As well as making the Sony HX50 smaller than its predecessor, the Sony HX20V, the manufacturer has used some of its RX technology to enhance the new model and squeezed in a 30x optical zoom lens.
The Sony G lens has an equivalent focal length of 24-720mm, making it enormously versatile and ideal for sightseers and travelling photographers.
Inside the Cyber-Shot H series camera is a 1/2.3-inch Exmoor R CMOS sensor with 20.4 million effective pixels, and a Bionz processor.
On top of the camera is a mode dial that enables quick switching between exposure modes that include advanced options such as aperture and shutter priority as well as manual mode, and hand-holding options such as scene modes that tailor the camera settings to the subject.
There’s also an exposure compensation dial that enables you to make quick adjustments to exposure when the need arises.
Another key feature is the Multi Interface Shoe, which you can use to mount a flashgun, or perhaps more usefully an electronic viewfinder (EVF).
The sample Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX50 that we used had GPS technology built in, but it seems likely that this will not feature in the final cameras that go on sale in the UK.
While some may be disappointed by this, our experience suggests that most people who have a camera with GPS technology built-in turn it off to avoid draining the battery.
Talking of going on sale, the Sony HX50 will have a full price of £349 / US$449.99 / AU$499 when it goes on sale in May 2013, putting it in the same brice bracket as other high-end compacts and travel zooms such as the Nikon Coolpix P330, Panasonic LF1 and Panasonic TZ40/ZS30.
Build and handling
Whereas the full-frame Sony RX1 is surprisingly small (and frighteningly expensive), the Sony HX50 is about the size you’d expect the average, serious compact camera to be.
But of course it isn’t an average compact camera, because it houses that lens with the huge focal length range. Sony has achieved a very impressive feat in getting a 24-720mm (in 35mm equivalent terms) lens into such a small camera body.
The camera body’s part metal construction also gives it a nice solid feel, while the long grip on the front and the thumb pad on the back give it good purchase in the hand.
Although the Sony HX50 has advanced shooting options, it is very easy to use, with all the main features being accessible via a press of the menu button and a scroll through the list of options on the left of the screen.
Those who are new to photography, or who want to learn more about the Sony HX50’s features, will appreciate the guide that gives and A to Z listing and explanation. It’s an idea that more manufacturers should try.
For this initial hands on review we only used the Sony HX50 for a short time, but we found we got to grips with it very quickly and the controls all seem logically arranged and responsive. We look forward to rigorously testing them in our full review, coming soon.
We were able to use the Sony HX50 on a tourist-style bus ride through central London, taking shots through the windows. While this was great fun, it’s quite a challenge for a camera, giving it little time to focus and of course the windows were not spotlessly clean.
Nevertheless, the Sony HX50 coped very well and produced a selection of well-exposed images with good, vibrant colours, as you can see on the Sample Images page of this review.
Our shots were taken on a bright, sunny day so the highest sensitivity setting we used during the trip was ISO 400. We will have to wait until we get a sample in for full testing to see how the camera performs beyond this.
When magnified to 100% on the screen, even images taken at ISO 100 have a stippled texture, and this becomes more apparent at ISO 400. However, the images look smooth and full of detail when they are sized to make A3 sized (16.5 x 11.7-inch) prints or viewed at sensible screen-viewing sizes.
The long lens proved its worth, enabling tightly framed portrait shots of distant tourists as well as frame-filling images of Nelson on the top of his column in Trafalgar Square. Again the images appear sharp and with plenty of detail at normal viewing or printing sizes.
Although the autofocus system’s performance isn’t in the same league as a DSLR’s, it gave a good account of itself and was quick enough to enable us to get shots as we moved through the city traffic.
We will need to use the Sony HX50 in a much wider range of conditions and shoot a lot more images before we can draw any firm conclusions about it, but our experience with it to date bodes well.
The compact camera looks stylish and feels great in the hand. The controls are also sensibly laid out and responsive.
Our initial shots (seen on the next page) indicate that it produces good quality images that have natural-looking colour and detail that shouldn’t disappoint those looking for a pocketable compact camera that affords plenty of control.
The Sony HX50 looks like worthy competition for the Panasonic TZ40 and friends.
The widest (24mm equivalent) end of the lens is great for sweeping vistas or when you need to squeeze lots into the frame.
This was shot at the 720mm (equivalent) end of the lens and it’s a detail from the building in the wideangle shot above.
Colours are punchy and vibrant without being over the top.
This was shot in manual mode with the exposure set to match the outside conditions, thus rendering the inside of the bus very dark. However, the tonal range looks decent.
This image is a little soft, but it was captured at the longest end of the lens as the bus moved.
There’s no shortage of detail in this long-range shot.
The light-coloured building has fooled the camera into slight underexposure here, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Taken with the selective colour mode set to red to render all but the red objects monochrome.
Nelson in Toy Camer mode.
And again in Sepia mode at the longest point of the lens.
The bus had moved a few meters further away from Nelson’s column by the time we got this shot at the 24mm end of the lens, but it demonstrates the effectiveness of the 30x zoom very well.
Another quick grab shot made possible by the snappy AF performance.
The vignetting seen here comes courtesy of the Toy Camera filter mode.
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