30x optical zoom
The most compelling feature of the HX100V, like all of the cameras in its class, is its enormous optical zoom lens range. The HX100V boasts a 30x optical zoom lens, with an effective range of 27-810mm equivalent, which is broad enough to cover a huge range of possible situations.
At the wide end of the zoom, image distortion is kept at an acceptable level, with no vignetting. Color fringing is also reasonably well controlled along edges of high contrast. We find lens performance to be more than adequate for web and email output across its entire focal length. At 100% views like those seen below, corner softness becomes apparent, but in normal use we're really impressed by the performance, as well as the versatility of the HX100V's lens.
The image above demonstrates the effectiveness of Sony's optical image stabilization system which is always enabled in both still image and video mode. In daily use we found it delivers acceptable sharpness in images taken as much as two stops below the limit that we'd expect with an unstableness optic. Helped by such effective image stabilization, at its telephoto focal lengths, the HX100V's lens produces crisp, pleasing images.
The Sony HX100V offers a choice of five different color modes, essentially in-camera manipulations of the color response and tone curve. In comparison to the default Standard mode, the Vivid option boosts saturation and contrast, resulting in significantly heavier shadow regions. The 'Real' mode reduces image contrast by brightening the shadow regions, creating a lower-contrast, relatively washed out appearance. In both cases, the effects taper off at the midtone region and have little, if any measurable effect on the highlights - a conservative approach that prevents clipping in the brightest areas of the image.
The Sepia and B&W options behave in virtually identical fashion with regard to luminance adjustments; both midtones and highlights are slightly darkened. The most obvious change of course is the desaturation of the color information. Color adjustments to contrast and saturation can be applied in conjunction with these color modes; the exception being of course that saturation control is disabled in the Sepia and B&W modes. In the examples above, both contrast and saturation were set at their default values.
Backlight Correction HDR
One of the more impressive features of the HX100V is the backlight correction HDR option. Designed to capture a dynamic range beyond the camera's single exposure capability, this feature takes a series of three images in rapid succession at three different exposures with a single press of the shutter button. These separate exposures are then combined so that the highlight detail from one exposure is combined with shadow detail from another.
Intelligent (i)Sweep Panorama
The HX100V's sweep panorama functions offer a fast, intuitive method for capturing images spanning up to 180 degrees. With the camera set to iSweep Panorama, you designate the direction in which you would like to pan, press the shutter button and simply pan the camera in your chosen direction. This feature requires a relatively fast and smooth pan for optimum results. The camera displays a visual cue, in the form of a solid gray area extending from the captured image if it could not complete processing across the entire pan. These incomplete images are still saved to the memory card and can be cropped in image editing software.
|In standard mode, panoramas extending approximately 120 degrees are created with dimensions of 4912 x 1080 pixels.|
|When set to wide mode, a 180 degree panorama is created with dimensions of 7152 x 1080 pixels.|
One very helpful feature when using iSweep Panorama is the camera's ability to detect faces and moving objects (this functionality being what puts the 'i' in iSweep, and distinguishes it from Sweep Panorama modes in other Sony cameras). Because the camera is stitching together overlapping images, moving objects can appear in different locations of consecutive frames, with understandably unwelcome results. Based on our experience with the camera it appears that in iSweep Panorama mode, moving objects (and faces), once detected are merged into the composite image from a single frame. The results of the HX100V's panorama mode are quite impressive, with no visible seams in our test samples even when viewed at 100% onscreen.