Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX300 Review – Sony is using big numbers to sell its latest camera, the Cyber-shot DSC-HX300. It has a whopping 50x zoom, a 20-megapixel sensor, a 921,600-dot hinged screen and 1080p video recording. These are impressive figures, but they hide a few notable weaknesses in the specifications. A connector for an external flash may have spoiled the curvaceous design, but it would have been a useful option because photos taken with the built-in flash are often unflattering. Moreover, it can’t save photos in Raw format, and the 310-shot battery is below average for a camera at this price.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX300, A huge 50x zoom and 20-megapixel images, but numbers don’t tell the whole story
There’s an eyepiece, but Sony doesn’t reveal its resolution. We think it’s in the region of 200,000 dots rather than the more detailed million- plus resolutions found in other models. The curvy casing makes it extremely comfortable to hold, and there’s a chunky lens ring for adjusting the zoom. If you’re using the camera in manual-focus mode rather than autofocus, you can adjust the focus with the lens ring, though zoom is still available via the lever next to the shutter button. You can cycle through the various settings – such as the ISO, shutter speed, aperture and EV compensation controls – by pushing the command dial inwards. It’s not the fastest system but it’s easy to get to grips with and, overall, it’s a good set of controls.
Performance is a mixed bag, however. We were able to focus quickly, typically taking less than half a second from pressing the shutter button to capturing a photo. However, the time it took to save a photo varied widely depending on the ISO used, because higher ISO settings use more processor-intensive noise reduction. When shooting brightly lit subjects, it captured a photo every second or so, but in low light this slipped to every two seconds. In very low light it fell to three seconds. These aren’t terrible results, but rival cameras are faster. Burst shooting was at 6.7fps (frames per second), not the 10fps speed Sony claims, but still a strong result. The camera only started to save these shots after capturing the last one, but it was ready to go again within about eight seconds. However, it won’t update autofocus or exposure between shots.
Video recording is the HX300’s strongest suit
Video recording is the HX300’s strongest suit. Picture quality was crisp and detailed, and noise reduction kept low-light clips looking reasonably good. The optical stabilisation performed superbly, keeping handheld shots pretty steady at the long end of the enormous zoom range – something few other ultra-zoom cameras manage. Videos are limited to 30 minutes in length and are recorded at 1080p in MPEG-4 format. The combination of a 20-megapixel sensor and a 50x zoom means that this camera should excel at capturing details in distant subjects. However, that wasn’t the case because the HX300 has a tiny sensor that makes it difficult to keep noise at a minimum. Noise wasn’t too bad at modest zoom levels, but at maximum magnification noise was a significant problem and obscured finer details.
This problem became even more pronounced when photos were cropped. Photos taken at the highest zoom setting weren’t as sharp as they should be, and there were some inaccurate colours towards the edges, but it compared well with other cameras with similar zooms. At lower zoom settings, colour accuracy and sharpness were better. The HX300 is a good camera, but it’s better at shooting video than taking photos. The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS costs a little more, but it also has a 50x zoom and generally superior image quality, making it the better buy.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX300 Specification
- 20-megapixel sensor
- 50x zoom (24-1200mm)
- 3 in screen
- electronic eyepiece
- accepts SD, SDHC and SDXC storage cards
- 93x130x103mm (HxWxD)
- One-year warranty