The photo quality from the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX50V is very good to excellent, though it really depends on your needs and expectations. If you're considering buying this instead of a high-resolution digital SLR, you'd be disappointed. A 20-megapixel sensor doesn't guarantee good image quality and most pictures from the camera viewed at full size aren't impressive. However, there's plenty of usable resolution here, particularly if you're shooting with plenty of light.
Below ISO 400, shots look good printed up to 10x13, which is more than most people need. Getting a very good 8x10 with some enlarging and cropping is certainly possible, too. And if you never print your shots, the HX50's photos look great on a computer screen or HDTV with minor cropping or enlarging.
As the camera goes above ISO 400, subjects do get noticeably softer, but shots are usable at small sizes up to ISO 1600. If you want better low-light shots of still subjects, Sony's Handheld Twilight mode still produces some of the best high-ISO photos I've seen from a point-and-shoot.However, I wouldn't bother using the two highest ISOs, as they look more like artist's renderings than photos and have off colors.
Again, the HX50V is not a dSLR (it can't even capture raw images), but for people looking for a long lens and some better control over results than the average point-and-shoot offers, it's a safe bet.
The best photo quality you'll get is shooting in macro at ISO 80. The camera can focus as close as 0.4-inch from a subject. You can enlarge these images up to 100 percent and see very nice fine details with minimal visible artifacts. (You can view this image at full size toward the end of this slideshow.)
If what you're shooting doesn't look right to you or you want more-accurate colors, the HX50V does have other color modes (from top left to bottom right): Standard, Vivid, Real, Sepia, and Black & White. There are also adjustments for contrast, saturation, and sharpness.
A 30x zoom lens in a (large) pocket camera is certainly impressive. The HX50V's lens starts at a wide 24mm and zooms in to 720mm. Image stabilization is excellent, but to get the steadiest, sharpest shots you'll still want to use some sort of support.
Sony does an excellent job of keeping distortion under control at both the wide (top) and telephoto (bottom) ends of the lens. Center sharpness was very good on my review camera and fringing in high-contrast areas was typically only visible at larger sizes.
For the past several iterations of this camera, Sony included only a full manual mode. The HX50V gets that plus aperture- and shutter-speed-priority modes, and an extra dial for fast, direct control over exposure compensation.
Shutter speeds range from 30 seconds to 1/1,600 of a second. Apertures at the wide end include f3.5, f4.0, f4.5, f5.0, f5.6, f6.3, f7.1, and f8.0 for wide and f6.3, f7.1, and f8.0 for telephoto.
Along with its controls over color, contrast, sharpness, and noise, the HX50V has nine picture effects to experiment with (from top left to bottom right): HDR Painting, Rich-tone Monochrome, Miniature, Toy, Pop, Partial Color, Soft High-key, Watercolor, Illustration, and off.
You may have noticed that the Partial Color filter didn't quite work in the last slide. The camera actually blew out the sky, which was a light blue. Even though the camera was set to highlight blue (you can also choose red, yellow, or green), it didn't work. Here, though, is a better example of what you can do with it, highlighting the blue bikes, but turning everything else black and white.
Sony has had its Sweep Panorama on its Exmor R sensor-based cameras for years now, and while others have copied this pan-and-shoot mode for creating panoramas, Sony still does it the best.
Sony has two versions of its Sweep Panorama mode: one regular, one Intelligent. The cameras with a Sony Exmor R sensor get the latter, which includes the HX50V. The benefit is that it does a better job of handling moving subjects.
This image and the remaining images in this slideshow are available to download at full resolution, by clicking on the "View larger" link. Note: These are large files and will take several seconds to open or download.
This is a good example of what happens at ISO settings above ISO 200. When viewed at small sizes, subjects look very nice and detailed. Viewed larger, things look painterly if you're right on top of them.