Finally Found One!
This camera has been really hard to find since I saw the announcement here in September 2011. I finally found it at Fry's Electronics. They ran full page ads for this camera discounting it to $209.99 during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday promotion. That's a very good deal for a new model in the super travel zoom category. I've only had this camera about 2 days and used it extensively for only one evening so my review may not catch all the nuances I'll eventually discover. I wonder if I can edit this later like the Amazon reviews?
Anyhow, I was very pleasant surprised to find a full suite of PASM modes like I have on my SLR. During my first shooting session, I actually encountered an situation involving DOF and lighting that made me go manual. I discovered that even the Flash Power can be dial-adjusted which was something I've only been able to do in the SLR world! As for the normal scene modes, it has the common SCN to encompass a large palette of scenes which I don't like. Although it was a quick and easy mode dial on top, I prefer the most common modes: Landscape, Sports, Portrait, Automatic are just sitting there for quick access without the use of menus. However, the Smart Mode is reasonably competent at detecting the scene anyway. The Meter-focus mode can also be adjusted, which I actually had to do by switching to Spot-Metering and using the half press technique to shift the composition. A small annoyance I discovered was the lack of an orientation sensor. My photo import software did not orient the photos correctly. It's possible that I haven't found the setting yet in the deep menus. An overall annoyance that is more significant is that this camera doesn't seem as fast as my Sony HX5v. The shutter lag is significant for a new BSI-CMOS camera but still great compared to a few years ago. So far, I'm pretty happy with the image quality. The photos were sharp and low noise even without flash. One final thing is that it seems to lack GPS, which was something nice in my HX5v but rarely used. The 18x zoom plus digital zoom extension to 72x in such a small package is simply amazing.