This is just a short “first impressions” review of the Sony Cybershot HX5V digital camera with GPS. I’m not going to go much into details and technical analysis, there are many other photo review blogs out there doing a much better job at that, than I would probably ever be able to do. Here’s a two sites that did a full review of Sony HX5V:
What I’ll focus on in this first impressions review is, well, my first impressions. My normal camera is a Nikon D5000 DSLR camera which is not so handy to carry around in a pocket, like Sony HX5V is. It also doesn’t have a built-in GPS receiver, if geotagging is what makes you tick – I kinda like it.
What’s in the box?
Sony HX5V comes in a black well designed Sony box and has a nice “remember a spare battery: NP-FG1” image on it. Thanks, Sony, I wouldn’t wanna forget (seriously, I already bought one – I always have a spare battery for my cameras).
Inside the box you’ll find:
- Sony HX5V
- Charger + power cord (maybe not in the US box)
- Quick start guide + other papers
- CD with software and PDF manual
- Wrist strap
- A/V cable with USB
- HDMI adapter
What I don’t like about Sony HX5V!
Let’s just start with what I don’t like. That A/V cable. Sony doesn’t want us to have a standard USB port in the camera so we can use any USB cable we like. Instead, they make a proprietary port and ship a thick cable that has both USB and A/V in it. For some, this might be a good deal. Personally, I’d prefer a USB port so I can just carry one USB cable with me at all times (in the bag, not in my pocket!) and be done with it. Look at the picture below – you’d rather travel with the USB cable on the left, right? Well, you’ll either have to bring the cable on the right or a card reader, if you want to backup your photos on-the-go.
The other thing I don’t like about HX5V is that flimsy battery compartment door. What were they thinking? I consider making a note for each day it doesn’t break. It’s plastic and it doesn’t feel sturdy at all.
I do wish that it would allow me to shoot pictures in 3:2 format as known from DSLR cameras, Panasonic DMC-TZ10 has this, but HX5V will only shoot in either 4:3 or 16:9, the latter being too wide, I think.
Finally, the build quality doesn’t feel too good either. The buttons are small and plastic and even with my small fingers, I often find myself using the tip of my finger on the D-pad to avoid pressing the middle “OK” button. The camera body itself is made of some kind of plastic I think. It weighs 200g with battery, compared to the 218g of Panasonic DMC-TZ10 (ZS7 in the US) which was the other camera I considered to buy.
One also has to pay attention to where the middler finger goes, as it tends to block the flash.
What I do like about Sony HX5V!
I like all the built-in features and stuff it can do! This might be a bit contradictory, considering I’m usually shooting with a DSLR camera that allows for manual configuration etc., but in a small pocket camera, I’d really like to keep it simple and give me the options of selecting whatever I need and let the camera do the rest.
These are some of the reasons I like Sony HX5V and why I picked it over the Panasonic DMC-TZ10/ZS7 (some of the features might be on the Panasonic as well):
Backlight Correction HDR
Yes, it has built-in HDR (High Dynamic Range) function. It’s most likely not as good as if you do it yourself in Photoshop. But remember what I said about keeping it simple when it comes to pocket camera? This is what I’m talking about! Shooting something that is backlight, just turn it into “Backlight correction HDR”-mode and the camera does some magic by taking two shots at different exposure settings and combining them. Here are three photos to show what I mean:
The camera captures six images in a fraction of a second, handheld, then combines them into one image. Sharp and without a lot of noise. Here’s an example of a night shot taken with flash and one in this HHT mode:
Intelligent Scene Recognition Mode
Other cameras have something like this as well. What I like about this one is that it automatically detects between nine types of scenes and automatically selects the appropriate settings. It even has an advanced mode that takes an extra picture if necessary (difficult lighting), so you can pick the one you like best.
Anti Motion Blur
Basically much what the name implies. It shoots six images really, really fast, and combines them into one.
How is Anti Motion Blur different from Handheld Twilight? Well, AMB seems to like the high ISO’s and faster shutter speeds, resulting in less subject blur (if it moves) but more noise because of high ISO. While Handheld Twilight is better to use if your subject is not moving too fast, it will have a slower shutter speed and lower ISO so a less-noisy picture is produced. I’d use HHT at first and if it turns out blurry, then go to AMB.
This one takes a little practice but it allows you to take a panorama picture simply by sweeping the camera across the scene while the camera automatically shoots 100 frames and then stitches them together afterwards. You actually have to sweep faster than you might think, so it takes a little practice until you get it right, but when you do, the results are pretty good, considering how easy it was. I think the built-in compass might be assisting the iSweep Panorama program because the indicator at the bottom seem to move more or less according to the speed that I move the camera with. That’s a great help and something to pay attention to as you learn how to use iSweep Panorama. Below are two examples of how it looks when you’re too slow at sweeping and when you did it just right.
GPS & Compass
There’s not too many superzoom pocket cameras out there yet that also has a built-in GPS. Some might say “dude, I know where I took my pictures”. Sure, that’s fine. But I like to look up Places in Aperture 3, or on my iPhone or iPad, and see what pictures I’ve taken in Las Vegas by selecting the pin in the middle of Las Vegas. I also cannot guarantee that I in 20 years will be able to remember where I took every single shot. I might, but instead of risking it, I prefer to geotag my pictures – and Sony HX5V does this automatically.
The compass will also save what direction you pointed the camera while taking the picture. Might be useful. I don’t know.
Remember to install the software (Windows only, bugger!) and connect HX5V to your computer afterwards. This will add GPS assist data to the camera, which seems to be valid for about a month. With this data in the camera, the GPS will know which satellites to look for any given time, providing faster lock-on times. Without this data you could sometimes have to wait tens of seconds, or even a few minutes, for a GPS signal.
Back-illuminated “Exmor R” CMOS sensor
In short, this has to do with how the censor captures light. On a back-illuminated sensor, the light doesn’t have to travel as far to reach the sensor, apparently. Whatever magic is going on here, the new iPhone 4 also has a back-illuminated CMOS sensor, and for what I’ve heard, it’s something that actually does make a difference – though maybe not a big difference.
HX5V has 10x zoom, taking it all the way out to 250mm (35mm equiv.) telephoto, compared to Panasonic DMC-TZ10’s 12x zoom and 300mm. On my Nikon D5000 I have a Nikkor 18-200mm lens which is the equivalent of 27-300mm, so I’m quite satisfied with the Sony being able to reach 250mm – after all, it’s just a pocket camera. Panasonic does provide more zoom, but there’s really not that much difference between 250mm and 300mm – here’s two pictures from my Nikon to show how “much” closer you get to your subject, 250mm vs 300mm:
As you can see, the difference between 250mm and 300mm isn’t that big. For more examples, check out this post: Zooming In With The Tamron 70-300mm & Nikon D5000. Also check out the video further down in this article for some zooming action with the Sony HX5V.
Burst mode is kinda cool. It will take 10 pictures total, either 10 pictures per second, 5 per second or 2 per second. Very useful if you need to capture a unique moment of something – or as an example, capture the movement of something. After “bursting”, the camera needs a little bit of time to process the images. Around 10-13 seconds I believe, while you can’t shoot anything else.
Sony HX5V also supports video, two formats, actually. AVCHD offers recording at 1920×1080 and 1440×1080, both 60fps. And the other, MP4, will give you 1440×1080, 1280×720 and 640×480, all 30fps. AVCHD might be the better format but it requires more from you in post-processing, since not all computers will be able to playback AVCHD files without additional software. MP4 is “plug and play” straight from the camera. Also, Aperture 3 which is my primary photo organizer and editor doesn’t support AVCHD so I’ll either have to import AVCHD movies to iMovie and edit them there or record in MP4 on the camera and take them into Aperture 3.
I think it depends on your needs. Right now I’ve set up HX5V to record in 720p MP4, as I believe I’ll mostly use the camera for short film clips that I’ll want to keep together with the images. If I were to actually use HX5V as a camcorder or I’ll be recording something lengthy that will need post processing, I’ll simply change it over to AVCHD.
Here’s a video I did with some example clips recorded with HX5V in 720P and MP4 (make sure you watch it in 720P):
Mileage may vary, but I managed to get around 200 shots and over 10 minutes of video (720P MP4) out of the first battery charge. Batteries do tend to improve a little bit after the first few charge cycles, but there’s no question that a GPS chip surely draws some juice from the battery. Also, since I was playing tourist in my own country, Malta, where it’s very sunny and hot at the moment, I had to kick up the brightness on the screen in order to actually see something – which was still hard sometimes if wearing sunglasses. That, the increased brightness, also use slightly more battery than normal brightness mode. Good thing I bought a spare battery (NP-FG1 fits Sony HX5V).
Some other things worth noticing which I didn’t cover in this article:
- Optical Image Stabilization
- Bionz processor
- Automatic Macro mode
- Self-portrait timer
- Dual media support (MemoryStick Duo & Secure Digital card)
- TransferJet compatible
- Manual mode
- Face- and smile detection
Besides the few things I didn’t like, at the beginning of this article, here are some other things you need to keep in mind, that I found from other reviews which I agree with:
- No RAW mode
- Flash kinda weak and recycling somewhat slow
- No Aperture or Shutter priority modes
There are obviously other downsides too, but I think they are somewhat minor and they also depend on your requirements and needs. For instance, some reviews says that the zoom is too jerky and that the lens has moderate chromatic aberration at telephoto, while this may be true, it’s not something I’ve noticed yet and it’s probably not something I will pay much attention to, either.
Be sure to check out the links I gave at the beginning of the article to some more in-depth and technical reviews of the Sony HX5V. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my first impressions of this camera, which I can highly recommend if you’re in the market for a superzoom camera that fits in your pocket and doesn’t blow your budget.