Sony has unveiled its 2012 Cyber-shot compact camera range. Macworld got some hands-on time with several of the new models.
One of the more advanced models, the DSC-HX200V, is a bridge model with an 18.2MP CMOS, a 30x optical zoom and high-speed autofocus. It offers full manual controls, a range of art effects including selective colour, toy and pop art, and supports both 3D photo capture and 50p video capture. This camera is the successor to the HX100V bridge camera that Sony unveiled last year. The main difference between the two is that the 200V has an 18.2MP CMOS Exmor R sensor, while its predecessor could capture 16.2MP. This same sensor has now been extended to cheaper cameras in the Cyber-shot range. Note, though, that the HX200V creates jpeg image files and does not support RAW - a surprising omission in a bridge camera.
Sony has subtly tweaked some of the HX200V's controls so that, alongside the manual controls are user-friendly auto settings. The tiltable LCD screen makes it easy to capture shots from unusual angles, though we found we were still unable to satisfactorily frame the distinctive black and white Liberty's building from our roof terrace perch opposite.
Controls on the rear are flush with the camera body and not especially large. However, in contrast to the WX100V camera also on show last night, we had no trouble selecting items we wanted. There's a dedicated playback button plus the usual navipad dial for accessing most menu items.
Bracketing, white balance and other standard camera controls are joined by some very a la mode effects. Our favourite here was the selective colour feature. This desaturates most of the photo, leaving a moody monochrome palette. You choose one of four accent colours - red, blue, green or yellow - and the camera picks out those and those alone. With light levels fading fast, we were impressed to be able to take shots suffused with a deep blue background.
The rocker used to control the HX200V's 30x lens is joined by a useful adjustable lens ring. Fast focusing is a big selling point: Sony states a time of 0.13 seconds in bright lighting conditions, while low-light situations such as those we encountered when testing camera last night, require 0.21 seconds to properly focus. To the camera's credit, even with the last glimmer of twilight we were able to capture largely blur-free shots, without flash, on a point-and-near-instantly-shoot basis. This, of course, is also down to the highly effective Super SteadyShot technology built in to many Sony cameras, including this one.
Pricing for the Sony Cyber-shot HX200V was not revealed but the HX100V currently costs around £399. A launch price of little more than this is anticipated. The camera goes onsale in the UK in mid-March.
Other Cyber-shot models
A second 18.2MP model, the HX20V, sports a 20x optical zoom, full HD 1920 x 1080 video capture at 50p and GPS photo geotagging. In contrast to the HX200V, the Cyber-shot HX20V comes in a compact body and makes use of an AA (advanced aspherical) zoom lens. This allows Sony to keep the camera's body to a modest 34.6mm thick and the overall weight to just 221g. The HX20V has a 3in Xtra Fine LCD, which comes in handy when shooting video. As with the HX200V, this camera supports 'proper' HD video capture at 1920 x 1080i and at 50i and 50p. Video can be recorded in AVCHD format, with footage kept blur-free thanks to Sony's Active Mode image stabilisation.
The thinnest model in the 2012 Cyber-shot line-up is the TX20. This takes a Carl Zeiss lens rather than the G lens found in several of the other models, including the 90V, which we also got some valuable hands-on time with. The TX20 is a 16.2MP camera with 4x optical zoom in a 12.2mm body (17.9mm if you take the lens cover into account). It is also capable of AVCHD video capture at 50i. Weighing a mere 118g, the TX20 is a geared up for shooting sporting action, with a tough casing partially made from recycled plastics and that can withstand drops from up to 150cm. It can be submerged to depths of 5m without damage and can withstand extreme cold.
Hands-on with Sony Cyber-shot WX100
Not quite the thinnest or lightest of the new Sony range, the 18.2MP WX100 is mechanically the most impressive: it packs in a 10x optical zoom yet has a camera body depth of just 17.5mm. As with most of the new Cyber-shot models announced this week, it uses a Sony G lens with 1/ 2.3in Exmor R CMOS and supports ISO light levels up to 3200 without software intervention.
AVCHD video at 50i is again present here, but there's a slightly cramped 2.7in LCD to contend with. Sony could have fitted in a little more screen, but has instead placed a black border around it, to the right of which is a largely redundant list of menu items. Switching between menu items involves the central navipad, which works fine, but we were less keen on the navipad's push-to-zoom implementation. We were able to take some decent shots with the WX100, which is really the main thing. The Exmor R CMOS coped well with some rather unfavourable lighting conditions indoors and out, while the assortment of effects we mentioned in our HX200V summary, worked every bit as well here. The painting effect wasn't always flattering, but pop art and toy (diorama) settings produced good results.
One of the selling points of the Sony Cyber-shot WX100 is obviously its super-slim dimensions (92.3 x 52.4 x 21.6mm including the lens). You barely notice its presence in a handbag or pocket. At 108g, it weighs considerably less than the average smartphone. There's very little to grip here and we preferred the chunkier dimensions of the H90.
That said, the WX100's 10x optical zoom and solid picture-taking credentials in most situations are probably good enough reasons to get this camera. It's set to go onsale in the UK in May. Pricing has not yet been announced.