With a 50x optical zoom and a 20.4-million-pixel sensor, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX400 is Sony’s latest bridge camera. Callum McInerney-Riley puts it to the test
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX400 at a glance:
- 20.4-million-pixel 1/2.3in Exmor R CMOS sensor
- 50x optical zoom (35mm focal-length equivalent of 24-1200mm)
- ISO 80-3200 (expandable to 12,800)
- 3in, 921,600-dot Xtra Fine TFT LCD
- Street price around £399
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX400 review- Introduction
Sony’s Cyber-shot DSC-HX400 is the successor to the HX300, and with a very impressive 50x optical zoom that has a 35mm focal-length equivalent of 24-1200mm it is a true ‘super-zoom’. However, while the HX400 supersedes the HX300, the new model has relatively few improvements over its predecessor. Competition is strong in this sector of the market, and when compared with, for example, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72, which was launched towards the end of last year, the FZ72 has a wider focal length than the HX400 at 20-1200mm and the same-sized sensor, while the Fujifilm FinePix HS50EXR has a comparatively bigger 1/2in sensor and a 24-1000mm zoom range.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX400 review – Features
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX400 has a back-illuminated 1/2.3in Exmor R CMOS sensor measuring 6.17×4.55mm. This is the same-sized sensor as that used in the HX300 with an identical resolution of 20.4 million pixels. We found the combination of a small sensor size and a large number of pixels in the HX300 had an adverse effect on image quality, particularly at high ISO sensitivities. The same ISO 80-3200 sensitivity range is offered by the HX400 as found on the HX300. A higher ISO sensitivity of ISO 12,800 is possible on the HX400, but this requires the use of Multi Frame Noise Reduction that blends three images together in-camera to reduce noise.
As the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX400 does not shoot raw, it relies on the camera’s processor to reduce noise and subsequently improve JPEG image quality. Thankfully, the HX400 features the new Sony Bionz X processing engine that is found in Sony’s flagship compact system cameras, the Alpha 7 and 7R.
The headline-grabbing feature of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX400 is undoubtedly its lens, with the Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* boasting an enormous 50x optical zoom. In 35mm terms, this is equivalent to a 24-1200mm focal length. At the 24mm end of the zoom, the maximum aperture is f/2.8 and this closes to f/6.3 at 1200mm. Of course, the longer the lens the more chance there is of camera shake when shooting handheld. Sony has made efforts to reduce this shake to the effect of 4.5EV by strategically balancing the lens elements. The lens also features a control ring that can be used to adjust the zoom as well as manually focus.
As is the case with many Sony cameras, there are plenty of advanced manual-focus controls on the HX400, including MF assist that will digitally enlarge a specific area by 5x or 10x to achieve precise focus. There is also focus peaking, which is used to highlight edges when they are at the optimum point of sharpness and can be controlled in colour and intensity via the menus.
Images can be composed using the electronic viewfinder or the tiltable, 3in, 921,600-dot Xtra Fine TFT LCD display. The EVF is a great addition to the HX400, especially in situations where there is a lot of available light and the LCD is difficult to see.
The HX400 looks very similar to Sony’s range of DSLR/SLT cameras, with its large front grip and all-black finish. The dimensions are identical to the HX300, measuring 129.6×93.2×103.2mm, although the HX400 is 10g heavier at 660g with battery and card. Sony claims that the battery should last for around 300 shots on a full charge, and it can also be charged via USB. As this type of charger is used for most smartphones and tablets, it is the closest thing to a universal charger that is available. In addition, Micro USB devices can easily be charged via an external battery pack.
Both Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity feature on the HX400, which allows users to connect a smartphone or tablet to the camera via the free iOS/Android Sony PlayMemories app. The phone or tablet can be used to control the camera wirelessly or to receive/share images. Sony has also released add-on applications to the Sony PlayMemories app that are available to download, such as time-lapse interval and multiple exposure.
Rather than putting GPS in every camera or offering a GPS adapter as an optional extra, Sony has opted to produce two versions of the camera – the HX400 without GPS and the HX400V with GPS fitted, which allows users to geotag their location and review it. For the travelling photographer, this feature will be very useful to keep track of where shots are taken.
For artistic photographers, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX400 has a variety of creative styles, such as portrait, landscape and sunset, where contrast, saturation and sharpness can be adjusted in the menus. Also available are picture effects that include toy camera, high-contrast mono, soft focus, HDR painting, rich-tone mono and miniature effects.
Image: The 24mm end of the lens is still sharp and only suffers from minor distortion