Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX30V review:

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX30V

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The HX30V's controls are generally easy to use, but the pop-up flash placement isn't the best. Sarah Tew/CNET

Design and features

If you're looking for something slim and lightweight, the HX30V is not the camera for you. Still, all things considered it's remarkably compact and I was able to keep it in my back pants pocket when I was out shooting with it.

Its larger size not only makes room for the 20x zoom lens, but also for things like the bright 3-inch ultrahigh-resolution LCD, making it easy to see and read in daylight (though in direct sun you'll want to crank the brightness). There's a nice rubberized grip on the front and the thumb rest on the back has the same texture. You'll find a programmable Custom button on top that can be used for fast access to exposure compensation, ISO, white balance, metering, and Smile Shutter, Sony's smile-activated shutter release.

Key specs Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX30V
Price (MSRP) $419.99
Dimensions (WHD) 4.3x2.5x1.4 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 9 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 18 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch backside-illuminated (BSI) CMOS
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3-inch LCD, 921K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 20x, f3.2-5.8, 25-500mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/AVCHD (.MTS); MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 (.MP4)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,896x3,672 pixels/1,920x1,080 at 60fps (progressive; 28Mbps)
Image stabilization type Optical and digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life Li-ion rechargeable, 320 shots
Battery charged in camera Yes; via USB to AC adapter or computer
Storage media SD/SDHC/SDXC; Memory Stick Pro Duo
Bundled software PlayMemories Home (Windows), Music Transfer (Windows, Mac)

Menus are easy enough to navigate, and if you're not sure what something does, there's a full manual stored in the camera's memory. There is, however, so much packed into this camera that even seasoned camera users might have trouble remembering where some settings are or how to use a particular feature. Anyone can pick it up, throw it into one of the auto modes, and get a good shot, but to get the most from the camera, you'll want to dive into all of its settings and shooting options.

As mentioned earlier, the HX30V has both built-in GPS and Wi-Fi. The GPS works very well; it never spent very long searching for a signal, even in the middle of the city where the tall buildings can cause problems. However, it will eat into your battery life (which isn't all that long to begin with) and Sony buries the GPS' power in the menu system.

As for the Wi-Fi, it works well, too, and it's pretty uncomplicated to set up. The Wi-Fi can be used to send photos to an iPhone or Android smartphone, connect to a Wi-Fi-enabled TV for viewing, or back up your shots onto a computer. Sony's PlayMemories Home software (embedded in the camera's internal memory) used for sending to a computer is Windows only, but you can use the camera's Wi-Fi to connect directly to a Mac instead of over a network. (This, by the way, will also allow you to convert AVCHD video files to MP4 format on the fly.) If you're not comfortable with poking around with basic wireless settings on your computer or smartphone, you'll probably want to enlist the help of a techie friend to walk you through it.

General shooting options Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX30V
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent white, Fluorescent natural white, Fluorescent day white, Incandescent, Flash, Custom
Recording modes Easy, Intelligent Auto, Superior Auto, Program, Manual, Memory Recall, 3D Still Image, SCN, Background Defocus, Intelligent Sweep Panorama, Movie
Focus modes Multi AF, Center AF, Spot AF, Face Detection (Adult, Child), Manual
Macro 0.4 inch (Wide); 5.6 feet (Tele)
Metering modes Multi, Center, Spot
Color effects Standard, Vivid, Real, Sepia, B&W
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) 10 shots

Like all of Sony's higher-end cameras, the Cyber-shot DSC-HX30V has a lot of shooting options that take advantage of its fast Exmor R sensors and Bionz image processors. For those who like to leave it in auto, there are three options: Easy, Intelligent Auto, and Superior Auto. Easy mode takes away all options except for image size (large or small) and enlarges onscreen text. Intelligent Auto picks from 33 scene types and turns on face detection, dynamic range optimization, and image stabilization. Superior Auto takes Intelligent Auto and adds three multishot modes: Handheld Twilight, Anti Motion Blur, and Backlight Correction HDR. These multishot modes can also be selected as distinct modes in Scene options, along with 12 others like Soft Skin, Gourmet, and Pet.

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In Intelligent Auto and Superior Auto, Sony gives you some extra control over Brightness, Color, and Vividness. Sarah Tew/CNET

If you're willing to take control away from the camera, there are a Program mode and a Manual mode with control over aperture and shutter speed. It's limited to two aperture settings each at the wide and telephoto ends (using a neutral density filter); f3.2 and f8 for wide and f5.8 and f14 for telephoto. There are a few more sets of stops available through the zoom range, too. Shutter speeds are adjustable from 1/1,600 second to 30 seconds. It would've been nice to have aperture-priority and shutter-priority modes as well, but some control is better than none at all. The Program mode will handle shutter speed and aperture while you take care of everything else, including color modes, contrast, color saturation, and sharpness. If you come up with a group of settings you like, the Memory Recall mode lets you store three groups of settings for quick shooting with your preferences.

The HX30V's movie mode is about the best you'll find 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 MP4 format at resolutions of up to 1,440x1,080 pixels. While there is 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 13-megapixel stills, too.

This is really just scratching the surface of what the camera can do. Check out my sample photo slideshow to see some examples of what I'm talking about.

Conclusion: Recommended

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