Now it's time to talk about the features on the DSC-HX200V, starting with those found on the various buttons and dials on the camera.
Let's start with the exposure mode dial on the top of the camera, which is loaded with options. They include:
|Intelligent Auto mode||Point-and-shoot operation, with automatic scene selection and Photo Creativity controls. Some menu options are locked up.|
|Superior Auto mode||Similar to the above, but will take multi-exposure shots (handheld twilight, HDR, anti motion blur) as well.|
|Program mode||Still point-and-shoot, but with full menu access. A Program Shift feature lets you flip through various shutter speed/aperture combinations by using the rear dial.|
|Shutter Priority mode||You pick the shutter speed, and the camera selects the proper aperture. The shutter speed range is 30 - 1/4000 sec. Do note that the fastest shutter speeds are only available at smaller apertures.|
|Aperture Priority mode||You set the aperture, and the camera picks the appropriate shutter speed. The available aperture range is F2.8 - F8.0.|
|Full manual (M) mode||You select both the aperture and the shutter speed. Same ranges as above. There's no bulb mode available on the HX200V.|
|Memory Recall (MR) mode||Quickly access up to three sets of your favorite camera settings here.|
|Intelligent Sweep Panorama||Sweep the camera from side-to-side and a single panoramic image is created.|
|Movie mode||While you can record movies at any time, this dedicated mode offers more options. More details on this later.|
|3D Still Image||Record 3D stills or panoramas here. The Sweep Multi-Angle feature records an image in the same way as Sweep Panorama, and when you play it back you get sort of a faux 3D effect on the LCD.|
|Scene Selection mode||Pick the situation and the camera will use the appropriate settings. Select from soft skin, background defocus, soft snap, anti motion blur, landscape, backlight correction HDR, night portrait, night scene, handheld twilight, high sensitivity, gourmet/food, pet, beach, snow, fireworks, and advanced sports shooting (predictive AF). See below for more.|
The camera has a pair of Auto modes (Intelligent and Superior), both of which feature auto scene selection. They can tell when you're using a tripod, and distinguish between adults, children, and infants. There's also an Easy mode available, which enlarges the font and greatly reduces the available options. The Superior Auto mode does everything that Intelligent Auto does (except for Easy mode), plus adds in multi-shot layering, through features like Anti Motion Blur, Handheld Twilight, and HDR. More on those in a bit.
|Something else you'll find in the two Auto modes is called Photo Creativity. This allows you to adjust the brightness, color, and vividness without having to know the slightly more technical terms of exposure compensation, white balance, and saturation. These items are adjusted using slider controls on the LCD/EVF, as you can see above.|
The HX200V also features a full suite of manual controls. You can adjust the shutter speed and aperture, manually focus (using the ring around the lens), and customize and fine-tune white balance. Bracketing is available for both exposure and white balance. Three sets of camera settings can be saved, and there's a customizable button on the top of the camera. The one thing missing here is RAW support.
Another feature that you access via buttons on the HX200 is a built-in guide to using the camera. As you might have guessed, you access this guide by pressing the question mark on the back of the camera. The guide tells you how to accomplish virtually every conceivable task, whether it's focusing, subject tracking, storing camera settings, or displaying a histogram. Another option lets you choose an icon on the LCD, and the guide will tell you what it means. They even cover the various error messages that may pop up when you're using the camera. You can also press the ? button when you're in a menu, and the camera will describe it. Very nice!
|Main menu of the camera guide||One of the very detailed help screens, this one for white balance fine-tuning. You can jump directly to that menu option using the highlighted button.|
Unlike cameras from Fuji and Panasonic, the HX200's GPS system is no-frills, with no fancy landmark databases or maps. You get your location and direction (courtesy of a built-in compass), and that's it. Satellite acquisition is decent outdoors (~30 sec acq. times), and not-so-good when you're in big cities, which is typical. You can reduce these delays a bit by loading "assist data" onto the camera using the included software.
Alright, now let's get into the menus. The first menu you encounter is an overlay-style menu that sits on the left side of the screen. The menu is quite long, and it can take a while to scroll all the way to the bottom. The notable options here include:
- Picture Effect: special effects include HDR painting, miniature effect, pop color, partial color, and more; many of these can be fine-tuned to your liking
- White balance: choose from the usual presets, plus a custom option for using a white or gray card; you can fine-tune things by using the white balance shift or bracketing features
- ND (neutral density) filter: this reduces the amount of light coming through the lens, which lets you use smaller apertures or slower shutter speeds; the camera can turn it on as needed, or you can do it yourself
- Smile Shutter: waits for one of the people in the frame to smile, and then takes a picture; you can select how big of a smile is required
- Face detection: a standard feature on all cameras these days, though the Sony has the added ability to give children or adults focus priority
- Noise reduction: you might want to fool with this option (with choices of low, standard, and high) to improve the HX200V's image quality
- GPS position info/logging: check out your signal strength and current location, and turn on the logging feature (which will put an extra strain on your battery)
|If you scroll all the way to the bottom of the overlay-style menu, you can access the HX200's other menu system. This one looks nice, but is a bit of a pain to navigate because each "tab" of settings doesn't "wrap" around (this makes more sense when you use it). The camera gives a quick hint as to what each option does, and you can press the ? button for a longer explanation.|
The camera gives a quick hint as to what each option does, and you can press the ? button for a longer explanation. The items of note in this menu include:
- Clear Image Zoom: this doubles the zoom power, with a minimal reduction in image quality (see below)
- Blink Alert: warns you when your subject's eyes are closed
- Custom button: define what function this button handles; choose from AE lock, white balance, ND filter, metering mode, or Smile Shutter
- Display resolution: choose high or standard, with the latter sacrificing LCD/EVF quality for battery life
- Beep: normally I wouldn't mention this but the HX200V has the world's loudest beep sound, so here's where you turn it off
- Download music: using the included Music Transfer program and this option, you can provide your own soundtrack for slideshows
- Airplane mode: turns off all functions related to the GPS and TransferJet
- GPS assist data: load data from your PC to the camera using this option -- it'll reduce satellite acquisition times
- Auto clock/area adjust: let the GPS set the time and time zone for you
The last button-activated feature I want to mention before we move into menus are the various drive modes on the camera. They include continuous shooting (more on that later), bracketing (for both exposure and white balance), and several types of self-timer. The self-timer modes include 2 or 10 second, self-portrait (where the camera waits for one or two faces to appear), and timer plus continuous shooting or bracketing.
|The Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V's playback mode is about average by compact camera standards. You've got your slideshows (for which you can supply your own background music), redeye removal, sharpening, and a couple of special effects. You can jump through photos by date, folder, or by movie codec. Unlike Sony's NEX cameras, the HX200V doesn't separate movies from stills in playback mode.|
|By default, the camera doesn't show you much information about your photos. However, if you press "up" on the four-way controller, you'll get a lot more, including a histogram and the location where your photo was taken.|
The DSC-HX200V flips through photos instantly. One thing I think could be faster is the playback zoom feature -- it sort of "glides" rather than "jumps" when it zooms in, which is pretty but sluggish.