Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX50V

The HX50V stuffs a lot of zoom in your top pocket, sporting added bonuses like Wi-Fi and GPS. It comes recommended, though pixel peepers may be deterred.


8.3
CNET Rating

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CNET Editor

Lexy spent her formative years taking a lot of photos and dreaming in technicolour. Nothing much has changed now she's covering all things photography related for CNET.


Photographers who crave plenty of zoom generally look at superzoom cameras that are bigger than your average point-and-shoot, with giant lens barrels and SLR-like features. The HX50V isn't your typical superzoom trapped in the body of an SLR-wannabe though, as it's a compact camera with 30x zoom.

Design and features

In the hand, the HX50V feels very well-built, with a sturdy external construction and textured grips. The lens element, which cleverly hides 30x optical zoom, doesn't protrude too far from the front of the camera. It's a Sony G lens, which opens up to a maximum of f/3.5-6.3 from one wide-angle extreme (24mm equivalent) to the other (720mm).

Behind the lens sits a 1/2.3-inch Exmor R CMOS sensor at 20.4 megapixels. The 3-inch LCD screen is bright and clear, boasting a resolution of 921,600 dots, which makes it easy to see in outdoor situations. The brightness level can also be tweaked according to personal preference.

The HX50V fits neatly in the hand, yet houses a 30x optical zoom lens.
(Credit: CBSi)

At the top of the camera is a mode dial that has full PASM control, as well as regular automatic and Sony's superior automatic for low-light situations, scene selections, movie recording and sweep panorama modes. There's a pop-up flash that needs to be manually activated with a dedicated button at the back of the camera.

The HX50 also has an accessory port, which Sony calls a multi-interface shoe, just underneath the hotshoe. It can accept a range of accessories, from flash units to electronic viewfinders and microphones, backwards-compatible with existing options for Alpha, Handycam and Cyber-shot cameras. GPS is built-in to the camera, as well as the capability to track and log locations of photos.

Unfortunately, the viewfinder accessory is as expensive as the camera itself, with a suggested retail price of AU$499.

Want to see just how close 30x zoom gets you? Here's a comparison shot of the wide-angle end of the lens (top) and furthest extent of the optical zoom (bottom). If you need to get even closer, the HX50V lets you zoom digitally beyond the 30x limitation.
(Credit: CBSi)

Sony has equipped the HX50V with connectivity options aplenty, including built-in Wi-Fi and GPS. Using the PlayMemories Mobile app (Android or iOS), you can control the camera remotely, as well as see the image in live view over Wi-Fi. Then, using the app, you can also download images and video to your mobile device.

Wireless control with the PlayMemories app is very simple. Start up the Wi-Fi function from within the camera menu and the app. The camera will generate a device-specific password; once it has been entered into the app, you can use the mobile as a remote viewfinder. There are only a few options available, such as a self-timer and no exposure control, but it's still very useful for capturing snaps when away from the camera itself. An added bonus is that you still get access to the 30x optical zoom from the app. Either videos or still images can be captured from the app, with the finished images saved on both the camera at full resolution, and on the mobile device at a reduced resolution.

A screenshot from the PlayMemories app, using a smartphone as a remote viewfinder.
(Credit: CBSi)

Like most other Sony cameras, the HX50V has a dual card slot that accepts both SD and Memory Stick Duo cards.

Performance

General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Start-up to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
  • 1.40.60.3
    Nikon Coolpix S9300
  • 20.80.3
    Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ30
  • 2.220.4
    Sony Cyber-shot HX50V
  • 2.41.60.9
    Olympus SZ-31MR
  • 2.52.10.3
    Canon PowerShot SX260 HS

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Continuous shooting speed (in seconds)

  • 10
    Sony Cyber-shot HX50V
  • 7.9
    Nikon Coolpix S9300
  • 7.5
    Olympus SZ-31MR
  • 4.1
    Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ30
  • 2.5
    Canon PowerShot SX260 HS

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

The HX50V has two continuous shooting options, either a burst of up to 10 shots at approximately 10 frames per second, or a burst of 10 shots at 2 frames per second.

Sony rates the battery at 400 shots, or 200 minutes of recording time.

Image quality

Sony delivers good, but not class-winning image quality with the HX50V. Colour rendition is mostly accurate when using default settings, while the lens is reasonably sharp and captures a good amount of detail, particularly at its sharpest point in the centre of the frame.

It's a shame that the sensor inside the HX50V is so small. With a plethora of large sensor compacts on the market, including models from Sony's own range, packing 20 megapixels onto a 1/2.3-inch sensor doesn't make much sense.

When looking at images at full resolution, there's plenty of evidence of over-processing at work, making photos look slightly crunchy. This issue is exacerbated as the ISO level climbs. The happy medium is around ISO 200, where the noise profile is acceptable for maintaining detail if you wanted to make crops or enlargements. The HX50V has an ISO range of 80-12,800, though at ISO 6400 and 12,800, the camera takes approximately five shots in quick succession then stitches them together to help reduce noise. At these high sensitivities, expect plenty of noise, making images only usable for absolute emergency situations.

However, if you are just looking for a camera to share low-resolution shots on the web or small prints, the HX50V is an excellent compromise. The reach of the 30x zoom will be incredibly useful for many photographers, particularly those who want a long zoom in a small, overall package.

Further within the menu systems, Sony offers a range of colour modes for photographers, including vivid, real, sepia, black-and-white and standard. Boosts to contrast, saturation, sharpness and noise reduction are available too. Filters are provided under the Picture Effect sub-menu, and include options such as painting, rich black-and-white and miniature mode.

A selection of picture effects from the HX50V.
(Credit: CBSi)

Video quality is excellent on the HX50V. In fact, we'd go so far to say that it has the best video recording quality of any superzoom camera currently on the market. When shooting in AVCHD 50p, movement is smooth and fluid, while colours appear vivid. Even when zooming in, the image stabiliser kicks in, effectively smoothing out a lot of the handshake when not using a tripod. There are two levels of image stabilisation available for video, either standard or active, the latter being designed to compensate for more shaky situations. The video below was taken with active mode enabled.

Image samples

Exposure: 1/50, f/5.6, ISO 100

Exposure: 1/1250, f/4.5, ISO 80

Exposure: 1/6, f/5, ISO 800

Exposure: 1/800, f/5, ISO 400

(Credit: CBSi)

Conclusion

The HX50V stuffs a lot of zoom in your top pocket, sporting added bonuses like Wi-Fi and GPS. It comes recommended, though pixel peepers may be deterred by some over-processing and noise issues.

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