Sony’s latest premium compact camera features a 20x zoom and 18.2-million-pixel Exmor R sensor. Mat Gallagher finds out if the Sony Cyber-shot HX20V offers enough for the creative photographer
For such a significant zoom length, the Cyber-shot HX20V doesn’t show any signs of barrel distortion at its extremities. The images are free from vignetting and show no significant fringing or aberration. With only the JPEG files to work from it is difficult to know whether these have been corrected as part of the processing or were not present in the first place, although for such a small camera the former is likely.
The metering is accurate, and despite the ±2EV seeming less than generous it is more than sufficient for any corrections, thanks to the metering being linked in part to the AF points. The main limitation, as with any compact-sized-sensor camera, is the dynamic range, and with a bright sky it was necessary to pull the exposure back to avoid loss of detail in the highlights.
The HX20V has a clever way around its limitations, however, making use of the backlight correction HDR processing.
In the Superior Auto mode the multiple frame shooting combines different exposures to balance the tones and leaves a pleasingly subtle HDR effect rather than a brash comic-book style.
The background defocus mode is also an effective solution to the limitations in depth of field that the small sensor dictates and provides a convincing large-aperture effect. However, the 30cm recommended subject distance is a little close for portraits.
Image: An 18-million-pixel resolution is rather generous for a compact camera and, as such, even at A3 print size a 300ppi resolution can be maintained. This leaves images looking clean and sharp. On closer inspection, when viewed at 100% there are signs of heavy noise reduction, even at low ISO sensitivities, and fine detail is lacking
due to the smoothing applied in processing.
The HX20V has a range of autofocus options, including selective point, face detection and auto tracking, and in all cases the focusing remains rapid and accurate.
In addition, there are two manual-focus options, a standard setting and a form of AF/M override, which focuses approximately and then allows manual adjustment. Both manual modes show a magnified view when focusing and use the rear dial to adjust.