Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V Review

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor

Originally Posted: April 3, 2010

Last Updated: April 29, 2010

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V ($349) is a compact ultra zoom camera with several features that differentiate it from most of its competitors. They include a back-illuminated CMOS sensor, which promises better-than-average low light performance and super-fast continuous shooting, plus a built-in GPS, unique sweep panorama feature, and 1080i HD movie recording. That's on top of the 10X, 25 - 250 mm Sony "G" zoom lens, optical image stabilization, 3-inch LCD, limited manual controls, HDMI output, and support for both Memory Stick Duo and SD/SDHC memory cards.

The HX5V has some tough competition from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 (read our review) and the upcoming Samsung HZ35W, both of which have similar lenses, HD movie recording, and built-in GPS receivers. And if you don't need a GPS receiver, there are plenty of other models to choose from, as well.

I suppose this is also a good time to mention the HX5V's little brother, the Cyber-shot DSC-H55 ($249). This camera shares the same lens, design, and most of the features of the HX5V, except that is has a traditional 14 Megapixel CCD instead of CMOS (which means that it doesn't have the fast burst speeds and anti-blur modes) and lacks the GPS receiver. The H55's movie mode is also limited to 720p instead of 1080i.

How does the Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V perform? Find out now in our review!

The camera tested here is a pre-production model running final firmware. I should also point out that there is a Cyber-shot DSC-HX5 available in some countries. This camera does not have the GPS feature.

What's in the Box?

The Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V has a pretty standard bundle for a point-and-shoot camera. Inside the box, you'll find the following:

  • The 10.2 effective Megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V camera
  • NP-BG1 rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • HDMI adapter
  • USB + A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Picture Motion Browser software and Cyber-shot handbook
  • 30 page basic manual (printed) plus 160 page full manual (on CD-ROM)

Like all of Sony's recent cameras, the Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V has built-in memory, instead of having a memory card included in the box. The HX5V has 45MB of memory, which holds nine photos at the highest quality setting. That means that you'll want to buy a memory card right away. Sony has finally wised up and now supports SD and SDHC memory cards, in addition to their proprietary Memory Stick Pro Duo format (Mark 2 cards only). I'd recommend picking up a 2GB or 4GB card (and definitely larger if you'll be taking lots of movies). Buying a high speed card (Class 4 or above for SDHC, HX for MS Pro Duo) is a good idea.

A TransferJet Memory Stick Pro Duo card
Image courtesy of Sony Electronics

The HX5V also supports Sony's new TransferJet memory cards, which allows you to transfer photos and videos to other TransferJet-equipped devices simply by having the two products near each other. The transfer speeds are very good (160 MBps) and there's no "pairing" required. On the camera side you'll need to get a TransferJet compatible MS Duo card (8GB model is $100), and you'll need either a laptop with TransferJet built in, or a TransferJet Station ($150) connected to a PC, game console, or television.

The HX5V uses Sony's familiar NP-BG1 lithium-ion battery for power. This battery has 3.4 Wh of energy, which is about average for a camera in this class. The HX5V also supports the NP-FG1 battery, which has the same amount of juice, but adds InfoLithium technology, which allows the camera to provide a minute-by-minute countdown of battery life. Here's what kind of battery life you can expect from the DSC-HX5V:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon PowerShot SX210 IS 260 shots NB-5L
Casio Exilim EX-FH100 520 shots NP-90
Fuji FinePix F80EXR 230 shots NP-50
Nikon Coolpix S8000 210 shots EN-EL12
Olympus Stylus 9000 250 shots LI-50B
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 * 300 shots DMW-BCG10
Ricoh CX3 310 shots DB-100
Samsung HZ35W * 240 shots SLB-11A
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V * 310 shots NP-BG1

* Built-in GPS

Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturers

Casio has a knack for making cameras with stellar battery life (their EX-FH100 blows away the competition), which kind of ruins things for everyone else. That said, the HX5V's battery numbers are a bit above average in this group. Keep in mind that those numbers are derived with the GPS turned off. With it turned on, expect the battery to drain a lot quicker, though Sony doesn't say by how much.

I should point out a few things about the proprietary lithium-ion battery used by the HX5V and every other camera in the table above. Proprietary batteries tend to be more expensive than their AA counterparts, with a spare NP-FG1 costing at least $29. In addition, should that battery run out of juice, you can't pick up an off-the-shelf battery to get you through the day.

When you're ready to charge the HX5V's battery, just pop it into the included charger. And then be prepared to wait, as this is one of the slower chargers on the market. A typical charge takes 4.5 hours, with a full charge taking a whopping 5.5 hours. If this becomes a problem, you might want to consider buying the fast charger listed below.

Camera with HDMI dongle attached

Something else you'll find in the box with the camera is an HDMI adapter. The DSC-HX5V doesn't have standard USB, A/V, or HDMI ports, so you have to use special cables and adapters (hey, it's Sony -- what did you expect?). For HDMI, there's a little dongle that plugs into the bottom of the camera, which provides a full-size HDMI port. You will need to provide your own HDMI cable.

Now let's take a look at the accessories that you can purchase for the HX5V:

Accessory Model # Price * Description
HD output cable VMC-MHC3 $60 1.5 m component video cable (with stereo audio as well) offers another way to connect to an HDTV
Multi-use terminal cable VMC-MD2 $31 Very similar to the USB+A/V cable that comes with the camera, except that it has an input for the AC adapter below
AC adapter AC-LS5 From $30

Power the camera without draining your battery; requires the multi-use terminal cable above

Compact battery charger BC-TRN $49 Charges the battery in just 1.5 hours
TransferJet card MSJ-X8G $90 An 8GB Memory Stick Pro Duo card with TransferJet capability
TransferJet Station TJS-1 $150 A TransferJet receiver that you can connect to a TV, PC, or game console, and transfer photos from the camera with TransferJet card installed.
Soft carrying case LCS-HF $40 A compact leather case for protecting your camera
* Prices were accurate when review was posted

Not a huge selection of accessories -- and I don't like having to buy two products to use the AC adapter -- but most people will be satisfied with what Sony offers.

PMB Launcher

Sony includes version 5.0 of their Picture Motion Browser software with the DSC-HX5V. This software remains Windows-only, so Mac users will want to use iPhoto (though I'll mention another option at the end of this section). PMB has matured nicely since its early days, though I wish things were more integrated and less clunky.

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 transfer photos to your PC, upload them to popular photo/video sharing sites, burn a CD or DVD, update the GPS data on the camera, upload your own slideshow music, or just leap right into the photo browser.

Picture Motion Browser 5 in 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 location data, by label, and more. From here you can also e-mail, print, upload your photos to sharing sites, burn images or videos to a CD or DVD, or just view a slideshow.

Editing in Picture Motion Browser

Double-clicking on any thumbnail brings you to this screen, though you'll need to show the edit palette if you want to do anything here. Here you can remove redeye, crop an image, adjust brightness/saturation/sharpness or the tone curve, print the date on your photos, or just use an AutoCorrect function.

Map View application

If you look back at the screenshot of the main PMB window, you'll see that some of the thumbnails have a little green compass icon on them. Those photos are tagged with location data, and you can see them on a map by opening up the Map View program (why it's not integrated into the main software is beyond me). If you look closely at the map, you can even see which direction the camera was pointing when the photo was taken, which is courtesy of the HX5V's compass.

Movie Trimming tool

Picture Motion Browser can also be used to view and edit the movies produced by the Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V. You can trim unwanted footage of the beginning and/or end of a clip, and then save the result as an MTS (AVCHD) file. Movies can also be burned to DVDs or Blu-ray discs, though I believe you have to buy an add-on for the latter. You can also export videos to WMV format, though the resolution is lowered to VGA. For editing, most of the popular suites (e.g. Adobe Premiere) can work with the camera's AVCHD and MP4 formats just fine.

Mac users who want to view the HX5V's movies have a few options. If you saved your videos using the MP4 (H.264) codec, then just double-click them and they'll open up in QuickTime Player. If you used AVCHD (which is the default, and required for Full HD recording), things aren't quite as easy. You can view the MTS (AVCHD) files by using VLC, and both iMovie and Final Cut Pro can be used for editing (though they don't edit the MTS files themselves). You can convert the files into other formats using Handbrake or Toast Titanium, with the latter also able to burn the movies to a DVD or Blu-ray disc.

PMB Portable for Windows

There's a mini version of Picture Motion Browser built into the camera, as well. Thus, you can view, transfer, and share photos with others simply by plugging the camera into your computer and installing the PMB Portable software. There are both Mac and Windows versions of PMB Portable, though I could only get the Windows version to work.

The documentation for the DSC-HX5V comes in two parts, and that's not 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). In terms of user friendliness, both of these manuals are about average, though they could be a lot more detailed. Documentation for the included software is installed onto your computer.