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I’ve had lots of experience with these mega zoom cameras: some enjoyable, some not so much.
If you’re new to the field, approach them with caution: the zoom range is appealing, impressive and somewhat frustrating.
For one, you simply cannot use them handheld at the full tele end: at best, use a tripod; at worst, lean them on something substantial, like a fence or a wall.
If you’re crazy enough to want to shoot video with the zoom working mid shot … practice, practice.
The Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX50V initially surprised me: feels solid, pocketable, well-balanced in the hand, thanks to a prominent speed grip.
At rest, the camera is only 38mm deep; powered up, the lens protrudes and the depth increases to 73mm; with the zoom fully extended, it reaches 100mm depth.
Most external controls are id’d in white but some are rendered in off-white text. Designers: make ’em all white next time!
Sony claims it’s the world’s smallest 30x zoom, a claim with which I have no argument. The zoom range has a 35 SLR equivalent of 24-720mm, which makes it a very powerful shooting tool.
What sets it apart from most other mega zoom cameras is it ability to capture 20.4 million pixel images. This large image size is of course burdened by a small CMOS size, so noise will be a factor in large prints.
Maximum image size is 5184×3888 pixels or as a 44x33cm print.
Video can be shot in either MPEG4 or AVCHD formats up to Full HD 1920×1080 pixel resolution. You can’t shoot stills while recording video.
For what it’s worth the HX50V model offers enhanced Optical SteadyShot image stabilisation that is claimed to be about twice as effective as the HX200V high-zoom model of last year. It seems to me that each HX model raises the bar in image stabilising. Where will it end?
At first glance I felt the camera had minimal external controls. Anything missing?
No, as far as I could tell, everything appeared to be on deck.
Top surface: at left is the flash cell, with activating button just below; mid-surface is the multi interface shoe to attach electronic viewfinders, flashes or mics.
Moving further right is the power button, zoom lever, leading to the mode dial, with positions for intelligent and superior auto, PASM, scene modes, video, sweep panorama, memory recall. And a dial for exposure compensation.
The scene modes (17 in all) include positions for 3D shooting, fireworks, night portraits etc. Nine picture effects are accessed via the finder menu and these include HDR painting, rich tone mono, pop colour etc.
Rear: buttons for video record, replay, menu and trash. The four position control wheel gives access to self timer/burst shooting, flash options, display and ‘photo creative’ options. There is also a custom button that takes you directly to ISO, white balance, metering mode and smile shutter choices.
The finder menu is graphically clear and not at all intimidating.
The PDF manual I found to be sufficient bot no more than that. For a beginner, it’s poorly laid out and a little jumbled in access to important features.
Only at ISO 6400 did noise become a problem. At ISO 12800 noise was well up and definition down.
No problems at either end of the zoom.
About two seconds from power on I could shoot the first shot; follow-ons as fast as I could tap the button.
Quality: above average.
Why you would buy it: compact; powerful zoom range; integrated WiFi; GPS functionality.
Why you wouldn’t: no RAW capture; no optical finder; no vari-angle finder.
Having already bought a couple of mega zoom compacts, I am loathe to invest more hard-earned shekels in acquiring another one, but this baby is enormously appealing. Please, mummy, can I raid the piggy bank one more time?
Image Sensor: 20.4 million effective pixels.
Metering: Multi pattern, centre-weighted, spot.
Sensor Size: 11mm CMOS.
Lens: Sony G f3.5-6.3/4.3-129mm (24-720mm as 35 SLR equivalent).
Shutter Speed: 4 to 1/1600 second.
Memory: Memory Stick Duo, PRO Duo/PRO-HG Duo/SD/SDHC/SDXC and Micro SD/SDHC cards plus 48MB.
Image Sizes (pixels): 5184×3888 to 640×480.
Movies (pixels): 1920×1080, 1440×1080, 1280×720, 640×480.
Rear LCD Screen: 7.6cm LCD (921,600 pixels).
File Formats: JPEG, AVCHD, MPEG4.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 80 to 12800.
Interface: USB 2.0, HDMI, WiFi, DC.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, DC input.
Dimensions: 108.1×63.6×38.3 WHDmm.
Weight: 272 g (with battery and card).
Price: Get a price on the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX50V at Amazon.