323 of 345 people found the following review helpful
HX50V is a winner,
This review is from: Sony DSC-HX50V/B 20.4MP Digital Camera with 3-Inch LCD Screen (Black) (Electronics)
I bought a Sony HX9V a few years ago and when I saw the announcement for the HX50V with its 30x zoom, I thought: "Upgrade time has arrived." The delivery van showed up yesterday and I gave the camera a thorough test drive today. There is good news and bad news. Let's get the bad news over first.
The first photo I tried to make was of a target about 70 cm (28") wide at a distance of about 1 m (39"). The camera wouldn't focus. I tried my HX9V and it focused perfectly. I called Sony and asked what was going on and the nice man suggested my camera must have a manufacturing defect and I should send it back to Sony for a new one. Eventually I figured out that this is complete nonsense. The compromises required to get a 30x zoom into such a small camera meant that the minimum distance at any given zoom just has to be more than the zoom on other cameras. Bummer, but in practice, you don't normally have to get very close with a high zoom.
The second piece of bad news is that after extensive testing (see below) I concluded that the only f-stops available are f/3.5, f/4, f/4.5, f/5, f/5.6, and f6.3. When there is plenty of light, I would have liked f/8, f/11, and f/16, but they aren't available. Also, the fastest shutter speed is 1/1600 sec.
The flash is not automatic, like on the HX9V. You have to manually release it. This is a real minus. The camera should figure out on its own when it needs the flash, pop it up, and use it.
The menu system is quite complicated and it is difficult to find things. For example, there is a MENU button, which when pushed, displays a column of icons, one of which is Settings. But not all the settings are under Settings. Some are in the column of icons. Furthermore, which items are available depends on the position of the mode wheel on top of the camera. All in all, it is confusing and poorly thought out. All the settings should be under Settings and the menu items should be identical no matter where the wheel is, even if some of them are not currently applicable (e.g., ISO in automatic mode).
There is no raw mode so you are stuck with the in-camera processing. In truth though, it is not bad. You can tweak some of the parameters if you want.
The layout of the buttons could be better. The button for shooting videos is in an awful place and can be pushed by accident much too easily. Also, unlike the HX9V, there is an exposure offset dial on top of the camera. Nobody is ever going to use this. It should have been a menu item and the video button placed at the top.
There are several features that warm the cockles of marketeers' hearts, but are useless to photographers, like smile and blink management. Sony: no doubt you are working on automatic detection of people blowing their noses. Please don't include it in the next model and get rid of the rest of it. Just make the shutter lag short and let the photographer decide when to take the photo.
The camera has WiFi to transfer photos to a computer, but WiFi is much slower than USB, so why bother?
Completely inexcusable is that there is no manual in PDF form on Sony's Website. There is a very abbreviated and largely useless manual in the box. Sony did, however, build an extensive Website telling all about the camera, in over 200 pages of HTML. Unfortunately, you have to click on them one at a time to see everything. I bit the bullet, downloaded all of them, and created a PDF manual for other people. I put it at www.cs.vu.nl/~ast/photos/hx50v/manual.pdf for you to download.
Now the good news. The camera is small and light and handles very well, just like the other HX... cameras. The screen is clear and bright. The 30x zoom is smooth and the images at 30x are amazing. Some people who reviewed the camera before it was released were whining about the large number of pixels (20 M) on the small (1/2.3) sensor. These people should buy a Nikon D4. It has a full frame sensor and really big pixels. It is also very expensive, heavy, and doesn't fit in your pocket.
To test the HX50V, I shot a series of photos first using automatic (Superior) and then in programmed mode, at ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1600, at different focal lengths. The test shots are at www.cs.vu.nl/~ast/photos/hx50/series-1.zip. These were made in Amsterdam on a bright but windy day. From the EXIF data, you can see all the settings. However, note that the focal length in the EXIF data is the true focal length from the point of view of the camera's optics. To get the 35mm equivalent focal length, multiply the focal length shown by 5.58. For example, 129 mm has the field of view of a 720 mm lens on a (D)SLR.
Also note that holding a camera with a 720 mm lens steady requires some care, even with Steady Shot. In my test shots, I tried hard, but you might detect a bit of blurring in some of the shots.
As mentioned above, the smallest f-stop is f/6.3 and the fastest shutter speed is 1/1600 sec. When I forced the ISO to 1600, the little microprocessor inside the camera was probably sweating bullets, thinking: "Why 1600? Even at 1/1600 sec and f/6.3, there is far too much light coming in; what is this guy thinking? That he is at the North Pole at midnight in December? As you can see, the ISO 1600 photos are way overexposed. Fortunately, in automatic mode, the camera defaults to ISO 80 when there is enough light. The photos in the zip file have names like 101A-ISO=0400.jpg, where the first number is a sequence number which is the same for all the shots at the same location. The A photos are at 24 mm, the C photos are at 720 mm, and the B photos are in somewhere in between.
My conclusion is that there is no visible noise up to ISO 400 and surprisingly little above it. The zoom is great and you can see tremendous detail at 30x. There doesn't appear to be much barrel or pincushion distortion although no doubt if you shoot targets in a lab, you'll find some. In practice, despite the long zoom, distortion isn't an issue.
After making the above tests, I made more tests of the zoom in automatic (Superior) mode. In www.cs.vu.nl/~ast/photos/hx50v/series-2.zip, you will see photos made from 24 different places, again at 24 mm, some intermediate zoom, and 720 mm. These shots show the power and clarity of the 30x zoom.
I also tested the macro capabilities. You can get subjects in focus at a distance of 2 cm from the lens. A shot of a 25 mm x 35 mm stamp is at www.cs.vu.nl/~ast/photos/hx50v/stamp.jpg . Observe how clear the hairs on the monkey's chin are.
I gave the video a short test. It seems OK. For decent HD, be sure to choose AVCHD and not MP4 in the menus though, and set the bit rate to 28 Mbps. Having both AVCHD and MP4 seems redundant though, since both are containers that can hold any codec, any frame size, and any bit rate.
To conclude, despite a few design flaws, the HX50V is a great choice for someone who wants a pocket camera with a long zoom and excellent image quality.
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Showing 1-10 of 23 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 31, 2013 3:53:20 PM PDT
D. Brown says:
Where did you purchase this camera? I want to buy one, but everywhere that I check says "pre-order" including here on Amazon.
Posted on Jun 2, 2013 2:57:57 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 2, 2013 2:58:13 PM PDT
R Gomez says:
I don't understand your comment about the flash, in Sony's website it says the settings for flash are:
Flash Modes : Auto / Flash On / Slow Synchro / Rear Slow Synchro / Flash Off / Advanced Flash
The setting Auto should initiate Flash automatically when needed, is this a mistake on your review?
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2013 3:14:52 AM PDT
Isabelle Wolf says:
Thumbs up for sharing the manual - thanks stacks, mate. Most appreciated.
Posted on Jun 14, 2013 7:46:11 PM PDT
Songchun Mu says:
great job for the manual. Many thanks!
Posted on Jun 15, 2013 10:34:51 AM PDT
A. Verdugo says:
Another thanks regarding the manual!
Posted on Jun 20, 2013 6:15:49 AM PDT
Elliott L says:
The exposure compensation feature is, in my opinion, the most important feature for me to access while taking photos so its location on top rather than buried in menus is the one of the BEST features of this camera. I am a Professional and this feature is what you need to get good exposure in many situations. Thank you VERY much for the extensive sharing, both of your photo tests, knowledge and the camera manual. Have you tried the optional viewfinder?
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 30, 2013 1:02:04 AM PDT
In the earlier models (HX9, HX10, HX20, HX30) the flash used to pop up by itself in the auto mode. In the HX50, one has to manually raise the flash by pressing a button. Once the flash is raised it operates as it should. There are pros and cons to both approaches. personally I prefer the HX50 option of releasing the flash manually as in the earlier models it used to get stuck under the finger etc.
Posted on Jul 2, 2013 2:20:22 PM PDT
Thanks for the samples!
Posted on Jul 27, 2013 8:36:16 AM PDT
M. Merlin says:
And another big thank you for the PDF download of the manual. Glad to see that there are still people who also provide such a service to others and share.
Posted on Aug 3, 2013 7:10:47 PM PDT
I wanted to thank you personally for posting such a comprehensive and well written review. Thanks also for posting the User Guide. Unfortunately, the guide lost some of its PDF functionality. I couldn't use the chapter links and skip around. However, for anyone who wants the same guide with the ability to jump from one chapter to another, it is available by searching goooogle (spelling intentional because I think Amazon doesn't allow references to specific search engines) for the terms sony hx50v user guide. It's easily downloadable and is one of the top items in the search. There is one from the UK on top of the search window and another guide for the US that was about the fourth down on the list. Mine came from docs.sony.com/release.....