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Conclusion - Pros

  • Decent resolution for such an ambitious lens
  • Good color, generally accurate focus gives a high 'hit rate' even in auto mode
  • Huge photographic versatility with 28-560mm lens and auto macro mode
  • Image stabilization works well (and can be used in movie mode)
  • Ultra fast 10 fps continuous shooting mode (limited to 10 frames)
  • Fast focus for a camera of this type
  • HD video capture with high quality stereo sound
  • Unique sweeping panorama mode
  • In-camera image stacking for reduced noise (Twilight mode)
  • Many user selectable image parameters including noise reduction
  • Wide ISO range from 125 to 3200
  • Long life lithium ion battery
  • Solid construction and good handling
  • Impressively little distortion for such a large lens
  • Enjoyable and easy to use
  • Good screen, bright and clear with tilting up and down up to 90 degrees
  • Customizable shortcut button
  • Pretty good macro performance

Conclusion - Cons

  • Pixel level quality not great; visible sharpening and NR artefacts
  • ISO 800 - 3200 noisy and of limited use
  • Noise reduction destroys fine detail at anything over ISO 400, effects visible at base ISO
  • Electronic view finder is low resolution and small
  • Focus hunts in low light situations
  • Lens zooming action quite slow
  • Takes a long time to turn on and off
  • Continuous shooting locking you out for up to 17 seconds can be quite frustrating
  • Quite expensive
  • Uses Memory Stick

Overall conclusion

The HX1 presents a very attractive package to the potential buyer. The large and versatile zoom range that extends from moderate wide angle to extreme telephoto, the HD video recording, very fast continuous shooting speeds, and unique shooting modes all contained in a well built, mini-SLR style body all go some way to tugging at your purse strings. While the CMOS sensor used in the HX1 doesn't produce better or less noisy images than any of the HX1's CCD-based competitors, it certainly doesn't make it any worse, and it does enable some pretty cool features. The lack of user control over noise vs detail that would be offered by RAW file mode is somewhat overcome by manual control over noise reduction applied in camera.

If you read our Canon SX1 IS review in your research for a new superzoom camera and you have a sense of déjà vu when reading this review, then you are not mistaken. The HX1 has much in common with the SX1 IS, from the use of CMOS technology to fast shooting speeds (though the HX1 is much faster in this regard), to the HD video recording, to the two cameras having the exact same zoom range. Both cameras are versatile, and both offer a compelling package to the potential buyer.

While the HX1 does not offer the RAW file mode recording of the SX1 IS, nor is the HD video resolution quite as high as the SX1 IS, the HX1 utilizes its CMOS technology in some other, considerably more interesting ways. The 10 fps continuous shooting speed (and fast shutter) of the HX1 allows it to offer its innovative sweeping panorama mode, which lets you to shoot a wide panorama in a single sweep. You also get twilight and anti-shake modes which, though slightly less impressive in use, do offer some advantage in challenging low-light situations. All this combined with the many scene modes help you to get out from behind your computer and spend more time having fun shooting photos.

Due to its mini-SLR styling and design, the HX1 is a little on the bulky side, certainly not pocket-sized, rendering any size benefits over the most compact of DSLR cameras nonexistent. This brings us to the problem of price. Like the SX1 IS, the HX1 is approaching the price of a compact, entry-level, DSLR. While it is true that none of the DSLR cameras will come close to to the HX1 (in price) if paired with lenses that cover the same zoom range, in anything other than perfect lighting any DSLR would be in a completely different league in terms of image quality. This is a compromise that you have to weigh up yourself when looking at at camera like this.

Because of course a camera like the HX1 does indeed have an audience. For some people the versatility of the wide zoom range, the ultra-fast continuous shooting speeds, the unique shooting modes and the convenience of having a HD video camera and stills camera in one package will be extremely attractive. If you can live with its shortcomings or if they don't affect you in your usage, the HX1 might just represent the right combination of price and features for you. At this price point, if you want to be able to shoot 10 fps, your options are very limited.

Looking at the market as a whole, with an emphasis on image quality, we just cannot give the Sony DSC-HX1 our highest recommendation, but it's certainly worth consideration if you're looking for a superzoom compact and can live with the inevitable image quality compromises.

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Build quality 8.0
Ergonomics & handling 8.0
Features 8.5
Image quality 7.5
Optics 8.0
Performance (speed) 8.5
Value 7.5

Recommended

Highly recommended

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