DCRP

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V Review

Performance & Photo Quality

The Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V is no slouch in the performance department. It's one of the most responsive super zoom cameras I've used. The table below summarizes its performance:

Timing Measured Performance How it Compares

Startup

1.9 sec Above average
Autofocus
(Wide-angle)
0.1 - 0.3 secs Above average
Autofocus
(Telephoto)
0.6 - 0.9 secs Above average
Autofocus
(Low light)
0.8 - 1.0 secs Above average
Shutter lag Not noticeable Above average
Shot-to-shot
(no flash)
~ 1 sec Above average
Shot-to-shot
(with flash)
~ 3 sec Average

The only time you're really spend waiting on the HX200V is when it's combining multiple exposures, and even that doesn't take long.

After all of the multi-shot features that I've covered in this review, you can probably guess that the DSC-HX200V is going to be pretty quick when you put it in burst mode. There are two speeds to choose from in burst mode: low and high. Here's what kind of performance you'll get in both of those modes:

Image quality Low speed High speed
Large/Fine JPEG 10 shots @ 2.0 fps 10 shots @ 10.0 fps
Tested with a SanDisk Class 10 SDHC card

It's no surprise that the HX200V's continuous shooting buffer fills up after ten shots at the high speed setting. I was, however, disappointed to see that the 2 fps speed had the same shot limit -- I was expecting it to just keep going.

Let's move on to photo quality now, shall we?

The Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V did a pretty good job with our macro test subject. The colors of the figurine are accurate, though there's a slight brownish cast to the white background behind it. The subject is mostly sharp, though there's some very obvious detail smudging when you view the photo at 100%. I'll come back to that subject in a bit.

The HX200V has an auto macro mode, so there's no button to push in order to take close-up photos. The minimum focus distance is 1 cm at wide-angle, and 2 m at full telephoto.

The night test scene turned out quite well. You can take long exposures either with the camera's manual controls, or by using either of the Auto modes. The HX200V took in plenty of light here, though you will encounter some highlight clipping in places. The buildings are sharp, though there is some detail loss due to the large amount of noise reduction being applied. That said, the detail loss (and noise in general) isn't a whole lot worse than super zooms with lower resolution sensors. Purple fringing levels are moderate.

Let's us that same scene now to see how the HX200V performs at high sensitivities in low light:


ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 6400

ISO 12800

There isn't a huge difference between the photos taken at ISO 100 and 200. At ISO 400 there's pretty noticeable detail loss, so I'd make this your stopping point, saving ISO 800 for desperation only. The ISO 1600 and 3200 crops are mostly noise, and things really go downhill at ISO 6400 and 12800, where the camera tries some multi-shot layering (which didn't help, evidently).

We'll do this test again in normal lighting in a moment.


Straight out of the camera (flash redeye reduction on)


After removal tool in playback mode

Despite having a pop-up flash, the HX200V has redeye problems. If you've got face detection turned on, the camera will automatically fire the flash a few times to shrink your subject's pupils (you can force this, as well). As the first image illustrates, that didn't do any good. Thankfully, there's a digital redeye removal tool in playback mode which got rid of that annoyance.

There's remarkably little barrel distortion at the wide end of the HX200V's lens. That's because the camera (along with most others) digitally reduces this phenomenon when the photo is taken. I didn't find corner blurring to be a problem -- not a lens problem, at least. Vignetting, or dark corners, was not an issue, either.

Now it's time for our studio ISO test. Since the lighting is always the same, you can compare these with other cameras I've reviewed over the years. Super zoom shoppers may want to open up the Canon PowerShot SX40 HS and Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 reviews right about now (though I have a quick comparison at the end of this section). Keeping in mind that the crops below represent only a tiny portion of the HX200V's huge photos, let's travel from ISO 100 to 12800:


ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 6400

ISO 12800

There isn't a huge difference between the first three crops, with noise levels increasing gradually as the sensitivity goes up. Detail loss becomes more evident at ISO 800, and you get grain-style noise appearing one stop higher. It's at this point (ISO 1600) that I'd probably stop raising the sensitivity. The ISO 3200 shot has quit ea bit of noise, as well as a drop in color saturation. As with the night shots, the top two sensitivities are unusable, despite the camera's multi-shot layering trick.

I want to throw in a quick comparison of how the HX200V compares against the Canon PowerShot SX40 HS and Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150. I downsized the HX200V's image to match the 12 Megapixel resolution of the other two cameras. Here's how the three cameras look at ISO 800:

ISO 800

Canon PowerShot SX40 HS

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V (downsized)

As you can see, the HX200V is probably the best in the bunch, though it gets a considerable amount of help by having its resolution cut by a third. In real world shooting, I think the Canon and Panasonic have a lot less detail smudging than the Sony, though that blends away in most situations.

Overall, the Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V's image quality is good, as long as you don't look too closely. Exposure was generally accurate, though the camera had a slight tendency to underexpose. As with all compact cameras, highlight clipping reared it's ugly head, but it wasn't too bad on the HX200V. Colors are nice and vibrant -- no complaints there. Image sharpness is a mixed bag, and really depends on what you're looking at. Some objects are nice and sharp, while anything with fine details is smudged by noise reduction. That's really the camera's biggest problem, and not entirely surprising given its 18 Megapixel resolution. Things like grass, leaves, hair, and sand are most likely to have mushy details -- even at ISO 100. Detail loss can also be found in the shadowy areas of a photo. While I'm going to knock the HX200V for this, I should point out that for the vast majority of people, this will not be an issue. If you're making prints at 8 x 10 or smaller, odds are that you won't see any detail loss until the ISO gets pretty high. The same is true if you're just downsizing the photos for Facebook or Flickr. If you're making large prints or viewing the images on your computer at 100%, then you'll certainly notice what's going on. Other cameras produce images that look cleaner at 100% than the DSC-HX200V, but for most uses, that won't matter a whole lot. The only other issue of note is purple fringing -- the HX200V has more of this phenomenon than I would've liked (example).

Don't just take my word for all this, though. Have a look at our photo gallery, maybe printing a few of the images if you can, and then you can make your own decision about the DSC-HX200V's image quality!

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