The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V has one heck of a model name, but it's also known as Sony's top-of-the-line Super Zoom digital camera. Filling the shoes of last year's Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V, the HX200V brings a lot of nifty new features to the table. The camera can record 1080/60p Full HD video, rocks a 30x optical zoom lens and is equipped with Sony's full range of manual and auto controls. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V also has GPS and a few architectural bonuses that make the camera a bit more appealing when compared to some of the other Super Zooms in its class. But the biggest question for me was whether or not the HX200V was superior to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150, my current Super Zoom top pick. Well, it was a close battle, but there could only be one victor. Read on to see which one prevailed.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V
- Great overall image quality, especially 1080/60p Full HD video
- A treasure trove of useful and effective shooting features
- Pro-style manual focus/zoom ring
- Wicked 30x optical zoom with 60x Clear Image zoom
- Excellent Optical Image Stabilization
- Lacks Mic jack and hot shoe
- No RAW shooting
- Menus/interface were a bit sluggish
- Tilting LCD is nice, but it does not flip forward for self-portraits
- No shutter/aperture/ISO adjustment in Video mode
Ideal for: Tourists, sports moms and dads, beginner students, stalkers.
Find it at: Sony Official Site.
Suggested Retail Price: $449.99.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V Design
There was a lot of goodness transpiring in this department, as the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V had a few features that no other Super Zoom offered. First, my favorite tool was the HX200V's Zoom/Focus lens ring. The quality of this control was on par with pro equipment, and it allowed me to delicately zoom in or manually focus with buttery smoothness. The HX200V also had a 3-inch Xtra Fine LCD with a 921,000-pixel TruBlack display. This display was sharp as a tack and it even tilted up and down for capturing shots at difficult angles. Unfortunately, the screen could not be flipped out and rotated for self-portrait shots. Sony also included an electronic viewfinder, though the resolution was a meager 201,000 pixels. I liked the viewfinder's sensor, which transitioned automatically from the LCD when my eye was placed against the eye cup. As a result, there was no need to manually switch from LCD to viewfinder.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V also has a DSLR-style rear control dial that doubles as a selection button. Pressing the dial in summoned various manual controls that could be adjusted by spinning the dial. This was one of the quickest and most efficient methods of camera control adjustment I've seen in the Super Zoom segment, next to the Panasonic FZ150. The HX200V also had a 4-way directional pad with shortcuts like Drive mode and Flash settings. There's a popup flash on top, which will deploy automatically depending on which Flash mode you happen to be in, though there are a few crucial features missing from the HX200V that are present on the Panasonic FZ150. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V lacks a hot shoe and Mic jack, which means we're saddled with the on-board stereo microphone and popup flash. Because of this, I preferred the Panasonic because of its advanced connectivity.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V did, however, trump the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 with its 30x optical zoom lens that could be extended to an absurd 60x Clear Image zoom distance. The HX200V's Clear Image zoom was an advanced digital zoom that exhibited far less pixelation and compression than the digital zooms from other models. The Sony also benefited from an exceptional battery life, courtesy of the InfoLITHIUM battery pack, which displayed remaining stamina in minutes on the LCD screen. The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V offers one of the best designs in its class, but I feel that the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 will take you further, thanks to its Mic jack, hot shoe and rotating, flip-out LCD screen.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V Features
While there were a few key design elements missing from the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V, the camera made up for its deficiencies when it came to features. Much like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150, the HX200V was not only stocked with oodles of automatic controls, but the camera also offered a full suite of manual adjustments. Starting with Auto, the HX200V had two separate Auto modes: Intelligent Auto and Superior Auto, just like the Sony Cyber-shot DSC TX66. Intelligent Auto acts like most Auto modes, selecting from 36 predefined Scene modes and applying the best one. Then there's Superior Auto mode, which captures a series of images in different settings and combines the image together to bring the best of all worlds. However, shooting in Program Auto produced the best results.
Now I've found that most Scene modes on cameras are rather gimmicky, but the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V's Backlight Correction HDR mode worked beautifully by brightening shadows and darkening highlights. Look at the two Nemo's pictures in the Picture Sample section and compare the one shot in Program to the one shot in Backlight Correction HDR and you'll be amazed. Then there was Sony's famous Panorama Sweep mode, which enabled me to press the shutter button and pan up to 180-degrees for a flawless panoramic shot. The one caveat here is that I had to pan the camera quickly, or else the full shot would not capture and a gray block would appear in the area of the image that didn't get recorded. Other Scene modes like Background Defocus and Advanced Sports Shooting worked extremely well.
Outside of the Auto modes, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V was a highly capable manual machine with a shutter speed that descended down to 30-seconds, ISO range of 100-12,800 and f/2.8-f/8 aperture range. The camera had Exposure Bracketing, 10fps continuous shooting at full resolution, a Neutral Density filter with automatic adjustment, Smile Shutter/Face Detection and tons of image controls like Sharpness, Contrast and Saturation. Various nifty Picture Effects could be selected in nearly any shooting mode, including HDR Painting, Pop Color and Illustration. When images were captured in burst rates, the HX200V could display them like a flipbook or hologram in Playback mode by using a motion sensor to shuffle the images back and forth when the camera was tilted to the right or left. The HX200V also had awesome optical image stabilization at full zoom in both picture and video mode.
Lastly, the HX200V also brings forth GPS capability, and I was able to log images and videos and display them on a map in any photo program like iPhoto, flickr or Picassa. The Sony HX200V's GPS functionality was superior to the Nikon Coolpix P510's in many ways, and proved to be one of the better GPS systems on the market. Now unfortunately, the HX200V was slow. Menus seemed to take forever to load and scrolling through options seemed to take forever. The autofocus was not as snappy as I would have expected either, so slowness was my only hangup. Despite this, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC HX200V proved itself as one of the most capable and innovative Super Zooms in its class.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V Image Quality
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V has an 18.2-megapixel 1/2.3-inch Exmor R CMOS Sensor with BIONZ processing, which is what you'll find on most of Sony's high-end point-and-shoots. The strangest thing about the HX200V is that it lacks a RAW shooting mode, which is present on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150. Also, I wasn't able to shoot in a variety of different aspect ratios other than 4:3 and 16:9. 18-megapixel images are beneficial because they can be sized down for better quality, which is needed especially when shooting at higher ISO levels.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V was a great performer, cranking out a still images that were on par with what the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 produced. The multitude of shooting features helped me capture some beautiful images and dazzling long exposure shots, and the camera's high ISO noise management was great, courtesy of the built-in noise reduction. There were times when I had to dial the Exposure Compensation down, which is something I usually have to do with Canon point-and-shoots, but this was an easy remedy. I'd stay away from the Auto modes, however, and stick with good old PASM, as the camera performed at its best in these modes.
As for video quality, the Sony HX200V is a winner. The camera's 1080/60p (progressive) Full HD quality was excellent for a point-and-shoot. Part of the success came from the fact that video shot at the highest AVCHD quality benefited from a 28Mbps bitrate. The detail up close in bright light was fantastic, and low light was not too shabby as well, keeping the noise to a minimum. I would have liked more adjustment in Video mode, however, as I only got to deploy various Scene modes, Intelligent Auto and Exposure Compensation. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 had full shutter, aperture and ISO adjustment in Video mode, so the next iteration of the Sony HX200V should be better equipped in that regard.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V Picture Samples[gallery] [/gallery]
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V Video Samples
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V Conclusion
This is quite a difficult decision, as the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V is neck and neck with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150. Ultimately, I think it comes down to the type of user. If you're not concerned with advanced productions and are looking for a great all-around Super Zoom for family vacations and sporting events, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V is your ticket. It's got oodles of Auto features, a killer manual Zoom ring, tilting LCD and impressive image quality with 1080/60p Full HD.
On the other hand, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 has a Mic jack, hot shoe, RAW shooting, manual controls in Video mode and an LCD screen that flips out for self-portraits. Image quality on the Panasonic is on par with the Sony, so if it was up to me, I'd go with the Panasonic for its advanced features. Both cameras are so close though, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V is an excellent camera that will keep many shooters happy for quite a long time.
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