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Sony Cyber-shot HX300 packs long lens, powerful image stabilization to match

We get our hands on Sony's newest megazoom, the 20-megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-HX300, and its giant lens.

Joshua Goldman Managing Editor / Advice
Managing Editor Josh Goldman is a laptop expert and has been writing about and reviewing them since built-in Wi-Fi was an optional feature. He also covers almost anything connected to a PC, including keyboards, mice, USB-C docks and PC gaming accessories. In addition, he writes about cameras, including action cams and drones. And while he doesn't consider himself a gamer, he spends entirely too much time playing them.
Expertise Laptops, desktops and computer and PC gaming accessories including keyboards, mice and controllers, cameras, action cameras and drones Credentials
  • More than two decades experience writing about PCs and accessories, and 15 years writing about cameras of all kinds.
Joshua Goldman
3 min read

For those who want the longest lens possible in a compact camera, there's a new entry to check out from Sony.

The Cyber-shot HX300 features a 50x f2.8-6.3 24-1200mm lens and a 1/2.3-inch 20-megapixel Exmor R backside-illuminated CMOS sensor. The zoom range is the same as found on the Canon SX50 HS and Fujifilm SL1000, but its apertures are wider at both ends (though just marginally more so than the SL1000).

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The f2.8 aperture at 24mm helped keep the sensitivity to ISO 80 for this shot taken at 1/60th second. Too bad it slows down to f6.3 in telephoto. Click the image to view at full size. Joshua Goldman/CNET

The camera's lens can focus as close as 0.4 inch from a subject for macro shots. With the lens fully zoomed in, though, you'll need to be standing a little less than 11 feet from what you're shooting to get the camera to autofocus.

This was taken at 1,200mm (f6.3, 1/250th second, ISO 640). Click the image to view at full size. Joshua Goldman/CNET

The new lens also features improved autofocus (AF) for better performance in telephoto and enhanced optical image stabilization (OIS) made possible by "a second zoom group of lens elements that shifts rapidly to correct for the slightest of hand movements."

The OIS did work really well, so unless you're shooting in low light, you should have no problem getting clean shots with the lens zoomed in. The AF was also nice and fast, even with the lens extended, which is usually a problem for megazoom cameras.

Shot-to-shot times vary depending on how much processing the camera has to do, but overall they felt fast. (There is no raw format option, by the way; it captures JPEG only.) Unfortunately, the burst shooting is the same as it has been for the past few years, where it takes 10 shots in a second and then keeps you waiting a couple of seconds per shot while it stores the images. There's also no option to continuously shoot with AF.

Sony Cyber-shot HX300 (hands-on pictures)

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The camera doesn't look all that different from its predecessor, the Cyber-shot HX200V. It's a big, comfortable-to-use camera with some direct control over settings, and this model, unlike the less expensive H200, does have an electronic viewfinder to go along with its tilting 3-inch LCD.

There's still no hot shoe and no mic input. There's also no GPS or Wi-Fi, but there is a Multi Terminal Micro-USB port for "intelligent communication between the camera and compatible accessories," so it could be that Wi-Fi and GPS adapters will be available as accessories. Then again, in the past, this was just Sony's way of saying it handles both transfers to computers, A/V output, and, in this case, charging as well.

The HX300's shooting options are basically the same, too, though you can now use the camera's Picture Effects mode for photos and movies. Basically, if you're considering upgrading, you'd be doing it for the lens and faster AF, but the HX200V was already quick. It's just with the increased range, Sony likely needed to rework things to keep the HX300 speedy.

Look for the Sony Cyber-shot HX300 in stores starting in March for $500. Be sure to check back here for a full review.