Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V Review

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Today Patrick Dean from Neutralday.com reviews the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V.

sony-cybershot-dsc-hx5v intro image.jpgThe Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V is a 10.2 megapixel compact digital camera that promises to appeal to tech-friendly photographers thanks to a number of very cool features. For starters the HX5V brings a backlit sensor design aimed at improving low light performance, and pairs that with a versatile 10x zoom lens. Next, like a number of recent Sony digital cameras, the HX5V offers photographers several useful shooting modes like Handheld Twilight mode and Anti-motion Blur each of which combine up to 6 rapid fire shots to either reduce image noise or motion blur. Then there’s the iSweep Panorama feature that makes panoramas as easy as pressing the shutter and “sweeping” your intended scene with the camera.

What about video? Well, the HX5V takes HD video (1080i), and provides an HDMI out to let you view both movies and stills on your big screen HDTV. Finally the HX5V will likely be most noted for one additional feature, built in GPS. GPS of course allows the HX5V to “geotag” your photos, data that the photographer can use later to sort photos by location, or to view on Google maps. In short the HX5V is quite a versatile compact camera, though one geared more to the casual photographer than the enthusiast. Let’s go over the highlights.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V Highlights

hx5v front view.jpg

10.2 megapixel “Exmor R” CMOS image sensor: This backlit designed sensor moves the circuitry that normally covers a typical compact’s sensor to the rear of it, theoretically improving its light gathering capabilities

10x zoom “G” Lens 4.25-42.5mm (25-250mm 35mm film equivalent): 10 elements in 7 groups including 4 aspheric elements make for an impressive compact lens, but one hampered by lack of aperture range (basically f/3.5 and f/8.0).

3 Inch LCD Display: The large display is nice enough and works well even in bright light, but lags the competition with a resolution of 230K.

10 FPS Continuous Shooting: In burst mode the HX5V fires of 10 shots in one second, impressive for sure, but it takes almost 10 seconds to then write all those files to memory.

1080i AVCHD Movie Mode: The HX5V allows users to choose between AVCHD (better quality) or MP4 (easier to edit) formats for video. In addition to 1080i at 60fps, the HX5V also shoots 720p at 30fps, and 640×480 at 30fps. The HX5V also records stereo sound.

Integrated GPS and Compass: The HX5V can tag photos with longitude, latitude, and altitude, and also provides a useful compass. The GPS can be turned off to mitigate privacy concerns if desired.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V in the Hands

hx5v rear view.jpg

The HX5V is a handsome little number with a matte black finish and wrap around dark chrome bezel. It’s compact, but not all that thin, still the HX5V easily fits in a front pants pocket, though I’d recommend against its placement in a shirt pocket. Build quality is quite good, the HX5V is expensive for a compact, but it feels up to the price tag. There’s a good deal of “badging” covering the surface of the camera, but it mostly works aesthetically, in looks and build the HX5V largely satisfies.

As far as handling and ergonomic issues are concerned, the HX5V faces the same space challenges that most compacts do, and naturally some things tend to be less than ideal. For the HX5V, the issue is with the lens placement, it’s quite close to the left side of the camera, leaving little room for the left hand to grip during two-handed operation. The second issue is the placement of the stereo speakers. We’re of course grateful to have stereo when many other cameras skimp with mono, but they’re just instantly covered by any normal two-handed position on the camera. Outside those two issues, the HX5V gets things mostly right with a small but useful grip, and effective button and multi-selector placement.

Using the Sony Cyber-shot HX5V

hx5v interface.jpgThanks to a clean and simple interface, the HX5V comes off feeling very approachable. The HX5V does without a good many physical controls, and as such may not appeal to enthusiasts (it’s limited aperture range, and lack of RAW shooting also won’t appeal to those photographers) but the HX5V does thankfully make it super easy to make changes via the interface, the options are well laid out, and even spelled out (literally) so the HX5V is one of those cameras that doesn’t require much manual time.

Actually shooting with the camera is pretty satisfying. You can simply set the HX5V to Intelligent Auto and let the camera do all of the thinking, it does an effective job at picking out the appropriate scene mode, detects faces, and even sorts out when you’re trying macro work (which the lens is very capable at handling at very close distances). In addition to Intelligent Auto, the HX5V provides 11 mostly automated scene modes for shots in specific environments, while also providing a Program mode and Manual mode for photographers who like to handle some of their shooting options. The real interesting options are the previously mentioned Handheld Twilight, Anti-Motion Blur, and iSweep Panorama shooting modes that actually work as advertised.

The first two allow photographers to get shots that would be very tough for your average compact, and iSweep panorama will have you scratching your head as to why this hasn’t been put on every camera, it’s just too easy. Also despite these modes involving the combination of multiple shots, they work seamlessly, and there’s only a short delay for processing. One more shooting mode before moving on, Backlight Correction HDR for subjects that are strongly backlit and at risk for underexposure. This mode combines 2 exposures and combines them instantly in-camera, the results again will have you wanting a similar feature on every camera, it works that well.

hx5v top view.jpg

Overall camera performance is mostly impressive, the camera boots up pretty quickly and focus speeds are amongst the best in the compacts that we’ve tested this year. The HX5V can fire 10 fps (for one second) if desired, but as we pointed out above that does come with a lengthy write to card time. The lens moves through its range in about 1.5 seconds, though it can be a tricky to move it to “just the right point”. There’s a small delay in the transition to playback, but for the most part the HX5V rarely comes off as sluggish.

hx5v bottom view.jpg

Post capture, the HX5V offers some typical playback options, an unobstructed view of your image, or the option of adding shooting information, GPS coordinates, and a histogram. Using the zoom lever provides a magnified view or going the other way, thumbnail and calendar views. Surprisingly the HX5V doesn’t provide very thorough in-camera editing options, you can do some cropping, rotating, and sharpening, but no fun digital filters are provided. The HX5V does provide a nice slideshow option however, where one can even upload their own music file if desired. The slideshow looks amazing on an HDTV, complete with “Ken Burns” effects. An included HDMI adapter makes the hookup easy.

sony hx5v gps.jpg

Lastly there’s that GPS feature to discuss. From what we can tell the GPS is only working when the camera is turned on, which makes sense but does create a small problem. If one takes a picture straight away, the HX5V hasn’t had enough time to find its position and thus you don’t get the appropriate or most accurate (note the “pin” in the water above) geotag data. So for best results, the HX5V should be turned on and given a  couple of minutes to acquire the optimal signal. The camera let’s you know how well connected it is, and the better the connection the more accurate results are. Our results were very good, and thanks to the HX5V, I’m hooked on geotagging.

The camera does include software for viewing your tracking results, but I opted for using iLife and Aperture 3’s “Places” feature which Google maps your results inside the application, in addition to allowing for image searches based on location. I suspect that the GPS feature does eat into battery life, we never got the Sony claimed 310 shots per charge, but it’s a sacrifice worth making for the fun GPS data.

Image and Video Quality

hx5v-building.jpg

Perhaps I was taken in a bit too much by the hype, but I was disappointed by the image quality offered by the backlit 10.2 megapixel sensor. It is on the high side of average, but I’m not finding big advantages in overall IQ or low light image quality relative to other compacts. But the HX5V does take a very appealing picture that has a “something about it” quality that grows on you, and in the end makes lovely small to medium sized prints. Technically, exposures are pretty good, with a tendency towards overexposure. Lens aberrations and distortion are well controlled, likely through in-camera trickery, but that’s fine with us. Pixel peeping will reveal very heavy-handed noise reduction and a tendency to oversharpen. Low light performance is better than average, but not Canon Powershot S90 good. Our opinion is that in-camera noise reduction plays a larger role than sensor technology, but the HX5V does a really good job at maintaining saturation even at its highest ISO 3200 setting.

hx5v iso crop source.jpg

hx5v iso.jpg

On the video side of things, the HX5V provides very satisfying results especially in the AVCHD 1080i mode. Movie recording couldn’t be easier, the HX5V offers a dedicated movie record button that can be implemented at any time, and optical zooming works while filming (quietly enough to be used as well). Playback on an HDTV looks great, but there can be some lens distortion issues (in-camera tricks not working in video?), and low light video generally looks underexposed.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V Verdict

hx5v three quarter view.jpg

In most regards the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX5V scores high marks where it needs to. It’s a nice looking camera, packed with actually useful special features, several of which are bound to spoil users when compared to other camera’s so-called special features. We’ll admit to not being sold on Sony’s backlit sensor technology, but that shouldn’t be taken to mean the HX5V doesn’t take a pretty picture, it certainly does. Factor in high quality HD video, the 10 fps continuous shooting, fast autofocusing, and super-fun geotagging, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V easily ranks as one of our favorites for the year. No question it comes “Highly Recommended”.

Get the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V

Additional Image Samples

hx5v-collie.jpg

hx5v tollhouse.jpg

hx5v-brickwall.jpg

Patrick Dean is the editor of the photography news and review website, Neutralday.com. He’s always looking for more fans at Facebook.com/neutralday and followers at twitter.com/neutralday.

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Review Date
Reviewed Item
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V
Author Rating
5

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  • ddr

    As an owner of the HX5V, I agree that the image quality is not S90 or LX3 quality. But I must advertise for them the usability of the handheld twilight mode, sweep panorama, and HDR mode. I bought this for my gf for the ease of use, and not needing to teach her the basics of photography; afterall, it’s a point&shoot.

    the handheld twilight mode take 6 (as i remember) fullres (10MP) in a single burst and stitches them on the fly to try to create a sharp picture. It works.

    the sweep panorama mode allows you to sweep (move the camera in one smooth sweeping motion) vertically or horizontally and stitches the pictures on the fly for you. The thing I like the most about this was the uniform exposure. It also works very well (with practice).

    the HDR mode isn’t as magical as it sounds, but aiming at the brightest parts of the scenes first to get an exposure lock helps. However, this also means that focus is on those bright parts if you didn’t intend so.

    I originally had my eyes on the S90 and LX3, but their zoom range is too limited for traveling use. You might think the lens is soft at the maximum focal length, but it delivers pretty decent results since it can stitch the pictures together in handheld twilight mode to create a sharp image! I never liked Sony’s P&S, namely for their so-so slim targeted at young females at a club T-series. The modes I mentioned, however, should be adopted for every camera.

    On a side note, the NEX3/5 is adopting the sweep panorama and handheld twilight modes. i can’t imagine the extra stops you’d get if it can successfully work on 15MP DSLR quality images.

  • cool camera…i like it…nice post

  • Alicia Holmes

    Cool. 🙂 I live near where the google maps screenshot was taken.

  • Looks like an interesting camera. Is it small enough to carry around in your pocket?

  • jake

    im really interested to see what the panoramic shots end up actually looking like. anyone with examples please post =)

  • ddr
  • Mary

    Lens cover flaps broke today after only 2 months of use (about 1500 photos), it won’t open all the way by itself, I can push the flaps apart with my fingers, but then the bottom flap won’t close, it sticks open. I have to pay shipping and insurance and send it to Texas for repairs, let’s see how that goes.
    I liked the GPS feature, but was not impressed with the quality of the photos, and the screen is nearly invisible in bright light.

  • Thanks for the review. I have a new HX5V. Works nicely except for GPS. The GPS icon has a little circle with a line through it next to it, presumably that means the GPS is not synced up. (My iPhone GPS is fine, so I’m getting a GPS signal.) The manual has no info about what this means or how to get it to work. I took it outside for several minutes but the circle/line icon stayed, didn’t get any bars or anything. Anyone know what the problem is?

  • Mary

    Update on repair service. I got the camera back from service two days after they received it, they replaced the lens unit, it works fine so far. I was impressed with how fast it came back.

  • Jacob Pedersen

    I have had the DSC-HX5V for about 6 months now. And from I saw the first picture on my laptop been frustarted about the softness of the pictures. It is a shame that there are no posibility of adjusting sharpness/softner… I really think the over softness of the pictures is spoiling a good camera.

    The GPS is a little slow. I just turn on the camera when feeling like taking a picture… then the first few pictures does not have the correct GPS posistion. I think it takes about a 1-2 minutes before the GPS is ready.

    This camera is amazing when taking pictures in low light areas, have never seen anything better.

    I cannot live with the softness / lack of sharpness of the pictures so will hand this camera on to an other. I will get a Lumix DMC-TZ10 and hope for better picture quality.

  • Hallo,

    super Kamera, hier ist mein Testvideo

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITEIffXFQ8E

  • This is a great compact camera that is easy to take with you anywhere! The picture and video quality is great and easy to use.

Some Older Comments

  • joasan October 31, 2011 04:03 pm

    This is a great compact camera that is easy to take with you anywhere! The picture and video quality is great and easy to use.

  • Butter Keks November 14, 2010 12:32 pm

    Hallo,

    super Kamera, hier ist mein Testvideo

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITEIffXFQ8E

  • Jacob Pedersen November 7, 2010 01:58 am

    I have had the DSC-HX5V for about 6 months now. And from I saw the first picture on my laptop been frustarted about the softness of the pictures. It is a shame that there are no posibility of adjusting sharpness/softner... I really think the over softness of the pictures is spoiling a good camera.

    The GPS is a little slow. I just turn on the camera when feeling like taking a picture... then the first few pictures does not have the correct GPS posistion. I think it takes about a 1-2 minutes before the GPS is ready.

    This camera is amazing when taking pictures in low light areas, have never seen anything better.

    I cannot live with the softness / lack of sharpness of the pictures so will hand this camera on to an other. I will get a Lumix DMC-TZ10 and hope for better picture quality.

  • Mary June 23, 2010 02:13 pm

    Update on repair service. I got the camera back from service two days after they received it, they replaced the lens unit, it works fine so far. I was impressed with how fast it came back.

  • Ashwin Ram June 23, 2010 07:37 am

    Thanks for the review. I have a new HX5V. Works nicely except for GPS. The GPS icon has a little circle with a line through it next to it, presumably that means the GPS is not synced up. (My iPhone GPS is fine, so I'm getting a GPS signal.) The manual has no info about what this means or how to get it to work. I took it outside for several minutes but the circle/line icon stayed, didn't get any bars or anything. Anyone know what the problem is?

  • Mary May 28, 2010 02:16 pm

    Lens cover flaps broke today after only 2 months of use (about 1500 photos), it won't open all the way by itself, I can push the flaps apart with my fingers, but then the bottom flap won't close, it sticks open. I have to pay shipping and insurance and send it to Texas for repairs, let's see how that goes.
    I liked the GPS feature, but was not impressed with the quality of the photos, and the screen is nearly invisible in bright light.

  • ddr May 15, 2010 08:31 am

    http://www.flickr.com/groups/dsc-hx5/

  • jake May 14, 2010 11:17 pm

    im really interested to see what the panoramic shots end up actually looking like. anyone with examples please post =)

  • Zack Jones May 14, 2010 11:12 pm

    Looks like an interesting camera. Is it small enough to carry around in your pocket?

  • Alicia Holmes May 14, 2010 09:40 pm

    Cool. :) I live near where the google maps screenshot was taken.

  • Norris May 14, 2010 11:42 am

    cool camera...i like it...nice post

  • ddr May 14, 2010 07:40 am

    As an owner of the HX5V, I agree that the image quality is not S90 or LX3 quality. But I must advertise for them the usability of the handheld twilight mode, sweep panorama, and HDR mode. I bought this for my gf for the ease of use, and not needing to teach her the basics of photography; afterall, it's a point&shoot.

    the handheld twilight mode take 6 (as i remember) fullres (10MP) in a single burst and stitches them on the fly to try to create a sharp picture. It works.

    the sweep panorama mode allows you to sweep (move the camera in one smooth sweeping motion) vertically or horizontally and stitches the pictures on the fly for you. The thing I like the most about this was the uniform exposure. It also works very well (with practice).

    the HDR mode isn't as magical as it sounds, but aiming at the brightest parts of the scenes first to get an exposure lock helps. However, this also means that focus is on those bright parts if you didn't intend so.

    I originally had my eyes on the S90 and LX3, but their zoom range is too limited for traveling use. You might think the lens is soft at the maximum focal length, but it delivers pretty decent results since it can stitch the pictures together in handheld twilight mode to create a sharp image! I never liked Sony's P&S, namely for their so-so slim targeted at young females at a club T-series. The modes I mentioned, however, should be adopted for every camera.

    On a side note, the NEX3/5 is adopting the sweep panorama and handheld twilight modes. i can't imagine the extra stops you'd get if it can successfully work on 15MP DSLR quality images.

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