Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V (Black) review: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V (Black)

Next to that is a Focus button that can change your autofocus mode or, if you're manually focusing, 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.

Key specs Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V
Price (MSRP) $449.99
Dimensions (WHD) 4.9x3.5x3.8 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 1 pound, 4.3 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/Electronic
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 30x, f2.8-5.6, 27-810mm (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, 450 shots (490 viewfinder only)
Battery charged in camera Yes; via AC wall adapter or USB
Storage media SD/SDHC/SDXC; Memory Stick Pro Duo
Bundled software PlayMemories Home (Windows), Music Transfer (Windows, Mac)

The LCD 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, though I found that to be somewhat small. (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 tilting 3-inch LCD makes it easy to shoot above or below eye level. Sarah Tew/CNET

With all its capabilities, the HX200V can be tricky to use, particularly if you're not familiar with more advanced compact cameras. However, the 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.

General shooting options Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V
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, Aperture-priority, Shutter-speed-priority Memory Recall, 3D Still Image, SCN, Intelligent Sweep Panorama, Movie
Focus modes Multi AF, Center AF, Spot AF, Face Detection (Adult, Child)
Macro 0.4 inch (Wide); 6.6 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-HX200V 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 13 others like Soft Skin, Gourmet, and Pet.

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

If you're willing to take control away from the camera, there are Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-speed-priority, and Manual modes for control over aperture and shutter speed. Available apertures are f2.8, f3.2, f3.5, f4.0, f4.5, f5.0, f5.6, f6.3, f7.1, and f8.0 for wide and f5.6, f6.3, f7.1, and f8.0 for telephoto. (You can also turn its neutral density filter on or off.) Shutter speeds are adjustable from 1/4,000 second to 30 seconds. Plus, you get a live view of your exposure so you can see about what you'll get at your chosen ISO, shutter speed, and aperture settings.

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 HX200V's movie mode is one of the best you'll find in its category (though the Panasonic FZ150 bests the HX200V in shutter and aperture controls). 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 (though this is not available when recording at 1080/60p).

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
It might seem like all of the full-size megazooms are about the same, just with different lenses, but they're not. Even among the high-end models from each manufacturer there are differences that might make you choose one over another. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V is an excellent choice for someone looking for a high-performance, long-lens compact camera that's very good in auto, but allows you to tailor your results if you're willing to take some of the control away from it. However, if you want the most control, check out the Fujifilm FinePix HS30EXR and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Fujifilm FinePix HS30EXR
Nikon Coolpix P510
Canon PowerShot SX40 HS

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

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