Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V
In terms of its operational speed, the HX100V has something of a split personality. In some respects it is a very fast camera indeed, and we'll explore its high framerate settings further down this page, but in others, it is something of a letdown.
If you rarely attempt to change exposure settings or parameters between shots, you will be pleased by the camera's fast and reliable focus acquisition, and by its high speed burst modes, which provide an opportunity to capture images that would have eluded cameras in this class not so long ago. The HX100V can shoot at a maximum framerate of 10fps at full-resolution. Not quite in the same league as its great uncle the SLT-A77 but not bad at all for a camera of this type.
It is in the more mundane aspects of its operation that the HX100V is liable to keep you waiting. Using the mode dial to move between shooting modes for instance incurs a delay during which the mode icons appear onscreen first at their previous setting, then switch to the mode you have just selected, and finally disappear, enabling you to return to the act of picture-taking.
Our general enthusiasm for the amount of parameters you can control with the HX100V is unfortunately tempered by overall sluggish behavior of the camera. Responsiveness ranges from merely acceptable to irritatingly poor. There is a two to three second delay, for example, between powering on the camera and accessing menus, adjusting settings or taking a picture. Switching to playback mode involves waiting a beat while a black screen with the message 'Accessing...' appears before you can review what you have just shot.
Our general impression after extended use of the HX100V is of an underpowered camera, which is a huge shame given its impressive portfolio of fast capture modes.
Continuous shooting and buffering
Speaking of which, the HX100V has two burst modes for continuous shooting, 'Hi' and 'Low'.
In 'Hi' continuous shooting mode it can manage 10fps at full resolution, and there is no denying the range of shooting possibilities that this opens up. In the image below, we dropped a small ball into the cup of cream and the camera captured the sequence with relative ease.
Even with a fairly bright scene, we still had to shoot at an ISO of 800 in order to get a shutter speed fast enough (in this case 1/800) to freeze the motion convincingly. While this feature works as advertised, be aware that as with so many aspects of the HX100V's performance, there is a significant wait after the final image is captured before you can resume shooting or otherwise interact with the camera.
|Shot 1||Shot 2||Shot 3||Shot 4||Shot 5||Shot 6|
At its 'Lo' continuous framerate the HX100V captures images at approximately two frames per second. In the table below we've tabulated performance with the camera set to its 'Hi' burst mode. Image quality is set to the maximum 16MP 4:3 setting. Using either of these modes you are limited to a burst of 10 images before the camera displays a 'Processing...' message while thumbnails of the captured images appear onscreen one at a time. At this point you must wait for eight seconds while data is being transferred from the buffer to the card, before taking another picture, or performing any other camera operation for that matter.
16 GB SanDisk Extreme Pro
|Frame rate||10 fps|
|Number of frames||10|
|Write complete||8.3 sec|
White balance and metering
The HX100V's automatic white balance system is reasonably accurate in a range of daylight conditions. Colors are rendered naturally and skin tones particularly are consistently pleasing both outdoors as well as with flash photography. As is to be expected, indoor mixed lighting conditions pose a challenge for the Auto WB algorithms, but certainly no more so than other cameras in this class.
The metering system of the HX100V also performs well in a range of ambient conditions. We do find that the metering can tend to be slightly too conservative in higher contrast scenarios, going at great length to protect highlights from clipping, but sometimes at the expense of a more pleasing exposure. We don't want to overstate the issue, as it's far from epidemic and in our experience typically requires a small exposure compensation of 2/3 stop EV or less.
|1/800 at f5.6, ISO 100 0EV||1/640 at f5.6, ISO 100 +.3EV|
The images above were shot in aperture priority mode using Auto WB and with the camera set to the default Multi metering mode. While the image on the left is certainly usable, adding exposure compensation of +.3EV gives a more 'print ready' exposure without clipping highlight detail.
AF, tracking focus and face detection
Autofocus on the HX100V is impressively accurate even in relatively low light scenes. This is aided, of course by the camera's AF illuminator, and we rarely found instances (outside of subjects with extremely low contrast) in which the camera could not lock focus within its AF area. The camera offers three focus modes, Multi, Center, and Flexible Spot. In Multi mode, the available focus points are arranged in a 3 x 3 grid surrounding the central portion of the frame. In Flexible spot mode, you can manually move a smaller focus point within a larger area. But should you desire to lock focus on a region closer to the edge of the frame, the most obvious option is to move the camera, focus and then recompose.
|A green focus indicator is displayed onscreen indicating that the HX100V's AF system has locked focus.||This enlarged (not 100%) crop shows that the HX100V has achieved accurate focus on the subject's face.|
Interestingly though, the tracking focus and face detection features both allow for focusing on subjects at the edge of the frame. Available in a most, but not all of the camera's shooting modes, the tracking focus feature allows you to specify a subject on which to lock focus and the camera attempts to follow this subject as it moves around the frame.
This feature works reasonably well on subjects that move relatively slowly in well-lit conditions and are very distinct, in terms of contrast, from the background. You can combine this functionality with the camera's face detection option, in essence giving priority to a specific face in a scene populated by others. Should your subject momentarily leave the frame, the camera will 'remember' the face and attempt to reengage focus once your subject comes back into view.