Here’s my in-depth review of the Sony Cyber-shot HX200V, the latest 2012 Sony ultra-zoom camera which features an 18 megapixel sensor, 30X optical zoom, full manual controls, Full HD movie mode and ISO up to 12800. Visit the Sony Cyber-shot HX200V photo gallery to see sample photos taken using the camera.
The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V is the latest and greatest camera from the 2012 Sony Cyber-shot lineup. The camera sports several improvements; a new 18 megapixel CMOS sensor, ISO that goes up to ISO 12800, faster autofocus speed, improved image stabilization, new Photo Creativity mode, Picture Effects and Clear Image Zoom functionality. The camera also can take bigger still photos (13 megapixels versus 3 megapixels on last year’s models) while recording movies. Read on to find out if the Sony HX200V is for you!
In the camera box
The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V comes with a plain bundle with just the essentials you’ll find with any camera. The Sony HX200V doesn’t come with any lens hood. The Cyber-shot HX200V has a lens cap that is slightly better than last year’s model and it no longer goes spinning off when pushed by the extending lens but there’s still room for improvement here for a better lens cap:
- Sony Cyber-shot HX200V camera
- NP-FH50 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- AC adapter with cable
- Lens cap and cover strap
- Shoulder strap
- USB cable
- Camera software CD
The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V supports both the commonly found SDHC/SDXC cards as well as Sony’s proprietary Memory Stick Duo format in its single memory card slot. I recommend using SDHC/SDXC since they typically are faster and cheaper compared to Sony Memory Sticks of the same capacity; plus SD cards are more widely used in all sorts of devices and electronics (Memory Sticks are limited to Sony products). The Cyber-shot HX200V comes with a ridiculously tiny amount of internal memory and you’ll have to pick up a dedicated memory card, at least a 8 GB SDHC card, to be able to actually go out and take pictures with the camera. The Sony HX200V can perform faster with a high-speed memory card and I would recommend going for one of those Class 10 or 15 MB/s rated cards.
The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V uses the same NP-FH50 battery as its predecessor but manages to squeeze out an addition 10% battery life. The Cyber-shot HX200V is rated to 450 shots per battery charge, making it last longer than most super zoom cameras in the market (though competing cameras are close: the old Sony HX100V and Panasonic Lumix FZ150 are rated to 410 shots, the Fujifilm FinePix HS20 EXR gets 400 shots per charge while the Canon PowerShot SX40 gets 380 shots per charge) except the Fujifilm HS30EXR with 600 shots per charge. The new Coolpix P510 comes in last with a mediocre 240 shots per charge.
There is one downside though; battery life is said to drop to the 300 shot mark with the camera’s GPS enabled, so be sure to watch out and switch GPS off if you’d like the best battery life out of the camera! The Sony HX200V comes with a standalone AC adapter which plugs into the wall and charges the battery inside the camera. The camera does not support charging via USB.
There aren’t many accessories available for the Sony Cyber-shot HX200V. There’s an optional battery charger, HDMI cable and camera cases. Like last year’s model, the Sony HX200V does not have any filters, lens hood or conversion lenses officially available, though third party solutions are available but hard to find/are expensive. If you are really desperate to attach filters or conversion lenses to the camera, I would suggest trying eBay or other small/independent online retailers for that.
The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V looks like your typical ultra-zoom camera and to some extent, has a digital SLR inspired design. The camera has an ergonomic right hand grip that’s fairly deep, raised bump for the flash and viewfinder and a decent number of buttons and controls (more than on a pocket camera, but not enough to intimidate the average user). Though the camera looks identical to last year’s model, the Sony HX200V is actually slightly larger and measures 121.6 x 86.6 x 93.3 mm (4.8 x 3.5 x 3.7 inches). That’s still pretty compact though, considering the camera has a big 30X optical zoom lens. The camera also weighs quite a bit, at 583 grams (a little over 1 pound) when loaded with its battery and memory card, though this is nowhere near as heavy as digital SLR cameras with their lenses.
The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V has good ergonomics and is easy to use, though it also has a good number of controls for those wanting to mess with camera settings and exposure controls. The response of the electronic function ring around the lens has been improved though it still doesn’t come close to real manual focus/zoom rings in terms of precision and smoothness, but the jog dial on the back of the camera is still disappointingly unresponsive.
The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V uses the same 30X optical zoom lens that we saw on last year’s model. The lens covers a range of 27 – 810 mm and has an aperture range of f2.8 – f5.6 and we have the same small quibble with the lens starting at 27 mm, which is slightly less wide compared to the 24 or 25 mm found on competing cameras from Canon, Fujifilm, Panasonic and Nikon. It’s also noteworthy that the Sony HX200V is the only 18 megapixel super-zoom camera in the market right now; the cameras from other brands are 12 or 16 megapixels.
The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V has Optical Steady-shot (Sony’s moniker for optical image stabilization) which has improved stabilizer abilities and now can correct ‘camera roll’ (think turning the camera in a rotating direction) in additional to traditional up-down and left-right camera shake. The Sony HX200V continues to have Active Image Stabilization which can correct larger amounts of camera shake (useful at larger zoom lengths and while recording movies) though things will look slightly more zoomed in than usual since the camera uses a smaller area of its image sensor when in Active Stabilizer mode. You can see how effective image stabilization is in our photo gallery and sample videos later in this review; especially our squirrel photos/videos which were taken with the camera handheld without a tripod or brace.
Near the camera lens, you’ll find the autofocus assist light (also blinks for self-timer countdown) and camera flash. The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V uses the same powerful flash we saw on last year’s model, covering a range of 30 cm to 12.7 meters (1 to 41 feet) at wide-angle and 2 to 5.9 meters (6 to 19 feet) at maximum zoom. The flash is automatically popped up (by selecting auto flash or flash on) but manually closed. You can’t attach any external flashes to the Sony HX200V so you’re stuck with what you have here.
The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V has a flip up/down LCD which allows you to tilt the LCD on its 2 hinges for above-head or knee/waist-level shots. The display has 921,000 dots so it’s nice and sharp. It also has good visibility indoors and just decent visibility under bright light/outdoors. The camera has its speaker hidden behind the LCD screen; you can see it after tilting the display outwards.
Directly above the LCD is the electronic viewfinder (EVF) which provides you with a 0.2 inch LCD inside a viewfinder-like tunnel. The EVF is fairly small and has a resolution of just 201,600 dots, making it not as sharp as the LCD. The EVF is useful for holding the camera steady against your eye and outdoor shooting where LCD visibility isn’t as good, but for most part, I preferred the main LCD for its smoothness and sharp image. There is a dioptric correction wheel on the left side of the EVF for glasses wearers; you can see this better when we reach the side view image of the camera.
Just right next to the EVF eyepiece is a proximity sensor which detects when your eye is up against the viewfinder so the camera can automatically switch between the EVF and LCD. The sensor worked better here than on the old model since I can’t remember too many times when something accidentally triggered LCD switching.
To the right side are buttons for playback and movie start/stop respectively. There’s also a command dial on the upper right edge used for adjusting camera settings and scrolling through menu items. It can also be pressed down like a button to move between different settings to change (mainly shutter speed, aperture, ISO and exposure compensation). The dial is on the unresponsive side since it usually takes a couple of clicks before the camera starts paying attention and actually changes settings.
Moving downwards, there are two other buttons (for bringing up the menu and help tooltips/deleting photos respectively) along with the 5 way navigation pad:
- Up – Display (Toggle what is shown on-screen)
- Down – Photo Creativity mode
- Left – Drive mode (Normal shooting, burst mode up to 10 FPS, self-timer 2 or 10 seconds or portrait timer); the portrait timer option uses face detection so the camera can take pictures automatically when new faces enter a scene
- Right – Flash setting (Auto, on, off slow sync, rear sync)
- Center – Subject tracking autofocus
The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V has the standard Sony menu which brings up a row of main camera settings along with an icon that allows you to drill deeper into less frequently changed options and setup settings. The main part of the menu allows you to change image size, white balance (there is a custom white balance option and ability to shift white balance on two axes: blue-amber and magenta-green), metering, image stabilization and movie mode settings.
You can also alter image output by adjusting contrast, saturation, sharpness, noise reduction and Color Mode effects. There is a built-in 3 stop neutral density filter that you can manually toggle or have the camera automatically use it when conditions are too bright to get proper exposure. The ND filter also comes in handy when you’d like to get slow shutter speeds needed to produce ‘motion’ effects like smooth flowing water and fireworks trails. There is no RAW image mode available on the Sony HX200V.
Photo Creativity mode is a new feature on the Sony Cyber-shot HX200V. It is available in Auto and some other modes by pressing the ‘down’ key on the navigation pad. Photo Creativity mode simplifies things for beginners who want to adjust settings but don’t know how to. The Sony HX200V breaks things down into brightness (exposure), color tone (white balance), vividness (saturation) and Picture Effect.
The camera also has a built-in guide and user’s manual, which is accessible via the button on the camera or the menu item with the ‘question mark’ icon. The guide tells you just about everything related to the camera and various settings and definitely comes in handy for beginners.
The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V displays everything you need to know (exposure and shooting info, a live histogram, zoom indicator and a very precise battery level indicator down to the minute) on its live view screen. The HX200V also has a new electronic level indicator which allows you to take straight photos..
The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V has built-in GPS functionality. You can geotag photos with the coordinates where they were taken. The camera doesn’t have a built-in database of maps or landmarks and you’ll have to add such information to photos separately using computer software, so all the camera really does is mark photos with a bunch of numbers which are location coordinates. A function called GPS Log can let the camera update its location from time to time, even when powered off, to reduce location acquisition time; though this will negatively affect battery life.
Over here, you’ll find the stereo microphones, button for manually switching between the EVF and LCD, a power on/off button and the mode dial. The Sony HX200V sports only important modes on its mode dial so it’s good that the dial isn’t overcrowded with options:
- PASM exposure modes: Program, aperture priority, shutter priority and full manual mode. The ranges for aperture and shutter speed are f2.8/f5.6 to f8.0 and 1/4000 to 30 seconds respectively
- Memory Recall (MR) mode: Save 3 sets of frequently used camera settings here
- Sweep Panorama mode: Camera will automatically stitch a panorama as you pan it from side to side (There’s also a 3D panorama creation mode)
- Movie mode
- 3D mode: The camera guides you to take two separate photos so it can combine it into a 3D one
- Scene modes: Access all the camera’s scene modes here
- Intelligent Auto: Camera does everything for you, down to automatically selecting a scene mode
- Superior Auto: Same as above but the camera do multi-shot layering when needed (for low-light or HDR photos)
The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V has the same great panorama mode as its predecessor and other Cyber-shot models. You just need to pan the camera from side-to-side (or up-down) for it to automatically piece together a panorama. In standard Panorama mode, the camera makes 5 to 7 megapixel large panoramas, but switch to High-Res mode (Panorama HR) and the camera can piece together 43 megapixel panoramas.
The camera relies on its ND filter built into the lens so aperture choices are limited; you only get 2 aperture choices at any time throughout the zoom range.
As with other modern Cyber-shot cameras with CMOS image sensors, the Sony HX200V can take several photos in a row and combine them into a better looking final shot in several shooting modes. It does this in Anti-blur mode to reduce chances of blur caused by camera shake, backlight correction (HDR) mode where it improves contrast and brightness and also in Superior Auto mode whenever the camera feels the need to achieve the results of the previous two modes.
There’s also Background Defocus mode (camera takes 2 differently focused shots for better background blur with portraits) and two photos, each with and without flash, in Natural Flash mode. Other notable features on the camera include face, smile and blink detection and soft skin mode.
The last things to see are the Focus and Custom buttons and shutter button with zoom controller wrapped around it. The custom button allows you assign a camera function to it while the focus button is for selecting an autofocus point or using manual focus enlargement.
The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V has an electronic function ring around the lens barrel which can be used for either zoom or manual focus. Being an electronic ring, it actually sends signals to the camera to move around lens elements for zoom/focus; turning it while the camera is off does nothing. The ring has improved and is more responsive on the Sony HX200V, though it isn’t real-time yet and real manual zoom/focus rings are smoother.
The Sony HX200V has an excellent macro mode and can get really close to your subjects, with a minimum focusing distance of 1 cm (0.4 inches) at wide-angle and as close as 200 cm (6.5 feet) at telephoto. You can manually focus on the Sony HX200V and the camera can temporarily zoom into the focus point so you can fine-tune focus more easily.
There is also a row of ports hidden behind a plastic door here, the first two being HDMI and USB + A/V out ports, while the bottom port is where you’ll plug in the bundled AC adapter.
At the bottom of the camera, you’ll find the battery/memory compartment and metal tripod mount. The compartment door feels sturdy.
The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V has a top notch Full HD movie mode. The camera can record movies at 60p (though actual sensor output is 60i interlaced) with Dolby Digital stereo sound, with 2 codec choices: AVCHD format which produces higher quality movies with smaller file sizes or the larger but more widely used MPEG4 format. It’s noteworthy that more video upload websites like Youtube and video players like VLC Player (it’s free) support AVCHD movies right out of the box, so there’s definitely an advantage to use this modern format now that it’s becoming more widely supported.
Movie codec, resolution and frame rate choices include (there is no high-speed/slow-motion option on the HX200V):
- AVCHD Full HD (1920 x 1080), 60p; at 17, 24 or 28 Mbps
- AVCHD 1440 x 1080, 60i; 9 Mbps
- MPEG4 1440 x 1080 at 30 FPS; 12 Mbps
- MPEG4 Standard HD (1280 x 720) at 30 FPS; 6 Mbps
- MPEG4 VGA (640 x 480) at 30 FPS; 3 Mbps
There is a limit of 29 minutes per video file. A 4 GB card will hold about 20 minutes of video at the highest settings (AVCHD 1080p at 28 Mbps), which is quite good considering movies are high in quality and detailed.
The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V allows you to use optical zoom, optical image stabilization, wind filter and continuous autofocus when video is being recorded. You can also take still photos (now at 13 megapixels instead of just 3 on last year’s model) by pressing the normal shutter button while recording and the HX200V will resume video almost seamlessly; though this cannot be done when recording movies at the highest setting.
And we’ve got, not one, not two, but 3 sample videos taken using the Sony Cyber-shot HX200V; all shot at the highest settings:
Performance testing of the Sony Cyber-shot HX200V was done using a high-speed 45 MB/s Sandisk Extreme Pro SDHC card.
- 2.1 seconds
- Below average
- Good light
- 0.1 to 0.3 seconds
- Very fast
- Low light
- 0.4 to 1.2 seconds
- Above average
- Shot-to-shot (JPEG)
- 1.6 seconds
- Very fast
- Flash recharge
- 4 seconds
The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V maintains its ability to shoot at up to 10 FPS, up to 10 photos in a row, at full resolution; that’s quite a feat considering Sony has maintained that speed despite the increase in resolution/size of photos from 12 to 16 and now 18 megapixels on the HX200V. The Sony HX200V recovers fairly quickly in about 10 seconds or less before becoming ready to shoot again.
The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V initially kicks off with a slow start but after the camera has booted up, the Sony HX200V is one of the fastest cameras you will find around. Given well-lit shooting conditions, the camera will focus almost instantly and in low-light, the camera is still pretty snappy and has no problem finding focus thanks to its focus assist light.
The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V allows you to set ISO in 1/3 step increments, but we’re posting samples from just the ‘main’ settings for easy and concise reference.
The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V produces some fairly detailed and clean photos at lower ISO settings. Photos are detailed at ISO 100, as you can see from the surface texture on the green part of our test chart. The camera does some processing on photos at ISO 200 and ISO 400, but it’s minor and keeps photos clean and free of noise. You could make huge prints out of photos at these settings, especially with the Sony HX200V’s high resolution of 18 megapixels.
At ISO 800, photos start to look slightly grainy and there is a hint of color smudging but nothing too noticeable to be concerned about. Photos taken at this setting will still make great large prints and display as wallpaper on your computer or tablet. Photos at ISO 1600 lose some saturation and become slightly muddy looking (some detail is lost), which restricts uses to smaller prints and display. At ISO 3200, this becomes even more noticeable and I wouldn’t recommend using this setting unless you’re fine with 4 x 6 prints or tiny phone wallpaper.
The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V has 2 ISO ‘boost’ settings which quickly takes a string of six photos at ISO 6400 or ISO 12800 and combines them together into a single photo to reduce noise and improve quality. These two settings cannot be used in continuous shooting mode since the camera already has to take multiple shots and combine them. Unfortunately, ISO 6400 and ISO 12800 are not usable at all since they look very muddy with poor color saturation and detail levels.
The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V shows just a slight amount of lens distortion in its photos and minor color fringing (chromatic aberration) in high contrast scenes. For most part, neither of those two will pose problems or even be noticeable in your photos unless you inspect them really closely. The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V also displays fairly good corner sharpness, especially considering it has a 30X zoom lens.
Visit the Sony Cyber-shot HX200V photo gallery to view photos taken using the camera.
The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V now has a pretty good playback mode. The usual basics like print marking, image rotation, cropping and protection and slideshow/calendar views are all here. The Sony HX200V includes tools for redeye removal and image sharpening (unsharp masking) as well as 2 (yes just two) Photo Effects which are watercolor and illustration effect.
The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V shows plenty of information about photos, including camera settings, exposure data and a brightness histogram. If photos were taken with GPS enabled, then the camera can also show location coordinates of where they were taken.
At first glance, the new 18 megapixel Sony Cyber-shot HX200V looks very much like its predecessors from previous years. Indeed the camera shares a similar body design with a 30X zoom lens, 3 inch screen, lens barrel ring and GPS like last year’s model, but the 2012 Sony HX200V sports improvements and new features in various areas, including noteworthy changes for the better in image quality and speed.
At a glance, the improvements on the Sony HX200V include better battery life, improved lens barrel ring response, GPS Log mode to cut down on acquisition times, improved image stabilization, ISO that extends all the way up to ISO 12800, new Photo Creativity mode, Picture Effects and Clear Image Zoom. The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V can also take higher resolution still shots while recording video (13 megapixels vs 3 on previous models).
The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V is also faster and better in terms of autofocus. Combined with the fact it retains quick shooting speeds and that excellent burst mode found on most Sony cameras, this makes the Sony HX200V one of the quickest fixed lens cameras we’ve tested to date. The camera is still sluggish when booting up (not unbearably so, but the 2 second wait is certainly noticeable) and the command dial on the back is frequently unresponsive to changes.
The Sony HX200V includes an array of manual controls, including ability to adjust exposure settings, toggle the camera’s built-in ND filter, adjust white balance manually and custom button and mode dial location. Still, we feel the Sony Cyber-shot HX200V is still geared towards more casual users and folks learning photography, instead of hardcore professional photographers who would like to shoehorn every single accessory from their digital SLR onto this small camera. For instance, the Sony HX200V doesn’t have RAW image mode and its lack of a hotshoe which means you cannot attach external flashes to the camera. The camera also doesn’t officially support conversion lenses and filters, though you can find 3rd party alternatives if you scour the Internet enough.
Simply put, the Sony Cyber-shot HX200V wants to cater and make life as smooth flowing as possible for the majority of folks looking for a camera with plenty of optical zoom and would like to be able to adjust camera settings, but it might not impress the small crowd of enthusiasts and professionals who would like to squeeze out more from the camera. If you’re looking for a super-zoom camera without wanting to adjust settings, no worries, since the Sony HX200V also includes auto mode and auto scene selection, along with a new Photo Creativity mode which provides a nice stepping stone to learn about adjusting settings without technical and complicated terminologies.
There are the usual bunch of useful bells and whistles which Sony typically includes with their high end Cyber-shot models such as Sweep Panorama (with the ability to toggle High Resolution mode to create 43 megapixel panoramas), 3D photo and panorama modes, backlight correction ‘HDR’ mode and two Intelligent Auto modes, one of which can take and combine multiple shots into a single improved quality photo. There’s also auto scene selection, an array of user selectable scene modes, Background Defocus mode (for blurring the background when taking portraits), great 1 cm macro mode and new Picture Effects mode (which offers 9 different photo effects that you can apply to your photos).
The Sony Cyber-shot HX200V sports a new 18 megapixel image sensor and offers great image quality with nicely saturated, detailed and clean photos up to ISO 800. You can easily make a bunch of nice large prints or huge computer/iPad/tablet wallpapers with photos (and smaller uses with the ISO 1600 setting). Using anything higher than ISO 3200 is not recommended though as color saturation drops quickly and details are essentially gone when the camera turns photos into muddy painting-like images. Edge softness, color fringing and lens distortion are all non-issues with the HX200; though the latter two are sometimes visible in certain photos if you look hard enough. Whether you appreciate or dislike the whopping 18 megapixels of the Sony HX200V, the incredibly (or as some might put, ridiculously) high number of megapixels means that photos will usually get resized for web/printing/display, which helps in further suppression of flaws in photos.
All-in-all, if you’re looking for a very capable and versatile camera with lots of optical zoom, manual controls and great movie mode, the Sony Cyber-shot HX200V deserves a firm recommendation from us. Though the camera does have its flaws but just slight ones, some of which won’t even bother a majority of snapshooters looking at this camera (such as RAW mode), other aspects of the camera are well balanced and the Sony Cyber-shot HX200V excels at being an all-rounder (good image quality, quick performance, easy to use and excellent movie mode.
- Good image quality; clean photos up to ISO 800, usable up to ISO 1600
- Versatile 30X zoom lens, now with improved optical image stabilization
- Sharp 3 inch LCD which has decent to good legibility and can be tilted up/down
- Excellent battery life
- Custom button and ability to save 3 sets of settings in Memory Recall mode
- Full manual mode, built-in ND filter, exposure/white balance bracketing and white balance shift
- Built-in GPS (though only coordinates are logged); new tracking mode reduces acquisition times
- New Photo Creativity mode is useful for beginners learning to adjust camera settings
- Sweep Panorama, HDR, 3D photo/panorama modes and many scene modes; new Picture Effects
- Top notch performance, very fast response and speeds (except the command dial and startup time)
- Great Full HD movie mode with high bitrate, stereo sound, optical zoom, autofocus, wind filter and image stabilization
- Lens that starts at a wider angle and better lens cap design would have been nice
- Only 2 aperture choices at any given time; no RAW image mode
- No high-speed/slow motion movie option
- Slow startup time; laggy command dial response
- No flash hotshoe, low resolution EVF