Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 Review

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor

Originally Posted: May 24, 2009

Last Updated: July 23, 2009

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 ($499) is a super zoom camera that uses a CMOS sensor, rather than the CCD typically found on compact cameras. This 9.1 Megapixel CMOS sensor allows the HX1 to perform all kinds of tricks, including 10 frame/second continuous shooting, HD movie recording, a unique "sweep panorama" feature, and more. Its ability to record stills and HD movies makes the DSC-HX1 what most would call a "hybrid camera". Its main competitor (the Canon PowerShot SX1) is also a hybrid model -- it too has a CMOS sensor, a 20X zoom lens, and HD movie recording (at a higher resolution, in fact).

Other features on the HX1 include a 20X, 28 - 560 mm lens, optical image stabilization, a tilting 3-inch LCD display, full manual controls, face and smile detection, HDMI output, and much more.

Ready to learn more about the DSC-HX1, and how it compares to the PowerShot SX1? Then keep reading -- our review starts right now!

What's in the Box?

The DSC-HX1 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 9.1 effective Megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 camera
  • NP-FH50 rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Lens cap w/retaining strap
  • Shoulder strap
  • USB + A/V cable
  • HDMI adapter
  • CD-ROM featuring Picture Motion Browser software, Cyber-shot handbook and Step-up Guide
  • 74 page basic manual (printed) plus 176 page full manual (on CD-ROM)

Like all of Sony's recent cameras, the Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 has built-in memory, in lieu of having a memory card included in the box. The HX1 has a paltry 11MB of onboard memory, which holds just two photos at the highest quality setting. Thus, you'll want to get a large memory card, and fast. The DSC-HX1 supports Memory Stick Duo media (sigh), and I'd recommend starting out with a 4GB card on on this movie-centric camera.

The DSC-HX1 uses the NP-FH50 lithium-ion battery for power. This battery has been used in Sony's camcorders for a while now. Despite its relatively small size, the battery packs a very respectable 6.1 Wh of energy into its plastic shell. Here's how that translates into battery life:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon PowerShot SX1 IS * 420 shots 4 x 2500 mAh NiMH
Canon PowerShot SX10 IS 600 shots 4 x 2500 mAh NiMH
Casio Exilim EX-FH20 * 430 shots 4 x 2500 mAh NiMH
Kodak EasyShare Z980 * 400 shots 4 x 2100 mAh NiMH
Nikon Coolpix P90 200 shots EN-EL5
Olympus SP-590UZ 340 shots 4 x AA alkaline
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28 460 shots CGR-S006
Pentax X70 * 170 shots D-LI92
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 * 390 shots NP-FH50

* HD movie recording

Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturers

The DSC-HX1 turns in battery life numbers that are average in the super zoom class.

I should point out a few things about the proprietary lithium-ion battery used by the HX1, and about half of the cameras in the table above. Proprietary batteries tend to be more expensive than their AA counterparts, with a spare NP-FH50 costing at least $40. In addition, should that battery run out of juice, you can pick up an off-the-shelf battery to get you through the day.

When you're ready to charge the HX1's battery, just pop it into the included charger. And then you can go to dinner and a movie, since it takes anywhere from 205 - 256 minutes to charge the battery. This is my favorite kind of charger -- it plugs directly into the wall (though this may not be the case for those of you in other countries).

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 in the hand

Sony includes a big 'ol lens cap (and retaining strap) with the DSC-HX1. As you can see, it's a fairly large camera.

There are a number of accessories available for the HX1, and I've compiled them into this table:

Accessory Model # Price * Description
Telephoto lens VCL-DH1757 From $146 Boosts the telephoto end of the lens by 1.7X, giving you a max focal length of 952 mm (!)
HD output cable VMC-MHC2 $40 1.5 m component video cable (with stereo audio as well) lets you connect to an HDTV
HDMI cable DLC-HD10P From $26 Another way to connect to an HDTV; these cables can be had for much cheaper elsewhere
AC adapter AC-L200 From $25

Power the camera without wasting your batteries

GPS unit GPS-CS3 $150 Lets you easily add location data to your photos
Carrying cases


From $37
From $40
Two cases to choose from, one textile, one leather
* Prices were accurate when review was posted

It's not often you see a telephoto conversion lens on a super zoom camera. The one for the HX1 gives you a total zoom power of 34X!

Optional GPS unit; image courtesy of Sony Electronics

I purchased the GPS-CS3 GPS tracker and took it with me to Hawaii. Using it with the HX1 couldn't be any easier. Put a AA battery into the GPS, turn it on, and select your time zone. Then, make sure the clocks on the GPS and your camera are the same. Then just through the GPS into a bag or pocket and start shooting! When you're done shooting, you take the memory card out of the camera and insert it into the GPS, which then "matches" the location data with your photos. Now, when you view photos on your camera, in Picture Motion Browser, iPhoto, or various online photo sharing sites, you can see exactly where you took a picture. Very cool little gadget.

PMB Launcher

Sony includes version 4 of their Picture Motion Browser software with the DSC-HX1. This software remains Windows-only, so Mac users will have to use something else (iPhoto works just fine). The first part of the software you'll probably encounter is PMB Launcher, which is the gateway to all of PMB's functions. Here you can import photos, upload them to popular photo/video sharing sites, burn a CD or DVD, or just jump right into the photo browser.

Picture Motion Browser for Windows

Speaking of which, above you can see the actual Picture Motion Browser software. On the main screen you'll find the usual thumbnail view, and you can view photos in a calendar format, as well. You can sort photos by date, whether they contain people, smiles, or scenery, by label, and more. From here you can also e-mail, print, or upload your photos to sharing sites; a slideshow option is also available.

View photos on a map in PMB

If your photos are geotagged (and have the little compass icon on the thumbnail) then you can also see them on a map. Very cool!

Editing in Picture Motion Browser

Double-clicking on any thumbnail brings you to the edit screen. The tools here include auto correction, brightness/contrast/saturation adjustment, redeye removal, and trimming (cropping). You can even adjust the tone curve, with wasn't available on earlier versions of PMB. You can also print the data on your photo at this point.

The final piece of software included with the HX1 is Music Transfer. This allows you to copy MP3s or CD audio to the camera to use as background music for slideshows. Don't expect miraculous audio quality, though.

The documentation for the DSC-HX1 comes in two parts, and that's not necessarily good news. Inside the box you'll find a printed "basic" manual, which is enough to get you started. If you want more detail, you'll have to open up the Cyber-shot Handbook, which is on an included CD-ROM disc (groan). The manuals are average in terms of user-friendliness -- there are plenty of "notes" and other fine print on nearly every page. Documentation for the software is installed onto your computer.