Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX20V Review

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX20V Review


First there was the HX5V, then HX9V … now the HX20V. So we’ve gone from a 10x zoom camera to a 15x, and finally a 20x zoom compact digicam.

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX20V.jpg

I happily use the earlier HX5V as an everyday camera, for holidays and occasionally for shots of review cameras. A good all-rounder but, if I had known of the progression Sony planned — 10x to 15x to 20x — maybe I would have waited for the 20 timer. But probably not, because I would have missed the pleasure over the last two years of owning the HX5V as a capable picture maker.

We’ve come up a bit in body size since the HX5V: it’s about one third overall larger, but placed side-by-side you would barely notice the difference. Weight: about 50 grams heavier. Not much diff.

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX20V-tele.jpg

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX20V Features

The CMOS sensor has a whopping 18.2 million effective pixels on board, which leads to a maximum image size of 4896×3672 pixels. A print? How about 41x31cm in size?

Movies? Captured in AVCHD or MPEG4, the former file format will deliver Full HD 1920×1080 pixel video.

It’s worth noting that the newly-developed Exmor R CMOS image sensor and BIONZ image processor are claimed to produce enhanced image detail and lower image noise even in low light conditions. The claim is that image noise has been reduced to 1/61 to that of the earlier sensors. For me, this is important as the earlier HX5V does not do well in low light!

The body itself is made from a recycled plastic developed by Sony, a durable plastic containing 99% recycled materials and claimed to offer greater heat resistance.

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX20V-back.jpg

The rear 7.6cm LCD is quite bright and useable in most daylight conditions but is absolutely hopeless in full sunlight.

The new HX20V has GPS installed, useful for trekkers to log their position when shooting and to record your progress.

BTW an interesting note and one that should be borne in mind if you’re an inveterate online buyer from overseas resellers: if you live in a country that uses 50 fps (PAL) or 60 fps (NTSC) in TV transmission the camera has an imprint in the base indicating 50i or 60i. It should help you buy the correct version for your country.

The mode dial on the top of the camera has ten positions; these include intelligent or ‘superior’ auto, Program AE or manual exposure; there’s also memory recall, which remembers a custom setting.

This dial also has a position to select sweep panorama, an enormously useful Sony feature that can capture huge panoramas in any of four directions: upwards, downwards, leftwards, rightwards.

Scene Selection.jpg

Same dial: there’s 3D capture, with the image replayable on a 3D compatible TV; a useful dial position that captures the subject with the background ‘defocused’; 15 scene modes such as backlight correction, night portrait and others occupy another position on the mode dial; movie mode is also selected here.

In camera guide.jpg

There’s also an in-camera guide that has much detailed information about the camera’s operation. To be honest, I found it weird that many matters I needed to delve into were in this screen guide but not in the meagre 33 page PDF manual. Weird!

Menu 1.jpg

Near the mode dial is a ‘custom’ button that gives direct access to such matters as exposure correction by two f stops up or down in third stop increments; plus white balance etc.

Mall 3 wide.JPG

Mall 3 tele.JPG

The 20x zoom is of course to die for and I have to admit to some surprise when I found that the optical image stabiliser worked extremely well when the lens was pushed out to this extreme position.


For the price, this does the work of a remarkable video camera! It tracked very smoothly, even with the zoom racked from wide to tele. In wide, the auto focus worked fairly quickly; at full tele the AF was a little slower.

You cannot shoot stills while recording video.

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX20V ISO Tests

Sony HX20V ISO 100.JPG

Sony HX20V ISO 400.JPG

Sony HX20V ISO 800.JPG

Sony HX20V ISO 1600.JPG

Sony HX20V ISO 3200.JPG

Sony HX20V ISO 6400.JPG

Sony HX20V ISO 12800.JPG

Only when the ISO reached 3200 was noise evident. By ISO 6400 noise was up but definition was still very good. By ISO 12,800 the show was falling over but still, for certain shots, it was useable. A remarkable performance!

Startup Time

Two seconds from power on to first shot; subsequent shots about a second apart.


A very good performer, there was no sign of distortion at either end of the zoom. What is also worth mentioning is the auto macro action of the camera: move into the subject as close as 10mm and the camera moves automatically into macro mode, with no distortion. Magic!

Bao's guitar 17.4.12.JPG

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX20V Verdict

Quality: one of the best performers in the compact market.

Why you would buy it: great for Full HD movie shooting; great for macro shooting; 10 fps continuous shooting; excellent high ISO performance.

Why you wouldn’t: no RAW capture; small sensor.
At the end of the day, this is a top performer.

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX20V Specifications

Image Sensor: 18.2 million effective pixels.
Sensor Type: BSI-CMOS.
Metering: Multi-zone, centre-weighted, spot.
Sensor Size: 11mm.
Lens: Sony G f3.2-5.8/4.45-89mm (25-500mm as 35 SLR equivalent).
Shutter Speed: 30 to 1/1600 second.
Continuous: 10 fps.
Memory: MemoryStick Duo/Pro Duo/Pro-HG, SD, SDHC, SDXC plus 105MB internal memory.
Image Sizes (pixels): 4896×3672 to 640×480. Movies: AVCHD 1920×1080, 1440×1080. MPEG4 1440×1080, 1280×720, 640×480.
File Formats: JPEG, 3D MPO, AVCHD, MPEG4.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100 to 12,800.
LCD Screen: 7.6cm (921,600 pixels).
Interface: USB 2.0, AV, mini HDMI, EyeFi and DC input.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery.
Dimensions: 107x62x35 WHDmm.
Weight: Approx. 254 g (inc battery and card).
Price: AUD599.

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Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX20V
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Barrie Smith is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.

Some Older Comments

  • linda July 11, 2013 04:54 am

    i am faced with the same problem as billy boy but do not understand how to fix it. i dont have a mac but rather a regular computer which obviously doesn't have imovie. video clips don't download to picasa (only stills) like from my old canon s90. sam's answer doesn't help. please explain the SIMPLE way to do this. videos don't download to my ipad 4 either.

  • Jennifer July 8, 2013 11:18 am

    When I use the continuous picture option when it takes ten pictures in a row, the camera says "recording" for clout 10 seconds. Is there a way to stop this so that I Jan keep taking pictures. When I was shown the camera in the store it didn't do this. Also sometimes when I just take one picture the camera stops to record. I need it to be fast so I don't miss shots. Sometimes it's crazy slow. I am hoping it's a setting I can change. Thank you for your help.

  • SURESH GOTHWAL January 29, 2013 06:11 am

    The Camera performance is good but if we see the pictures in pc then the image quality is is not as good as in camera, so can any body suggest me how i can capture the more and more clear image.

  • kathy January 17, 2013 12:18 pm

    I bought the HSX20V in June 2011. Marvellous for panoramic shots and sharp zoom. Auto macro handy. Physically the design is not robust or handy.
    1. Veiwfinder marks easily with fingerprints etc and anyone with a speck of sunblock on their hands should stay away! It becomes almost impossible to see the screen image in any sunlight. The screen is also easily scratched if put on any surface without a protective cover.
    2.The multileaved lens cover is vulnerable to dust and damage by any protruding object in pocket or handbag.
    3. The camera turned itself on frequently in my hand bag when in a softer flexible pouch (wetsuit material)
    4. One handed shooting requires a hand hold which often accidentally presses other control buttons.

    This camera was stolen so I replaced it with another for a 3 month camping trip. For 3 weeks I had fun with monochrome and panoramas and good low light shooting. Dust became a problem in outback Australia despite being treated like a delicate item. Software went haywire and zoom jambed. Next 9 weeks with no point and shoot.
    Sent for service inSept 2012. Returned after 6 weeks. Problem still present. Returned to Sony and only received the camera back in december 2012. A new motherboard solved the problem but I had only 3 wks use of the camera in 6 months.
    I would not buy this model again as it is not practical or reliable in the field.

  • nitin May 17, 2012 09:04 pm

    HX20 is good and HX30 is the best with WiFi and GPS.. images are HX30 and details are HS20

  • flo May 16, 2012 06:38 pm

    Hello there Billy,

    I'll go to Bali myself this summer and would like to view your photos if possible, since you took them with your HSX20V.

    How did the camera perform in the Bali climate..and do you have any tips?

    Cheers, flo

  • Eric May 15, 2012 10:53 pm

    I actually just bought this camera before I went to Russia for vacation.

    I just love the shots and this is very handy.

  • billy boy May 14, 2012 10:30 am

    /Users/User/Pictures/iPhoto Library/Masters/2012/05/11/20120511-162020/DSC00025.JPG

    Howdy everyone!

    My first attempt at adding a photo to this URL but imported it straight from iPhoto on MacPro.

    Has this effort been successful?

    Let me know if successful (or not)

    Cheers, Billy

  • billy boy May 13, 2012 12:10 am

    ....was in Ubud in Candidasa-Bali.

  • billy boy May 13, 2012 12:09 am

    Howdy Sam!

    Thanks for the prompt reply...On my MacPro I hadn't actually activated iMovie but once I had, all short videos taken on the HSX20V automatically transferred across. How many frames per second once imported? I dunno but it still looks as good as on the camera viewer.

    Cheers...this place is lens paradise!


  • Sam May 12, 2012 03:21 am

    Reference Billy's comments...

    The reason that the video footage didn't transfer is mainly down to the fact that if the camera is set to AVCHD format the camera captures video at 50 frames per second. Some of the editing programs and even YouTube itself can't really handle this new top frame rate. I encountered the same problem as you and have had to shoot the videos in the high resolution then, on the computer convert them to 25 frames per second.

    Then the videos will work and display correctly :)

  • billy boy May 11, 2012 05:09 pm


    I am very happy as a new owner of the SONY HSX20V and only had it for a week leading up to a trip to Bali....
    i have just exported photos to my MacPro but the short video footages I have taken over the last few days did not transfer...any clues for me anyone.

    Cheers in Bali, Billy

  • Barrie Smith May 11, 2012 10:23 am


    you are quite right: two of the pics are of the HX30V. Sony sent me the wrong pics.

  • Rob May 10, 2012 03:46 pm

    You can shoot stills while recording video just not in 1080p

  • Cornell May 10, 2012 03:28 pm

    I noticed the 10 fps continuous shooting. I use continuous shooting for my 7D, and previously for my 20D, when I'm taking pictures and don't want to have to worry about someone stepping in front of a camera, such as in an urban setting. How easy is to switch between autofocus and manual focus (which is what I do before taking the first shot in continuosu shooting)?

  • Fonk May 10, 2012 03:10 pm

    I noticed that you refer to the DSC-HX20V in your review, but the model # on the camera in the pictures is DSC-HX30V. Are the pictures of the wrong camera, or is it simply a consistent typo in the review?

  • Alexx May 10, 2012 02:15 pm

    Wow, I'm not really one for Point and shoots, but this one seems really nice!

    I personally have the Leica V-lux 30 as my pocket cam.