Not all superzooms are created equally, some may offer longer zoom ranges but are impossible to shoot handheld at the longest end. So it is definitely a credit to Sony that we were able to get reasonably good handheld shots with the HX50V at the 30x zoom end.
In terms of imaging resolution, we found the HX50V scored 2000 LPH (horizontal and vertical), and while the HX50V boasts of a 20.4-megapixel sensor, it is still a compact camera with a small sensor. So while images from the HX50V may look good at smaller imaging resolutions, zooming in will reveal that images aren’t as sharp as you expect them to be. In fact most superzooms fare poorly when their images are viewed at full size, even when compared to the advanced compact models. This is however a limitation of this class of cameras and is naturally a balance of size, optics and electronics. So there's nothing wrong with the HX50V or its competitors, but one should understand the purpose and target market of each camera while assessing how it fares and understanding why certain cameras perform the way they do.
Moving on, noise is well controlled until ISO800, though the HX50V’s standard noise reduction setting aggressively smudges details from as early as ISO200. Setting the noise reduction to low will of course help to retain slightly more detail, but at the cost of introducing noise with images looking grainier.
The HX50V’s rated battery life is impressive, with the ability to shoot 400 shots before needing a recharge. Most of its peers fall flat after shooting 200-odd images, so the HX50V will definitely last longer out in the field.
Below are sample photographs shot with the Sony Cyber-Shot HX50V. The photos have not been post-processed and are copyright to SPH Magazines. They are provided for your reference only and we ask that you do not reproduce them elsewhere. Click for the full-resolution images
The Sony HX50V is definitely one of the better travel compacts, with a 30x optical zoom housed inside a relatively compact body. Its image stabilization is also top-notch, with the hot shoe mount providing more options to users (though we feel it’s still a novelty as purchasing any accessory will drive the overall price further up).
Unfortunately the HX50V’s noise reduction is quite aggressive and Wi-Fi functionality needs more refinement in order to catch up with some of its peers. The HX50V is still a competent superzoom, but we’re sure it’s just a matter of time before people compare it to the Panasonic TZ40, which is the best superzoom camera we've reviewed among others in the July issue of our sister publication, HWM.
The HX50V definitely has the longer reach with 30x optical zoom compared to the Panasonic TZ40’s 20x. However, the Panasonic TZ40 has the upper hand with its display performing better under bright sunlight and the fact that it’s touch sensitive, which allows users to set the focus point among other things and thus helps a lot in terms of handling. If you’re big on embracing Wi-Fi functionality and sharing directly from your camera, the Panasonic TZ40 has one of best Wi-Fi implementations we have seen in a camera. But the Sony HX50V is unrivaled in terms of battery life (according to its rated specs), with the ability to hit 400 shots before going flat, compared to the Panasonic TZ40’s 260-shot battery life.
However, Sony's advantages will however cost you more with its suggested retail price pegged at S$699. That's quite expensive for a compact superzoom, eating into the price bracket of entry-level advanced compact cameras, older mirrorless and DSLR camera models. Of course the camera types we've compared are for different purposes and needs, a high zoom factor with good stabilization when the lens is fully extended does come at a price, especially in the form factor of Sony's HX50V. Secondly, higher battery stamina also comes at a price.
In the end, it really boils down to choosing between the Panasonic TZ40’s more compact size, increased functionality, better handling and more affordable price point or the Sony HX50V’s longer stable zoom and superior battery life. So while Sony's Cyber-shot HX50V may not be the perfect all-round travel superzoom, it’s still commendable enough that we would recommend potential buyers to consider it depending on their preferences and needs.