Features (continued)

Sony cameras have some of my favorite bells and whistles, and I don't mean gimmicks. The HDR, Anti Motion Blur / Handheld Twilight, and Sweep Panorama features are very useful features which allow you to take photos in difficult lighting, and record huge panoramas with very little effort. I'll go through each of those features now.

Backlight Correction HDR

The backlight correction HDR (high dynamic range) feature, combines three exposures -- under, over, and normal -- and puts them into a single image with much improved dynamic range (contrast). The camera shoots the burst quickly that a tripod is not needed -- unlike on some other cameras. While Sony's NEX interchangeable lens cameras allow you to adjust the interval between each exposure, the HDR feature on the HX200V is totally automatic.

Standard photo HDR photo

The original photo (taken in Program mode) isn't horrible, though the ceiling is hard to see, and the trees on the right are missing a lot of detail due to highlight clipping. The HDR photo looks a bit "fake", but the contrast is undeniably better. The ceiling is visible, and the highlight clipping outside of the tunnel has been greatly reduced. And, since this is just a layering of three photos, there shouldn't be an increase in noise, unlike some other solutions out there.

Handheld Twilight Mode

Anti Motion Blur and Handheld Twilight are very similar features. Both combine six exposures into a single image, which reduces both blur and noise. The difference between the two is that AMB tends to use higher ISOs than handheld twilight, so photos taken in that mode may be a bit noisier. Here are real world examples of each of these features:

100% Crop

Handheld night shot (ISO 2000)

Anti Motion Blur Mode

Anti Motion Blur (ISO 800) 100% Crop

As the examples above illustrate, you can get sharp (but noisy) photos in low light, or if your subject has a hard time staying still (Exhibit B is a poster child for that). These high ISO shots don't make great large prints, as you can see the detail loss, but they work great when printed at smaller sizes or downsized for the web.

Sweep Panorama Mode

If I'm not mistaken, Sony was the first manufacturer to release a camera with a "sweep panorama" feature. Their latest revision, Intelligent Sweep Panorama, can shoot both 2D and 3D panoramas, plus special high resolution panos that you take in the portrait orientation. Taking panoramas couldn't be easier: just pan the camera from one side of the frame to the other, following the arrow on the LCD or EVF. The image is stitched together almost instantly. The quality of the standard panoramas is good but not fantastic. The high resolution versions are a whole lot more impressive. The camera tries to avoid cutting people in half, but if there's motion in the frame, you might see some weird artifacts (see first shot).
A high resolution sweep panorama (I didn't finish going all the way to the right)
A standard sweep panorama

Clear Image Zoom

The HX200V's Clear Image Zoom feature will boost the zoom power by 2X, with "close to the original image quality" using some digital trickery. At full resolution, that means that you now have a 60X, or 1620 mm, zoom lens! If you lower the image resolution, you can go even higher. Here's an example:

Full wide-angle (27 mm) Full telephoto (810 mm) Full tele + clear image zoom (1620 mm)

As you can see, the Clear Image Zoom feature really lets you get close to your subject! It's hard to judge how much image quality deteriorates, due to the atmospheric distortion that occurs at this kind of focal range. That said, I'd probably save this feature for smaller prints only.