Here's a short version of my review: What I love most about this camera: the zoom, stabilizer, WIFI, grip, panorama, fast shutter What I wasn't so excited about: The 18MP quality has a lot of detail loss.
Sony HX30v vs Canon S100 ============================================================ Picture quality: S100 Winner (also shoots RAW) Video: HX30v (Before, I wrote the S100 had a slight edge in detail, but HX30v is clearly the winner in video. Canon has this clicking focusing noise issue and exposure flicking problem when it's confused between adjusting to bright or dark scenes. Sony knows video. Most people will find it hard to believe a video shot with this camera came from a digital camera and not an actual video camera. HX30v wins in smoother frame rate as well: 60 vs 24 FPS) Lens: S100 (Max F2.0 vs 3.2 - Focal Length is roughly the same: S100 is 24mm / HX30V is 25mm) Zoom: HX30v (20x vs 5x) Macro: HX30v (1 cm vs 3 cm) Body: S100 is slimmer and more compact; HX30v is better for bigger hands/better grip
HX30v motor mechanics are more silent than S100
If you want a serious compact camera, go with the Canon S100 (if you also don't mind 5x zoom, 24FPS video, and no WIFI) If you want an all-around versatile packed camera, go with this HX30V, especially if you don't need to shoot in RAW or extremely picky about pixels, don't mind being a little bulky (S100 is slimmer), need lots of zoom, easy automatic modes - it makes it an handy camera to carry.
Sony will be releasing a new camera called the DSC-RX100 (although pricey!), which will have a much bigger sensor for compact cameras, to compete against the S100 and micro-third cameras.
I used to work in camera sales and have played with all the latest compact cameras from Canon, Nikon, Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, Fuji, Olympus, and Pentax. The Sony HX series cameras (HX7V, HX9V, HX10V were the old models and now comes the HX20V and 30V) were one of the easiest cameras to sell because of the many features it includes that stand out compared to others. I've been a Canon guy, but Sony has really impressed me (especially with their NEX/Alpha series) and they definitely rank near the top.
First things first, A LOT of customers who aren't too familiar with cameras assume more mega pixels means better image quality. This is NOT true. Do not purchase a camera going by that rule. It's a great marketing tool, but get that out of your head! The mega pixels are simply the resolution, which can be good for printing large photos or cropping -- HOWEVER, if the sensor isn't capable of even handling that large amount of pixels then it actually goes against you; it gets to the point where there is no detail and it just looks more like a smudged out mosaic painting. It's similar to a quality difference of an actual optical zoom to a digital zoom; digital zoom is worthless and you want the actual optics to be moving, to zoom, rather than the sensor digitally blowing up the picture. The sensor on the HX30's true EFFECTIVE resolution is more around 9MP and increased to 18MP, so the quality is lost. Cropping at 18MP will pretty much be useless in this case because you will see that the detail isn't there at all and it will look like a washed out painting.
The Canon's S100 has an effective 12MP sensor. If you are VERY picky about quality then you'll be happier going with the Canon S100 in terms of overall image quality (in terms of compact cameras, of course - if you want the best quality image you'll have to get a DSLR, or an "EVIL" camera such as the Sony NEX 5N with APS-C sensor). The Canon S100 also has a wider aperture at F2.0 (the lower the number generally means it can take in more light) and the Sony HX30V's widest aperture is F3.2. At it's widest angle 25mm, you can only switch between 3.2 and jump to F8.0
The image quality comes down to the actual sensor and lens. With that in mind, a DSLR, which has a bigger sensor, that is a lower mega pixel will still have a much better image quality than a small compact point-and-shoot camera with a really high mega pixel.
Generally, Canon and Nikon are mainly known for cameras, but Sony has shown that they can compete with them as well, having years of experience in technology. (Sony actually supplies the sensor for Nikon for their DSLR!)
This camera is also very user-friendly with its built-in manual guide, the display showing what each mode does, as well as having two auto-modes; the intelligent auto mode is standard, but in Superior Auto mode, it will take several shots and combine them to create the best picture possible.
Pros: ============================================================ - Fast shutter (if you've ever experienced slow shutter delay on lower-end cameras, well, you'll be happy how quickly this thing takes pictures and in continuous shooting mode, it can capture 10 pictures in one second -- at full resolution) - Sony has the fastest automatic-focusing as well.
- 20x optical zoom (it's more silent and faster than Canon S100's 5x zoom)
- Excellent Stabilizer (zoomed in at 20x and it creates a nice gliding steadiness)
- Full 1080p at 60FPS (Canon S100 only has 24FPS). However, you need a modern computer or PS3 to play this back. You can shoot in MP4 (youtube format) at 1080/30 frames and 720/VGA too. 1080p60 frames will be in AVCHD .MTS format. However, see Cons)
- Panorama - Again, Sony has the best built-in panorama feature where you easily sweep it across the direction that you want and it stitches it together for you to create a wide picture. Canon still doesn't have this feature and other brands like Fuji and Nikon's panorama assist is no comparison.
- Very nice grip - feels great in the hands (not like the puny "grip" on the Canon S100)
- Dual recording (you can take still pictures while shooting video; however, not in the 1080-60p mode) - But they will be in 2MP - you actually don't need to take a picture while recording; you can always take a snapshot at any frame during playback of the video.
- Manual focus area without having to re-compose the shot (however, the Canon S100 has much nicer manual options with its custom ring)
- Wifi! - you have to download Sony's PlayMemories app, but once that's done, it makes transferring photos to your phone easy! I thought the WIFI would be a gimmick but if you have a smartphone, it's really nice to be able to send it right away. With the 20x zoom, I can take far away pictures or nice panoramas and immediately send the picture to friends and they'll think it was all done with my camera phone!) - However, the WIFI upload will compress the pictures to 2MP resolution!
- Face Detect works really well and there is a also a self-timer to shoot 2 seconds after a one/two faces are detected; it can detect up to 8 faces to correctly focus/set correct exposure on them.
- Digital leveler (so that you know your composition is perfectly horizontal and not tilted)
- Good Macro
- In playback video mode, I do like that you can use the wheel dial to fast forward/rewind frame by frame and fast forward up to 4x
With the Sony HX30V, in playback mode, you can zoom out 3 times; if you zoom out once, it'll display 4x4 rows of thumbnail pictures (16 pictures); zooming out again will display 5x5 (25 thumbnails); zooming out a third time will show a nice calendar display where you can easily select the date/album of the pictures.
With the Canon S100, playback will display 2x2 (4 thumbnails), 3x3 (9 thumbnails), 6x6 (36 thumbnails), 10x10 (100 thumbnails) and using the custom front ring allows one to jump between dates(but no calendar display like on the Sony)
The Canon is able to display the thumbnails much faster than the Sony.
Cons: ============================================================ - 18MP hurts the quality (the S100 has better detail)
- Although 1080 resolution and smoother frame rates, the colors and detail seem rather faded compared to S100
- Does not seem to have a trim/combine video editing feature in playback mode (you can with the S100)
- No manual whatsoever for video recording (S100, you can lock the focus before recording)
- No aperture/shutter priority manual control
- No custom self-timer setting; max is 10 seconds or 2 seconds. it can take 1 picture after 10 or 2 seconds; or takes 10 continuous shots after 10 seconds (not for 2 seconds) and shoots 2 seconds after one or two faces are detected. (With the Canon S100, you can customize up to 30 seconds and up to 10 shots; so you can set it to, let's say, take 6 shots and set the timer to 5 seconds)
- the "Custom Button" next to the dials can only be set for Exposure Value, ISO, White Balance, Metering Mode, Smile Shutter -- but I would like to assign it for other options too like quickly changing the Focus Mode without going into the Menu.
- 105MB internal memory, but you cannot record video with it
- You must remove the memory card to view what's on the internal memory.
- the body and buttons feels a bit more plasticky and a bit cheaper than the previous model HX10/9V; this is also the similar with Canon's S100/S95. I guess they are trying to save costs/weigh less? The dial does feel cheaper than Canon S100's dial.
- It comes with a USB-charger, so you still need to charge it through the camera as opposed to removing the battery - it's a separate accessory you have to buy.
- Some may find it to be a bit bulkier than most compact-cameras
- the WIFI feature does not work for uploading videos
- In burst shot mode, you're restricted to a maximum ISO800
- When viewing photos, it does NOT allow to zoom in WHILE MAINTAINING PORTRAIT ORIENTATION! It ends up going back to landscape mode even if you're still holding the camera vertically (with the Canon, it will still be locked to the orientation you're viewing it as when you zoom)
- Pressing the play button just to view photos will turn on the screen, but if you press the play button again hoping to turn off the screen, it would actually end up retracting the lens instead to start shooting; with the Canon, I can press the play button to view photos and then press the play button again to turn off the screen without the lens retracting out -- minor annoyance. (you can also press the on/off button to turn off the screen without the lens retracting in playback mode)
- The side menu system could be designed/organized better for quicker navigation
Some might not be willing to spend this much money for a digital camera, but you really get what you pay for. If you need to shoot in RAW, then this camera might be deal breaker for you. If you don't need the high-zoom/panorama/1080 at 60frames and something a bit more compact, then I would definitely consider the Canon S100.
If you don't mind the size, I would also consider the Sony NEX-5N 16.1 MP Compact Interchangeable Lens Touchscreen Camera with 18-55mm Lens (Black). The difference between the HX20V is simply the WIFI, so if you don't have a smartphone or don't need it then you can just get the HX20V. Overall, the Sony HX30V is packed with many features: WIFI, high zoom, fast shutter/focusing, good grip, panorama, dual recording picture - it makes it an all-around solid camera; however, it will not replace my Canon S100. Mainly the minus one-star for me is the image quality and manual controls compared to the S100. The Canon S100 and the Sony HX30V are both fantastic cameras in their own way. In the end, what is best will depend on YOUR needs.
I'll try to use this camera more and see if I would love it more than my Canon S100. I will be sure to update my review.