White Balance

The HX1 features a grand total of nine white balance modes: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent Light 1, Fluorescent Light 2, Fluorescent Light 3, Incandescent, Flash, and Custom (manual). We found that in outdoor use in good light the HX1 did a good job of white balance, but in any artificial light its performance was decidedly average. The dedicated white balance presets do no better - sometimes worse - than the auto white balance modes, so leave the HX1 in auto white balance mode for best results, or carry a gray card and use custom.

Incandescent - Auto WB
Red 5.8%, Blue -9.2%,
Incandescent - Incandescent preset WB
Red 5.7%, Blue -10.2%
Fluorescent - Auto WB
Red 0.2%, Blue -6.8%
Fluorescent - Fluorescent preset WB
Red 5.5%, Blue -5.5%

Flash Performance

The built-in pop-up flash unit has a specified range of 9.2m at wide angle and 5.1m at telephoto (when the ISO is set to auto). In use the flash worked well in most situations both indoor and outdoor for fill flash.

Skin tone - Good color and exposure.
Color chart - Excellent white balance, excellent exposure.

Macro Focus

The HX1 can focus to 1cm at the wide end and 150cm at the long end in macro mode. If you look at the specifications, this is the same as it can do in non macro mode (you can't turn off the macro mode in the HX1, there are only on and auto settings.

Wide macro - 118 x 88 mm coverage
29 px/mm (741 px/in)
Distortion: Fairly high
Corner softness: High
Equiv. focal length: 28 mm
Telephoto macro - 114 x 85 mm coverage
30 px/mm (770 px/in)
Distortion: Low
Corner softness: Low
Equiv. focal length: 560 mm

Focusing down to 1cm produces great magnification, but corner softness becomes is much more visible than at normal shooting distances, and distortion is quite high. At the telephoto end the distortion and corner softness is better, but with a 150cm minimum focus distance, it is not as useful in everyday situations. The Canon SX1 IS and SX10 IS offer better macro performance and have the same focal length range as the HX1.

Barrel and Pincushion Distortion

Given the very large focal length range, the HX1 exhibits very little distortion. 0.4% at the wide end is going to be hard to notice in the real world unless you are shooting very close up, which also applies to the 1.9% at the telephoto end. While vignetting is very low, corner softness is evident at both the long and wide end.

Barrel distortion - 0.4% at Wide angle
Equiv. focal length: 28 mm
Pincushion distortion - 1.9% at Telephoto
Equiv. focal length: 560 mm

Dynamic range optimization

The HX1 features Sony's Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO) processing which brightens the shadow regions of the image to give a more balanced image in high contrast situations. In the HX1 has three DRO settings: Off, standard and plus. To really see the effect of DRO, you need to set it to the plus setting.

DRO off

DRO Plus

The effect of DRO is not huge as can be seen in this example, but any assistance to improve the limited dynamic range of the small sensor in the HX1 is welcome. The big improvement in DRO from previous incarnations is that turning it on does not slow down the shot to shot speed of the camera.