Body & Design

The Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V is a fairly large super zoom camera. The body is mostly composite (read: plastic), though the frame is still pretty solid. The HX200V has a very large right hand grip, giving it a secure feel in your hands. The mode dial feels a bit cheap, and turns too easily, and the door over the memory card slot is flimsy.

The camera has more than its share of buttons (in various locations), but thankfully they usually serve just one function. One nice feature on the camera is the ring around the lens barrel. This ring can electronically control either zoom or manual focus, and it works quite well, and gives the camera a more upscale feel. You wouldn't expect a high-end super zoom to come in pink, and it doesn't - black only.

As you'd expect, the HX200V's 30X zoom lens has an optical image stabilization system (which Sony calls SteadyShot), which reduces the risk of blurry photos in low light, or at the telephoto end of the lens. In movie mode, an "active" IS feature further reduces shake in your videos, with the ability to reduce motion in three directions, including rotational.

Behind the lens is an 18.2 Megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor, which Sony brands "Exmor R". This is the highest resolution sensor that you'll find in a compact camera, and we'll see how the image quality looks later in the review. Directly above the lens is the camera's pop-up flash, which is released electronically (well, you can pry it up if you really want). The working range of the flash is 0.3 - 12.4 m at wide-angle and 2.0 - 5.9 m at telephoto -- very impressive numbers. One thing you cannot do on the HX200V is add an external flash. The only other thing to see on the front of the camera is the AF-assist lamp, which is located to the lower-left of the Sony logo. This lamp also illuminates when the self-timer or Smile Shutter features are being used.

One of the advantages of an EVF design over an optical viewfinder is the amount of information that can be included in the live view screen. Here you can see all sorts of information, including GPS status and a live histogram.

The LCD on the back of Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V is very nice. This three inch display has over 921,000 pixels, so everything is ridiculously sharp. I found outdoor visibility to be very good. On the other hand, low light viewing isn't great, as the screen doesn't "gain up" very much. The HX200V also comes equipped with an electronic viewfinder, or EVF. This viewfinder is average in terms of quality. It's not very large (0.2"), nor is the resolution (201k pixel) very high. If you've used one of the XGA viewfinders on some of Sony's other cameras, the difference is glaring. Still, it'll get the job done for most folks.

Although fairly large for its class, the HX200V remains an impressively compact camera considering its enormous zoom range and DSLR-style form factor. A large, deep grip makes it very comfortable to hold and the whole package feels nicely balanced.
The DSC-HX200V retains the same 30X zoom lens as the HX100V that came before it. This F2.8-5.6 Carl Zeiss T* lens has a focal range of 4.8 - 144 mm, which is equivalent to a whopping 27 - 810 mm. The lens is not threaded, so conversion lenses and filters are not supported.
The HX200V's 3 inch tilting screen pulls away from the back of the camera and tilts 90 degrees upward and about 60 degrees downward. While articulating LCDs like this aren't as handy as those that flip out to the side, it still allows you to shoot with the camera above or below you, which happens more often than one might think.
To the right of the EVF are buttons for entering playback mode and recording movies. Further over is the rear dial, which you'll use to adjust the ISO, exposure compensation and, where applicable, the shutter speed and aperture.

There's an eye sensor to the right of the EVF that detects when you're using it. A diopter correction knob is also nestled on the left side.
Moving downward we have buttons for entering the menu and getting help, plus the four-way controller. This is used for navigating menus and replaying photos, as well as setting the drive mode, flash setting, and amount of information displayed on the LCD/EVF. In Intelligent Auto mode, it also opens the Photo Creativity interface (more on that later).
The first thing you'll notice on the top of the camera is the large stereo microphone, which sits on top of the flash. Moving to the right, we have the power and LCD/EVF toggle buttons, followed by the mode dial. Above the mode dial is a button for setting the focus mode (multi, center, flexible spot), as well as another button whose function is somewhat customizable (it handles AE lock by default).
The shutter release has the zoom controller wrapped around it. The zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in about three seconds. It was hard to count the number of steps in the zoom range, since it was inconsistent. There are at least thirty steps, mostly at the wider end of the range.
On the bottom of the camera you'll find the battery/memory card compartment, which is protected a somewhat flimsy plastic door (that could use a locking mechanism). Whether you'll be able to open this door while the camera is on a tripod depends on what kind of mount you're using. I was able to open the door with the quick release plate on my Manfrotto tripods.
On the camera's left side, under a pair of plastic doors, are the camera's I/O ports. Beneath the top door are micro USB and mini-HDMI ports, while the AC adapter plug can be found behind door number two.
When the camera is set to autofocus (using the switch at the center of the photo), just rotate the dial to zoom in or out - it works quite well. In manual focus mode, the ring will adjust the focus distance, albeit slowly. You can zoom in by pressing the focus button on the top of the camera, to verify that things look as you expect.

Now let's take a look at how the HX200V compares to other super zooms in terms of size and weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot SX40 HS 4.8 x 3.6 x 4.2 in. 72.6 cu in. 557 g
Fujifilm FinePix HS25EXR 5.1 x 3.6 x 5.0 in. 91.8 cu in. 636 g
Kodak EasyShare Max Z990 4.9 x 3.4 x 3.7 in. 61.6 cu in. 589 g
Nikon Coolpix P510 4.8 x 4.1 x 3.3 in. 64.9 cu in. 555 g
Olympus SP-810UZ 4.2 x 3.0 x 2.9 in. 36.5 cu in. 413 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 4.9 x 3.2 x 3.7 in. 58 cu in. 484 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V 4.8 x 3.43 x 3.66 in. 65.2 cu in. 531 g

I have to admit that I was expecting the HX200V to be near the top of the chart for dimensions and weight, but it turns out to be about average for both. It's certainly not a jeans pocket camera, though it should fit in most jacket pockets, or over your shoulder.