Introduction, Design and Handling
You may be surprised, but many camera purchase decisions have been down to the simple fact that their owners just want something better than their smartphone camera to take pictures when they’re on a holiday. DSLR cameras are too bulky, while the smaller mirrorless system cameras may be too complicated for those who rarely shoot with a camera. And that’s why the compact superzoom segment is still around; it offers an impressive zoom range in a compact package and some models come with manual shooting modes for those who prefer a little more control.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX50V is Sony’s latest superzoom compact which serves up 30x optical zoom in a body that’s slimmer than other 30x optical zoom models. The HX50V has a 20.4-megapixel CMOS sensor and sports built-in Wi-Fi so you can use your smartphone as a remote control. Sounds like an ideal superzoom compact? Read on to find out our opinion from field testing it.
Design and Handling
While Sony’s claim of the HX50V being the smallest 30x optical zoom camera is true at the point of publishing this review, it’s still slightly chunkier than your standard point-and-shoot camera. Even so, it's still handy for its class and features offered and even some-what pocketable (though be prepared for a bulge in your front or rear pant pockets). The camera felt solid and the inclusion of a rubberized texture hand grip helped with its handling.
The controls on the rear are quite standard, with a clickable scroll wheel, Menu button, Camera-Guide/Delete button, Playback button and a Custom button with assignable functions (it is set to ISO by default). There’s also the Movie button at the top right which helps you quickly start recording videos, but the placement may not be ideal as it's fairly near the thumb-rest area. This is however a design that's mostly carried forward from the previous generation HX series and Sony still hasn't made changes. The rest of the space on the rear of the camera is taken up by the 3-inch, 921,600-dot screen. With such a high resolution, the display looks quite sharp, though unfortunately it isn’t touch-sensitive like some of the HX50V’s peers. Further to that, we also found that the HX50V’s display didn’t fare as well as some of the other superzoom compacts when it came to visibility under bright sunlight. For these less than ideal aspects, the HX50V loses some points in terms of handling.
The top of the camera is where things get interesting, with the HX50V’s larger width allowing for a multi-interface shoe to be placed on top. This mount allows for a viewfinder, flash or mic to be mounted on the camera, though all these come at an additional cost. Superzooms generally come in two form factors – the bridge types, which resemble a small DSLR but are much larger than your average compact camera, or the compact types, which are generally small enough to slip into your pocket. Among all the compact form factor types, the HX50V is the only one that has this multi-interface shoe, which is a plus point for expandable optons.
Besides the mode dial, the HX50V also comes with a dedicated exposure compensation dial which gives the user better control over exposure compensation. It is however, easy to forget to reset the dial back to zero and accidentally start shooting with some exposure compensation. Ironically, while some may dislike the HX50V’s slightly larger dimensions, its size makes it easier to handle than some of the smaller compact superzooms.
The menu system is easy to navigate though we do miss the Quick Menu shortcuts on the Panasonic TZ40 and Samsung WB800F, as the Sony HX50V’s menu interface scrolls down vertically and it takes a while to scroll through the entire list. Wi-Fi is easy to set up with your smartphone, though the HX50V’s implementation is simpler and more basic compared to some of the offerings by other brands. It allows you to remotely control the camera's zoom, set the timer and flash, but there’s no way to control other manual settings such as aperture and shutter speed.
Unfortunately, you can’t directly upload images to social media sites, which limits the appeal of the HX50V’s Wi-Fi capability. In this regard we have to say Panasonic has the best Wi-Fi implementation so far, with full-resolution image transfers and the ability to directly upload to social media websites. The HX50V also comes with GPS tagging if you wish to log your location into your images, though using this will also cause the battery to drain faster.