Sony's high-end megazoom adds a CMOS sensor, speedy burst shooting, a higher-grade lens, and a couple hundred dollars to the price.
Camera manufacturers seem to have chosen megazooms as their latest battlefield--and thankfully, the fight isn't just about who's got the biggest lens. In this case, the latest player comes from Sony, whose new Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 incorporates several technologies from its Alpha DSLR products, including a 1/2.4-inch 10-megapixel Exmor CMOS sensor (for 9-megapixel images) and 20X f2.8-5.2 28-560mm-equivalent optically stabilized lens based on the company's higher-quality G series lenses.
In theory, the combination should deliver better photo quality than we're used to seeing in this class. (We haven't yet had a chance to review its primary--and also CMOS-based--competitor the Canon PowerShot SX1 IS, but it's been shipping overseas for a little while, so you can read CNET Australia's take on it).
In addition, Sony introduces several interesting continuous shooting modes: an intriguing Dynamic Ultrawide panorama mode that captures sequential images as you slowly pan across a scene and automatically stitches them into a 7,152x1,080 photo; a 10 frame-per-second 10-shot continuous shooting mode that uses a mechanical rather than electronic shutter for, the company claims, less distortion; and Handheld Twilight mode, which combines multiple exposures for a theoretically lower noise, higher detail low-light photo.
The HX1 also features a more advanced movie mode than its lower-end line mates. It can shoot 1080p (1,440x1,080 at 30 frames per second, 12 megabits per second bit rate) MPEG-4 H.264 movies; you can use the zoom while you record.
The resolution is a bit low, but if the HX1 can make up for it with solid high-ISO images--it goes up to ISO 3200--the tradeoff might be worth it. And since the lenses are one of the weakest aspect of most megazooms, I look forward to seeing what a higher grade of lens can do. Especially for the $499 it's going to cost when it ships in mid April.