 18.2-megapixel backlit CMOS camera has an adaptive noise-reduction feature, which optimises each area of the image to best apply noise-reduction techniques. Sony also says that this camera has lowered the noise level to one sixth of that delivered by cameras with the previous technology on-board. We'll see if this holds true in our analysis of image quality.

The high-resolution, 3-inch screen is a big plus point, particularly when compared to other travel cameras in this class, which seem to miss out on pin-sharp displays.

The HX20V is one of the first cameras we've seen to tout its environmental cred openly on its sleeve, made of recycled plastic. The polycarbonate body is made up of 99 per cent reused materials, and is supposed to have excellent heat resistance. We didn't take the liberty of putting it in the microwave to test this claim.

Connectivity is through a mini-HDMI port at the side of the camera, and also through a proprietary mini-USB connector at the base, which doubles as the camera charger when hooked up with its power adapter.

Compared to

Canon PowerShot SX260 HS Sony Cyber-shot HX20V Panasonic Lumix TZ30
12.1-megapixel high-sensitivity CMOS sensor 18.2-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor 14.1-megapixel high-sensitivity MOS sensor
GPS built in GPS built in GPS built in
3-inch 461,000-dot LCD 3-inch, 921,000-dot LCD 3-inch 460,000-dot LCD
25mm wide-angle lens 25mm wide-angle lens 24mm wide-angle lens


General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Start-up to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
    Nikon Coolpix S9300
    Sony Cyber-shot HX20V
  • 20.80.3
    Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ30
    Canon PowerShot SX260 HS

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Continuous shooting speed (in FPS)

  • 10
    Sony Cyber-shot HX20V
  • 7.9
    Nikon Coolpix S9300
  • 4.1
    Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ30
  • 2.5
    Canon PowerShot SX260 HS

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

The HX20V can shoot at 10 frames per second in continuous mode, but only for 10 shots before it stops to process them. Sony rates the battery at 320 shots.

Image quality

Any snapshooter or travel photographer will be pleased with the image quality delivered by the HX20V. Colours are bright and punchy, perhaps a little too over-saturated in the red channel, although this is something that we've noticed before on other Sony compacts.

This camera performs particularly well in low light, and the sensor and image processor is impressive in these situations despite the resolution bump. It's particularly noticeable in superior auto mode, which does exactly what it promises — delivers clearer shots in low light with less noise.

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