The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX30V ($419.99 direct) is a compact point-and-shoot camera with a long 20x zoom lens. The 18-megapixel shooter captures sharp photos, does well in dimmer light, and offers GPS and Wi-Fi functionality—so you can geotag your photos and beam them to your computer, phone, or TV. Even though it’s more expensive than more basic models, it manages to oust the aging Nikon Coolpix S9100 ($329.95, 4 stars) as our Editors’ Choice compact superzoom camera.
Design and Features
Just 2.5 by 4.25 by 1.4 inches (HWD) and 9 ounces, the DSC-HX30V is a little bit larger and heavier than the 20x Canon PowerShot SX260 HS ($349.99, 4 stars) which is 2.4 by 4.2 by 1.3 inches and 8.2 ounces. Even though it’s not the smallest model you can find, the fact that there’s a 20x (25-500mm equivalent) zoom lens in a body this size remains impressive.
For a camera of its size, the HX30V includes a good number of physical controls. There’s a physical mode dial up top, along with a zoom rocker and shutter release. The rear panel houses controls for the Drive Mode, Flash, and video recording. There’s a Custom button that can be programmed to adjust EV Compensation, ISO, White Balance, Metering, or the Smile Shutter—I set it to control EV when shooting with the camera, as that is an extremely useful feature. Other common settings are adjusted by hitting the Menu button. This brings up an overlay menu, which occupies the left side of the display, and provides quick access to ISO, Picture Effects, White Balance, Focus, Metering, and others. You can set the menu to appear in one of three color schemes: black, white, or pink.
You’ll be browsing through the software shooting controls on a 3-inch LCD with a 921k-dot resolution. It’s extremely bright and sharp, as you would expect for a camera at this price. The only camera in this class with a higher-quality rear display is the Samsung WB850F ($379.95, 3.5 stars), which packs a 3-inch a 921k-dot-resolution OLED screen. Even though they pack the same number of pixels, the Samsung’s display just looks better when viewed next to the Sony’s.
Sony’s implementation of Wi-Fi sharing here is a bit different than that of the Samsung WB150F ($229.99, 3.5 stars) or the Canon PowerShot Elph 320 HS ($279.99, 3.5 stars). Sharing directly to your smartphone involves downloading an iOS or Android app and connecting your phone to a hotspot created by the camera. It’s fairly painless, and the camera uses the same password from session to session so you can save the network information easily.
Connecting to your computer via Wi-Fi is another matter. First, you’ll need to connect the camera to your PC using the included USB cable and install the PlayMemories software included on the camera, or download the Wireless Auto Import software for OS X. Windows users will have to take the additional step of installing the HX30V device drivers, but once everything is configured the camera can wirelessly transmit photos to your computer with only a button press. I was able to transfer six photos in about 35 seconds on my home 802.11n network, although transfer speed will vary based on network traffic and quality. Unlike the Samsung Wi-Fi implentation, there’s no way to push photos directly to online services or control the camera from your phone. If Wi-Fi isn’t important, Sony also sells this camera sans wireless features as the Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V for $20 less.
The GPS function automatically adds geographic coordinates to your photos, so you can later see on a map exactly where each photo was taken. Software and Web services that support this functionality include Picasa, Lightroom, iPhoto, Aperture, and Flickr. It took the camera a little more than 3 minutes to lock onto the GPS signal the first time the service was enabled, which lags behind the Nikon Coolpix S9300 ($349.95, 2.5 stars), which found the satellites in less than a minute.
Performance and Conclusions
The HX30V is one of the faster compact superzooms that we’ve tested. It starts and shoots in about 1.5 seconds and delivers a shutter lag that is very close to zero, which is a boon for candid and action photography. The camera grabs a 10 shot burst at just under 7 frames per second, but requires a 9.9-second recovery time after the burst. If you want a camera that can shoot longer bursts, consider the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS —it can rattle off shots continuously at 2 frames per second, and is no slouch with a 1.8-second boot time and a 0.2-second shutter lag.
I use Imatest to measure the sharpness of images captured by the HX30V’s 20x zoom lens. At its widest setting, photos captured a very impressive 2,363 lines per picture height—well in excess of the 1,800 lines required for a sharp image. It’s a very sharp lens in a class of cameras that generally scores well—even the more budget-oriented Olympus SZ-12 ($199.99, 3.5 stars) resolved a respectable 1,793 lines.
In addition to sharpness, image noise is a major factor in determining photo quality. If you set a camera’s sensitivity to light, measured in ISO, too high, image noise can add graininess and sap detail. The HX30V keeps noise under 1.5 percent through a respectable ISO 800, and more impressively photos at that setting retain a good amount of detail. Noise increase to 1.8 percent at ISO 1600, but detail is still good. Compare this with the Nikon S9300 —even though it keeps noise out of photos through ISO 3200, it does so at the cost of fine detail. Even at ISO 800, its photos are nowhere near as sharp as those from the HX30V at the same setting.
Video is captured in AVCHD format at 1080p60 or 1080i60 quality at a few different bit rates—including a one that maximizes recording time, but grabs video at a resolution that is not fully HD (1,440 by 1,080). As long as you don’t opt for 60p, you’ll also be able to capture 13-megapixel stills while recording video. The footage is crisp and bright, and the camera can zoom and focus while rolling footage. The sound of the lens moving in and out is only barely audible on the soundtrack. If you have a Wi-Fi-enabled TV, you can view photos wirelessly, and there’s also a standard mini HDMI port for those of us still struggling with wired televisions. There’s no dedicated battery charger included; to recharge the camera, you’ll have to plug it into an outlet via the included micro USB cable and AC adapter. In addition to standard SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards, Sony’s Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo, and Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo are supported.
If you’re in the market for a compact camera with a long lens, and money isn’t an object, the full-featured Sony DSC-HX30V is the way to go. It delivers excellent image quality, automatically geotags your photos, and can transfer shots to your iPhone or Android phone via Wi-Fi. It nabs our Editors’ Choice for compact superzoom cameras. But if the price is just a bit too much and you’re willing to live without Wi-Fi, don’t discount what could be considered our runner-up—the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS also earned a 4-star rating, and is available for $70 less. There’s also the Sony HX20V, which is $20 less expensive and, aside from the lack of Wi-Fi support, is the same camera—however, it’d be an easier sell if the price difference was more significant.
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|Dimensions||2.5 x 4.25 x 1.4 inches|
|Interface Ports||micro USB, mini HDMI|
|Battery Type Supported||Lithium Ion|
|Recycle time||0.15 seconds|
|LCD size||3 inches|
|Media Format||Memory Stick Duo, Secure Digital, Secure Digital High Capacity, Memory Stick Pro Duo, Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
|Optical Zoom||20 x|
|Boot time||1.5 seconds|
|35-mm Equivalent (Wide)||25 mm|
|Waterproof Depth (Mfr. Rated)||0 feet|
|Video Resolution||1080i, 1080p|
|Lines Per Picture Height||2362|
|LCD Aspect Ratio||4|
|35-mm Equivalent (Telephoto)||500 mm|
|Shutter Lag||0 seconds|
|Sensor Size||6.2 x 4.6 (1/2.3") mm|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc