The Sony Cyber-shot HX50, a compact travel superzoom with European design
A genuinely compact camera packing a whopping 30x zoom lens
We've had a short time using a pre-production Sony Cyber-shot HX50, officially launched earlier today. The HX50 is an interesting camera in several ways; it is the world's smallest 30x zoom compact camera, it has a 20 megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor, and it is wifi-enabled (although not with NFC). The HX50 is firmly aimed at one of the few compact camera market segments that is still growing: travel compacts. But probably one of the most interesting aspects of the HX50 is that it's industrial design was developed in the UK - by a German, Mirko Goetzen.
Multi-purpose accessory shoe
The HX50 also sports a high-tech flash and accessory hot shoe that is compatible with traditional flash accessories. But integrated into the design is a multi-purpose digital connector that enables an optional 2.359 million dot OLED electronic viewfinder to be attached, or a stereo microphone, or a dedicated compact electronic flash unit. It's the same accessory system now used on the Sony NEX-6 compact system camera and the Sony Alpha 99 DSLR.
Super compact 24-720 zoom lens
Sony is very excited about its new 30x 24-720mm equivalent zoom lens, complete with optical image stabilisation. The lens packs away impressively when not in use compared to its maximum length when in use. There is a fairly large collar around the base of the lens but this is not used as a control ring like some of the HX50's competitors. Instead, Sony has provided two dials on the camera's stepped top-plate.
One is a mode dial, with iAuto and PASM modes, along with other functions, and next to it is a large exposure compensation dial. Mirko Goetzen explains that the semi-recessed design of the dials and the stepped top plate are all aspects of work at the design office at Sony's European HQ in Weybridge near London. Work was also done to ensure that Europeans, who on average have bigger hands than Japanese users, can use the camera comfortably. Although there is an European accent for the HX50, the camera is to be sold worldwide.
Wifi with remote control and wireless viewing
Wifi connectivity is built in so that you can send your photos directly to other devices and there is a function for viewing wirelessly on TV. Remote control with live view in a TV us also supported. NFC for simplified paring and photo transfer with compatible devices is not supported.
Video recording specification looks promising with 50p capability in 1080 (full HD) mode. There are also three custom configuration memories and some buttons can be re-programmed. Although HX50 is certainly a camera aimed at enthusiast photographers, it's disappointing that Sony has not provided HX50 with the ability to record RAW image files. Another missing feature is a touch screen. On the plus side there are some interesting looking creative effects modes and filters. It's a long time since Sony produced a duff image sensor and the 20MP CMOS sensor in the HX50 promises much. However, there is no getting away from the fact that the sensor is a small one so Sony has endowed the HX50 with a low noise iAuto superimposing option which combines 6 frames. Sony says that this delivers low light noise levels similar to that achievable by DSLRs with much larger sensors. It can only be used on static non-moving subjects, though.
The Sony Cyber-shot HX50 will go on sale in the UK in the first week of May, priced £349 or thereabouts.
Below is a gallery of photos taken at the press briefing for the HX50. Click on a thumbnail to open a larger version of the photo in a new window:
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