DCRP

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V Review

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor

Originally Posted: June 20, 2012

Last Updated: June 21, 2012

The Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V is the midrange model in Sony's trio of GPS-equipped travel zoom cameras. All three cameras -- the HX10V ($330), HX20V ($370), and HX30V ($390) -- all use the same 18.2 Megapixel CMOS sensor. The differences are simple: the HX10V has a 16X zoom lens, while the other two models have a 20X lens. The HX30V earns its flagship status by offering Wi-Fi support.

The HX20V has a lot more to offer than just its big lens. It also has both automatic and limited manual controls, HDR and other multi-shot options that improve image quality, a fun sweep panorama feature, and Full HD 1080/60p video recording. All that in a body that fits in your jeans pocket.

As you may know, there are a lot of other travel zoom cameras out there -- some of which are quite good. Is the Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V one of the top choices? Find out now in our review!

Due to their many similarities, portions of the Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V review will be reused here.

What's in the Box?

The Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V has a rather unremarkable bundle. Here's what you'll find when you open the box:

  • The 18.2 effective Megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V digital camera
  • NP-BG1 lithium-ion battery
  • AC adapter
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • 33 page basic manual

The Cyber-shot HX20V has a healthy amount of built-in memory -- 105MB to be exact. That holds seventeen photos at the highest quality setting, which isn't bad for emergencies. That said, you'll probably want to buy an actual memory card right away. The HX20V supports both SD/SDHC/SDXC and Memory Stick Pro Duo (including TransferJet) cards, and I'd suggest a 4GB card at the very minimum, and a 16GB card if you plan on taking a lot of Full HD videos. Buying a high speed card (Class 6 or higher for SD cards) is a smart idea.

The camera uses the same NP-BG1 lithium-ion battery as many other Sony cameras. It also supports the NP-FG1 InfoLithium battery, which shows you exactly how many minutes of battery life you have left, instead of the the not-so-accurate standard battery meter. Both batteries hold 3.4 Wh of energy, which is on the low end for a travel zoom. Let's see how that translates into battery life:

Camera Battery life
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon PowerShot SX260 HS * 230 shots NB-6L
Fuji FinePix F770EXR * 300 shots NP-50A
Nikon Coolpix S9300 * 200 shots EN-EL12
Olympus SZ-31MR iHS 200 shots LI-50B
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20 * 260 shots DMW-BCG10
Pentax Optio VS20 200 shots D-LI122
Samsung WB850F * 200 shots SLB-10A
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V * 320 shots NP-BG1

* Built-in GPS

Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer, and are calculated with the GPS turned off.

Don't judge the HX20V by it's battery capacity -- it ended up coming in first place among this group of travel zooms! Even so, it's never a bad idea to keep a spare around, and a Sony-branded NP-FG1 will set you back around $32.

The DSC-HX20V's battery is charged internally using the included AC adapter and micro USB cable. Charging speeds are relatively slow, with a full charge taking 175 minutes. If you want a faster charger, or just the ability to have a spare battery ready to go, then you'll want to pick up the BC-TRN or BC-TRN2 external charger.

Those battery charges are really the only accessories available for the HX20V. Sony has numerous carrying cases available, though none are designed specifically for the HX20V.

In what is likely a cost-cutting move, Sony no longer includes their software bundle on a CD-ROM disc. The PlayMemories Home software is actually on the camera itself, and you can install it by plugging the HX20V into your Windows-based PC. PlayMemories Home is essentially a re-skinned version of Picture Motion Browser, which does it's job pretty well. In addition to importing photos from the camera, PlayMemories can also share them via e-mail, prints, and on photo/video sharing websites. Editing tools include redeye reduction, brightness/saturation/tone curve, and sharpness. There's also an Auto Correct function which attempts to fix things with a single click. You can view photos on a map (assuming that their location was tagged), and upload "assist data" to the camera, which is supposed to reduce satellite acquisition time.

Mac users are left out in the cold when it comes to photo editing. The only thing Sony provides is a link to a website that basically says "use iPhoto instead", which isn't a bad suggestion. Unfortunately, iPhoto can't upload GPS assist data to the camera.

Sony uses two different codecs for video recording on the DSC-HX20V: AVCHD and MPEG-4. The PlayMemories software can be used to view all videos produced by the camera, and it can remove unwanted footage from your clip, or save a frame as a still image. While it can convert videos to WMV format, they'll be VGA quality. PMH can also burn videos to Blu-ray or DVD discs. If you want to use a commercial product to edit your videos and plan on using the AVCHD Progressive (1080/60p) mode, check with your software manufacturer to make sure you can actually edit the video.

Good news on the video front for Mac users: you can now import AVCHD Progressive video directly into Final Cut Pro X or iMovie '11, without the need for a middleman. The only negative I could find is that playback in FCP was rather choppy (the movie itself played fine once exported).

Long-time readers of this website know that I'm not a fan of how camera makers have been skimping on printed manuals over the two years or so. Sony has reached a new low among camera manufacturers in 2012 by not even including a full manual in the box with the camera. You will find a small booklet that'll get you up and running, but for more details on the camera's features, you'll have to visit Sony's website to view (but not download) the complete manual! The quality of the manual, in terms of both depth and user-friendliness, leaves much to be desired.

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