Sony’s Cyber-shot HX60V has a 30x optical G lens and a 20.4-million-pixel sensor, making it a powerful pocket-sized travel companion. Read our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX60V review...
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX60V at a glance:
- 20.4-million-pixel Exmor R CMOS sensor
- 30x optical zoom
- 24-720mm (35mm equivalent) Sony G Lens
- Easy and quick Wi-Fi shooting and sharing
- 10fps high-speed mode
- New Bionz X processor
- Street price around £329 without GPS
- See sample images taken with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX60V
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX60V review – Introduction
Replacing the popular Cyber-shot DSC-HX50, Sony has taken an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach to its latest high-end travel-zoom, as the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX60V retains the sleek design, size and many of the same top specifications that made its predecessor so popular.
Competition in the pocket-sized travel-zoom camera category is becoming increasingly stiff as manufacturers battle it out for supremacy. Oddly, GPS was left out of the UK version of the HX50, but this time round we get the option of the GPS-enabled HX60V entering the market alongside competition from Canon, Nikon and Panasonic, with all four offering a 30x optical zoom in a compact body. In this test, I aim to find out whether Sony’s new Bionz X processor in the HX60V is enough of an improvement to help it build on the increased fixed-lens market share that the company achieved last year.
The natural competitor to Sony’s latest travel zoom is Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-TZ60, and is the only camera in this class to include raw-shooting capability and a built-in EVF. For around the same price as a Panasonic TZ60, Sony is offering the HX60 for £330 and the HX60V with GPS for an extra £10.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX60V review – Features
The 20.4-million-pixel Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX60V has an impressive feature list that will meet the needs of most people looking for a pocket-sized travel-camera, whether it’s capturing a moment at a birthday party or taking pictures of flora and fauna while on holiday.
As well as a host of connectivity options, the camera features a back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor that makes it more sensitive to light than traditionally designed digital sensors, a premium Sony G Lens and the firm’s latest Bionz X image processor. Thanks to the significant boost in processing power, the HX60V is three times faster than the HX50 it replaces. However, speed alone isn’t the only place where the new model trumps the old, as it also performs better in low light. The Bionz X processor allows the HX60V to perform area-specific noise reduction and enhanced detail reproduction, so images should suffer less from edge ‘smudging’ effects typically associated with smaller 1/2.3in-type sensors.
One of the most impressive features of the new camera is its f/3.5-f/6.3 G 30x optical zoom, equivalent to 24-720mm. Although this impressive capability doesn’t quite set it apart from the competition, Sony’s Clear Image digital zoom feature working in tandem with SteadyShot delivers crisp close-ups of distant subjects, even when digitally extended to 60x zoom.
Optical SteadyShot Intelligent Active Mode enables five-axis image stabilisation in video mode only. This feature ensures that full HD videos recorded on the HX60V are near enough shake-free, providing sharp and clear footage regardless of the zoom setting.
The Sony PlayMemories camera app links to the HX60V via Wi-Fi and Near Field Communication (NFC), which allows for image transfer and remote camera control using a smart device.
Other great features on the HX60V that have been carried over from its predecessor include 10-frames-per-second shooting for 10 shots, sensitivity from ISO 80-12,800 and a multiple-interface hotshoe that is compatible with a number of Sony accessories, including the XYST1M stereo mic and external flash units. The £379 EV1MK OLED EVF can also be attached to the HX60V’s hotshoe, but at its current price it is unlikely to appeal to most prospective HX60V owners.
I am very pleased to see that Sony has also kept the exposure-compensation dial featured in the HX50, which gives ±2EV in 0.3EV steps, allowing for greater control over metering and exposure.
Images: The main image was my initial view of the moon. Top right: handheld with 30x optical zoom . Bottom right: 60x clear image (digital) zoom
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX60V review – Build and handling
At 272g with battery and memory card loaded, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX60V is a touch heavier than Panasonic’s TZ60 and the Canon PowerShot SX700 HS. However, it remains pocket sized, measuring 108.1×63.5×38.3mm.
A tough polycarbonate plastic body gives the HX60V a solid feel, and the ergonomically designed rubberised grip makes it a comfortable camera to hold in both portrait and landscape orientation.
On the rear, the thumb rest and button layout are identical to those featured on the HX50, although some of the markings are slightly altered and a symbol denoting NFC wireless connection capability has been added to the newer model.
The multi-function selection wheel can be pressed in four directions to adjust settings and navigate the menu. All the buttons are quite responsive, except for the selection button in the centre of the selection wheel, which is too small and too recessed to be pressed accurately. I found this to be a problem on the company’s previous compact travel-zoom camera and it’s a shame that Sony has not changed the design in this latest version. Another niggle that was referred to in our review of the HX50 was that the movie-record button was positioned too close to the textured thumb rest, which is also on the rear of the camera, and this also remains unchanged.
Featuring a multi-interface hotshoe and a dedicated exposure-compensation dial makes the HX60V a slightly more advanced offering compared to those models from competitors in the travel-zoom line-up. In practical terms, these additional features add flexibility and functionality, enabling me to respond to various shooting scenarios whether that be by adding a more powerful external flash or having greater control over the camera’s metering decisions.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX60V review – Metering
I noticed that the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX60V has a slight tendency to underexpose images in high-contrast scenes, but this can be easily corrected via the exposure-compensation dial. Otherwise, while using multi-pattern metering, the camera delivers well-balanced images, particularly in sunlight.
Spot and centreweighted metering are also available for tailored metering needs, but thanks to reasonably good multi-metering performance and the wise decision of Sony to include an exposure-compensation dial, there is little else one could want from a compact travel zoom camera in this regard.
Image: The colours are saturated enough to remain attractive, but the camera has underexposed this image. Thankfully, it can be easily corrected using the exposure compensation dial
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX60V review – Dynamic range
For a camera with such a small sensor, I was impressed with the dynamic range performance of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX60V. Images captured in brightly lit scenes are vibrant, with a good level of detail retained in shadow areas. I was pleased to see that highlights are not lost in high-contrast images, although on very close inspection the details retained are slightly smudged and not quite as sharp as they first appear on screen.
Image: The HX60V has managed to capture a decent amount of the dynamic range in this scene, but it struggled with extreme highlights and shadows
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX60V review – White balance and colour
While using the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX60V, I was so satisfied with the auto white balance performance that I had no need to adjust this setting. Comparing auto performance with that of scene-specific white balance options, the camera appears to make consistently accurate judgements unaided. If, however, you decide you would like your colours a little warmer, cooler or even more/less punchy, it’s easy to make adjustments by pressing the direction pad.
To change the look of your images altogether, you can also apply one of 13 creative picture effects, including pop colour, HDR painting and partial colour via the function button.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX60V review – Autofocus
When Sony released the HX50, its maximum focusing speed of 0.1sec was one of the camera’s key selling points. Thanks to the improved Bionz X processor, the HX60V is even faster, achieving focus in good speed and only slowing slightly at the longer end of its zoom range.
In very dim conditions, the AF-assist beam supports the camera’s contrast-detection system to lock on. This is useful for stable subjects, but will struggle if subjects are mobile. The focusing speed of the HX60V is what I would expect from a camera of this type and will be adequate for most of the shooting scenarios I would expect it to face.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX60V review – Noise, resolution and sensitivity
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX60V is capable of area-specific noise reduction, which helps to retain edge detail and avoid smudging. It can also combat noise with multi-frame NR by taking a sample of six images shot continuously and stacking them to create brighter images when shooting in low light.
While there is still some loss of resolution due to noise reduction, the HX60V improves on the performance of its predecessor right up to ISO 3200. Luminance noise becomes apparent from ISO 200, while the camera handles colour noise well throughout the range. Images shot up to ISO 800 are still printable, which is an improvement on the sensitivity at which I would have printed images from the HX50.
These images show 72ppi (100% on a computer screen) sections of images of a resolution chart, captured using the 24-720mm (equivalent) lens at 50mm. We show the section of the resolution chart where the camera starts to fail to reproduce the lines separately. The higher the number visible in these images, the better the camera’s detail resolution at the specified sensitivity setting.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX60V review – Live view, LCD and video
The 3in, 921,600-dot LCD screen on the HX60V remains unchanged from that on the HX50, and provides a clear view of what is being photographed. It can be tough to assess colour and tone on bright days, so I preferred to use the EVF rather than using the LCD in direct sunlight.
Recording full HD videos on the HX60V via the dedicated record button is easy and swift to operate. Although there’s no full manual control during recording, Optical SteadyShot and Intelligent Active mode with five-axis image stabilisation keep images reasonably shake-free. The camera is impressively stable, even when zoomed to its extreme of 720mm.
If the HX60V is missing anything at all, I’d have to say that I’m a little disappointed it doesn’t have a built-in EVF. Sony’s own-brand 2.3-million-dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder EVF can be bought separately and connected via the camera’s hotshoe, but that will set buyers back an additional £379. The combined price of the HX60 and the XGA is comparable to some very capable enthusiast and advanced level interchangeable-lens cameras.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX60V review – Our verdict
I really like the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX60V. It is very well made and benefits a lot from the inclusion of the improved Bionz X processor.
However, while its predecessor, the HX50, may have really stood out last year, this year’s competition is much improved and the HX60V finds itself in a much tougher field. The HX60V’s main competition comes from the Canon PowerShot SX700 HS, Nikon Coolpix S9700 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60, which all boast a 30x zoom. Sony sports a f/3.5-6.3 24-720mm (equivalent) zoom, with Canon and Nikon both having slightly less width but a greater reach with 25-750mm lenses, while Canon tops the bunch in the aperture stakes offering a faster f/3.2-6.9 lens.
Panasonic stands out from the crowd as the only compact travel zoom to include a built-in EVF. If Sony’s updates had gone a little further and included an EVF, the HX60V would be a much more attractive option.
The HX60V is a versatile pocket travel camera that can produce great and occasionally stunning images in daylight and low light. I just wish Sony had been slightly more ambitious with it.