The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX10V combines two of Sony's compact megazoom cameras from 2011: the HX7V and the Editors' Choice-winning HX9V. Basically, it has the HX9V's body and 16x, f3.3-5.9, 24-384mm Sony G lens, but the controls and shooting options of the HX7V. Of course, if you're not familiar with either camera, all you really need to know is that the HX10V has a nice lens, a good assortment of shooting capabilities, and turns out pleasing photos and video.
The list of reasons not to consider the HX10V is fairly short, but depending on your needs or expectations, they could be enough to go with another camera.
For example, its 18-megapixel resolution shouldn't be used as a gauge of image quality. It's basically little more than marketing at this point (and that really can be said about most compact cameras). The same goes for ISO sensitivities; the HX10V goes up to an unusable ISO 12800. Just because those are things you'd find in an SLR does not mean that you're going to get SLR-quality photos here. Pixel peepers expecting sharp fine details free of noise and artifacts when photos are viewed at full size on screen won't find that even at its lowest ISOs.
|Key specs||Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX10V|
|Dimensions (WHD)||4.1x2.4x1.3 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||8.3 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||18 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch backside-illuminated CMOS|
|LCD size, resolution/viewfinder||3-inch LCD, 921K dots/None|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||16x, f3.3-5.9, 24-384mm (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 (interlaced; 24Mbps)|
|Image stabilization type||Optical and digital|
|Battery type, CIPA rated life||Li ion rechargeable, 340 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)|
That said, at reduced sizes, photos do look very good even at higher ISO settings. If most of your shots end up on Facebook or get turned into photobooks or 8.5x11 prints or smaller, you'll probably be more than satisfied with the HX10V's results. And as long as you're not going to make large prints with them, there is room to crop and enlarge before things look too painterly.
Sony's cameras generally turn out bright and vivid colors and that's the case here. However, if you're not thrilled with its color processing for a particular shot, Sony's added simple sliders for brightness, hue, and saturation, so you can tune them to your liking. What's better is that they're available in the auto modes, which is unusual but definitely welcomed. (Read more about the photo quality of the HX10V in the sample photo slideshow.)
Movies captured by the HX10V are excellent as well. The 60i frame rate and image stabilization make for some smooth movement, too. You will see some ghosting with fast-moving subjects, though, and things look a little oversharpened on occasion. It won't replace a full-fledged HD camcorder, but if you'd like a single device for capturing good photos and videos, this is one of the better options available. The optical zoom does work while recording (though you will hear it moving in quiet scenes), and the stereo mic is a nice extra.
|General shooting options||Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX10V|
|ISO sensitivity (full resolution)||Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800|
|White balance||Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, White Fluorescent Lighting, Natural White Fluorescent, Day White Fluorescent, Incandescent, Flash, Manual|
|Recording modes||Intelligent Auto, Superior Auto, Program, Scene, iSweep Panorama, Background Defocus, Picture Effect, 3D Shooting, Movie, Manual|
|Focus modes||Multi AF, Center AF, Spot AF, Face Detection (Adult, Child)|
|Macro||1.9 inches (Wide); 3.3 feet (Tele)|
|Metering modes||Multi, Center, Spot|
|Color effects||Brightness, color, and vividness controls|
|Burst mode shot limit (full resolution)||10 shots|
Like all of Sony's higher-end cameras, there are a lot of shooting options that take advantage of its fast sensors and 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 are also selectable as distinct modes in Scene options, along with 12 others like Soft Skin, Gourmet, and Pet.
There is a full manual option for 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); f3.3 and f8 for wide and f5.9 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 to 30 seconds. It would've been nice to have aperture- and shutter-priority modes as well, but some control is better than none at all. Also worth mentioning is that the HX10V has exposure and white balance bracketing that will take three photos, one at the exposure you select and then two more at plus and minus 0.3EV, 0.7EV, or 1.0EV. It doesn't do this terribly fast, though, so you may want to use a tripod and use this only with still subjects. (Read more about the HX10V's shooting capabilities in the sample photo slideshow.)
As for shooting performance, the HX10V is on par with other CMOS-based compact megazooms. From off to first shot is 1.1 seconds with a shot-to-shot time of 1.8 seconds. Turning on the flash, though, slows the camera down to 4 seconds between shots. Its shutter lag -- how quickly a camera captures an image after the shutter-release button is pressed without prefocusing -- is very good at 0.3 second in bright lighting and 0.7 second in dim conditions with less subject contrast.
The camera's burst shooting mode is capable of up to 10fps, but in our more demanding test it averaged 7.5fps, which is still very good. 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. Though its speed is excellent for a point-and-shoot, that doesn't mean it's going to be perfect for shooting active kids and pets. Especially since its many multishot modes require still subjects.
With all its capabilities, Sony managed to keep the overall design pretty simple. The body is a bit chunky, but will still fit in a jacket pocket. The screen is large and bright, making it easy to see in bright conditions (you might still struggle in direct sun, though). There's a nice rubberized grip on the front and an indent on back for your thumb.
Menus are easy enough to navigate, and if you're not sure what something does, there's a full manual stored on the camera accessible at the push of a button. Though most people familiar with digital cameras will have little trouble using the HX10V out of the box, some of the shooting modes have a lot of settings and need to be used in specific ways; it might take some time to get acquainted with all this camera can do. Also, the interface is a little sluggish, especially when changing shooting modes.
There are a few design things that were less than perfect. The buttons on back are very tiny and could potentially be too small for some to press easily. Similarly, the movie record button is small and you can barely feel when it's been pressed. Moreover, since it takes a couple of seconds for the camera to start recording, there were times when I pressed it and wasn't sure it was recording, only to have it start and stop because I had pressed it a second time. So part user error and part design problem with that. Also, the pop-up flash isn't in the best location, but that happens a lot with compact megazooms.
Sony switched to charging the camera battery in the camera via USB for some of its models. You can charge it by connecting to a computer or the included wall adapter. The battery life is a CIPA-rated 340 shots, which is very good, but if you're shooting a lot of video, have the display brightness cranked up, or are using a lot of the multishot modes or burst shooting, this will cut into your battery life. If you buy a backup battery you'll probably want to buy an external charger as well, or just plan ahead.
Lastly, with all of this camera's capabilities it's easy to forget that it has a built-in GPS receiver and compass. 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 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. There is also a GPS Log option so you can track and later view the path and images on a map.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX10V has a lot to offer. There are plenty of reasons to get out of auto mode here and overall the results are very, very good. It has a couple design issues and its best photos require some understanding of how the camera works. But, in general, it's one to put on your short list.
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