Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V

      Photo Review 9

      In summary

      Sony’s latest ultra-zoom digicam offers higher resolution, Full HD video, 3D stills capture and a higher-resolution monitor.The HX100V is the flagship model in Sony’s super-zoom range and one of two digicams announced at the end of January. Featuring a 30x optical zoom lens that covers the equivalent of 27-810mm in 35mm format, it sports a backlit CMOS sensor with 16.2-megapixel effective resolution and provides plenty of attractive features for tech-savvy photographers (although not, alas, raw file capture). . . [more]

      Full review


      The HX100V is the flagship model in Sony’s super-zoom range and one of two digicams announced at the end of January. Featuring a 30x optical zoom lens that covers the equivalent of 27-810mm in 35mm format, it sports a backlit CMOS sensor with 16.2-megapixel effective resolution and provides plenty of attractive features for tech-savvy photographers (although not, alas, raw file capture).

      It replaces the HX1V, which we reviewed in July 2009 and enters the market a whopping $400 cheaper, thanks in no small way to the appreciation of the dollar in the past two years. The new model offers some significant improvements, as outlined in the table below.




      Effective resolution



      Zoom range (35mm equiv.)

      4.8 -144mm (27-810mm)

      5.0-100mm (28-560mm)

      Focusing range

      W: Approx. 1cm to infinity, T: Approx. 200cm to infinity

      W: Approx. 1cm to infinity,
      T: Approx. 150cm to infinity

      ISO range

      Auto, ISO 100, 125, 160, 200, 250, 320, 400, 500, 640, 800, 1000, 1250, 1600, 2000, 2500, 3200

      Auto, ISO 125, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200

      Flash range (wide/ISO Auto)

      0.3 to 12.7 metres

      0.3 to 9.2 metres

      Movie recording

      AVCHD and MPEG4; max. Full HD (1080p) at 28Mbps

      MPEG4; max. 1440 x 1080 at 12 Mbps

      3D recording

      Yes (including Sweep Panorama)


      SD/SDHC/SDXC card support






      LCD monitor

      3-inch Xtra Fine TruBlack LCD with 921,000 dots

      3-inch Clear Photo LCD Plus with 230,400 dots

      Battery capacity

      Approx. 410 shots

      Approx. 390 shots

      Dimensions (wxhxd)

      121.6 x 86.6 x 93.1 mm

      114.5 x 82.8 x 91.8 mm

      Weight (body only)

      Approx. 525 grams

      Approx. 453 grams

      Build and Ergonomics
      Physically, the HX100V is a lot like its predecessor, with a plastic body, prominent extending lens, large hand grip and pop-up flash. It’s a little larger and heavier but the basics are unchanged in the new model.


      Front view of the DSC-HX100V showing the new Carl Zeiss lens, grip and AF-assist light. (Source: Sony)

      Unlike the HX1V, which had a Sony ‘G’ series lens, the new camera boasts a superior Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar T* zoom lens to complement the ‘Exmor R’ back-illuminated CMOS sensor and BIONZ processor. Constructed from 11 elements in 10 groups, this lens has one aspherical element and one element made from ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass and offers maximum apertures from f/2.8 at the wide position to f/5.6 at full tele zoom. Minimum aperture is f/8 at all focal lengths.


      ‘Phantom’ view of the HX100V showing the main internal components. (Source: Sony)

      A manual focusing ring around the lens provides a similar feel to an interchangeable-lens camera plus added manual control – although zooming is done with a lever around the shutter button. A slider on the side of the lens switches between auto and manual focus.

      The design of the rear panel is almost unchanged from the HX1V, although the Finder/LCD button is shifted to the right hand side of the camera and the Custom button is replaced by a direct Movie button and moved to just behind the shutter (where it replaces the Drive button). Drive modes are now selected via the arrow pad, where this setting replaces the Macro button (which is no longer required as close focusing to approximately one centimetre is supported in the AF range).


      Rear view of the HX100V showing the LCD monitor and arrow pad. (Source: Sony)

      Monitor resolution has been boosted to 921,000 dots with the new Xtra Fine TruBlack LCD, which is a big improvement on the 230,400 dots offered previously. As in the HX1V, the monitor pulls out to tilt up through 90 degrees or down through 160 degrees for high- and low-angle shooting but doesn’t swivel. This makes it susceptible to impact shock and smearing.


      Angled rear view of the HX100V with the LCD monitor pulled out. (Source: Sony)

      Above the LCD is an electronic viewfinder (EVF), which is essentially unchanged from the HX1V. It’s small, cramped and of low resolution and will probably only be used when the monitor can’t. A semi-recessed rotating dial on the left side of the EVF housing allows dioptre adjustment.


      Top view of the HX100V. (Source: Sony)
      Most camera controls are clustered on the right hand side of the top panel. The mode dial sits close to the right side of the camera. It carries 11 settings: iAuto, Superior Auto, P, S, A, M, Memory Recall mode, iSweep Panorama, Movie mode, 3D Shooting, Scene Selection.

      The battery/card compartment is located in the base of the hand grip and accessible through the base panel. A narrow slot at the rear end of this compartment accommodates the memory card (either Memory Stick Duo or SD). People with limited dexterity will find it difficult to insert and remove cards.

      Interface ports are located behind two rigid plastic covers on the left side panel directly beneath the strap lug. The upper one is larger and contains the Type 3c multi-connector and HDMI interface. The lower one holds the DC-in port. A metal-lined tripod socket is located on the base plate, just off the lens axis.

      The review camera was supplied with an interim CD containing a User Guide in Japanese plus Picture Motion Browser V. 5.5, neither of which was of much use to us. By searching the Web we were able to locate a 36-page ‘User Manual’ for the camera, which wasn’t much better, although it was at least in English.
      New Features
      For still image capture, little has changed since the HX1. However, the new model includes some of the video-related functions from Sony’s Handy-cams (and recent digicams), including 3D Sweep Panorama and Dual Record.

      The latter allows you to capture still images while recording a movie by pressing the shutter button. Dual Record is not available when AVC HD 28M (PS) quality is selected. For other HD video settings, the image size is fixed at 16:9 3M in AVCHD mode or 4:3 2M with MP4 movie clips.

      The flash can’t be used with Dual Record mode and if you’ve switched the Smile Shutter function on, the shutter releases automatically each time the camera detects a smiling face (which may be inconvenient). When the movie recording is stopped, the recorded still images are displayed on the LCD screen.

      The HX100V’s 3D recording capabilities are similar to other recent Sony cameras. When 3D mode is selected, pressing the shutter button captures a stereo pair of frames. The available image size is 16M for the 4:3 aspect ratio or 12M with a 16:9 aspect ratio. Best results are obtained when there is a wide distance between the subject and the background.

      The 3D Sweep Panorama function records a stereo pair of panoramic images spanning roughly 180 degrees. Each 3D ‘image’ consists of a JPEG file and an MPO (multi-picture file). Both are required for stereoscopic viewing.

      The HX100V also supports the Background Defocus mode that was introduced in the WX5 and TX9 last year. Designed to simulate a shallow depth of field, it causes the camera to capture two frames when the shutter button is pressed.

      The first shot has the subject in focus, while in the second shot, everything is out of focus. The camera compares the two shots to measure the distance between the foreground and background. This information is used to produce a single picture with the subject in sharp focus against a blurred background.

      Three levels of blurring can be selected via the menu but the overall success of the effect depends on the distance between the subject and the background. Even the strongest setting can’t produce satisfactory blurring when backgrounds are too close to the subject

      User Interface
      Although the HX100V provides plenty of controls for photographers, accessing them can be quite frustrating and little has changed since the HX1V. There’s no direct button for ISO and white balance adjustments and the latter can only be changed by diving into the menu.

      And while the icon-based menu may be fine for novice users, it’s frustrating for serious photographers to use. There’s still no control over JPEG compression settings; it’s one size fits all for the selected resolution and, although compression levels are modest, most photographers prefer more options.

      White balance is only adjustable in the P, A, S and M modes and if you wish to change ISO settings or adjust exposure compensation you must push in the jog wheel in the top right corner of the rear panel. This calls up three functions on the LCD monitor. The functions displayed vary with the shooting mode, although ISO is common to all modes.

      In the P mode, you get aperture and shutter speed settings (which are linked) plus exposure compensation. In the A and S modes, you get aperture or shutter speed settings plus exposure compensation. In the manual mode, all four functions are shown on-screen but only ISO, aperture and shutter speed settings are adjustable. Exposure compensation is greyed-out but changes as the other settings are adjusted.

      A ‘click and rotate’ process is required to toggle between the adjustable functions. Sometimes it works, other times you have to press the jog wheel a couple of times before anything can be changed. To complicate matters, the font sizes on the display are small enough to deter all but the serious enthusiast from changing these settings (although they enlarge slightly when the setting is selected successfully).

      Sony has equipped the HX100V with an In-Camera Guide button, which doubles as the delete button in playback mode. Pressing it in capture mode calls up a screen with six sections: Shoot/playback guide, Icon guide, Troubleshooting, Objective guide, Keyword and History.

      The Shoot/playback guide contains brief explanations of all the camera’s shooting and playback modes. The Icon guide lets you toggles through the icons displayed on the screen and press the OK button for a short explanation. Pressing the Menu button returns you to the first page of the In-Camera Guide.

      The Troubleshooting sub-menu contains three sections: Frequently-asked questions, Self-diagnosis indicators and Warning indicators. Pressing the menu button toggles back to the previous page. The Objective guide contains eight entries, each covering a different activity the user may wish to engage in, such as Basic operation, Shoot images, Print images or Connect to other devices. (You have to toggle through a list and select the one you want.)

      The Keyword guide lets you search for information on specific topics by selecting one of the letters or numbers displayed along the top of the screen. The History guide makes it easy to locate pages you viewed recently.

      The review camera came with an interim CD containing a User Guide in Japanese plus Picture Motion Browser V. 5.5, neither of which was of much use to us. By searching the Web we were able to locate a 36-page ‘User Manual’ for the camera, which wasn’t much better, although it was at least in English.

      A slightly more comprehensive online user guide is available at However, while they might suit novices, none of these ‘guides’ is of much use to serious photographers who want to dig deeper into key camera controls. These buyers would prefer the kind of comprehensive user manual most other manufacturers supply.
      Sensor and Image Processing
      The HX100V has a similar type of sensor to the HX1, albeit with higher resolution. Coupled to the the sensor is a BIONZ image processor, which underpins the camera’s HD video recording capabilities and enables continuous shooting speeds of up to 10 frames/second.

      Like the HX1, the HX100V is a JPEG-only camera; but Sony has dropped the 3:2 aspect ratio from the capture options. The Sweep Panorama mode is retained and now includes a 3D option. Typical file sizes are shown in the table below.

      Aspect ratio

      Image Size


      Typical File Size



      4608 x 3456



      3648 x 2736



      2592 x 1944



      640 x 480




      4608 x 2592



      1920 x 1080


      HR Panorama

      10480 x 4096


      Panorama wide

      7152 x 1080


      Panorama standard (Horizontal)

      4912 x 1080


      3D Sweep Panorama (wide)

      4912 x 1920


      3D Sweep Panorama (Standard)

      3424 x 1920


      3D Sweep Panorama (16:9/2M)

      1920 x 1080


      Selecting Movie mode on the mode dial sets the camera for video recording. Unlike the HX1, the HX100V offers two movie formats: AVCHD and MP4, which uses the H.264/AVC codec for efficient data compression.
      Four quality settings are available for HD recordings, delineated by bit rate. All are recorded at 50 frames/second and output at the PAL standard of 25 fps. Three quality settings are available for MP4 video: 1440 x 1080 and 1280 x 720 pixels, both with the 16:9 aspect ratio required for widescreen displays, plus VGA resolution (with 4:3 aspect ratio). Typical recording times are shown in the table below.

      Video format



      Bit rate

      Recording time/8GB card




      1920 x 1080

      28 Mbps.

      39 minutes


      24 Mbps.

      47 minutes


      17 Mbps

      64 minutes


      1440 x 1080

      9 Mbps.

      114 minutes

      MP4 at 25p


      1440 x 1080

      12 Mbps.

      86 minutes


      1280 x 720

      6 Mbps.

      169 minutes



      3 Mbps.

      312 minutes

      Seven Scene pre-sets are available for shooting movies: Soft Snap, Landscape, Twilight, High Sensitivity, Beach, Snow and Fireworks. Exposure parameters are set automatically but you can use the zoom and implement face recognition and tracking AF functions in each mode.

      Playback options are similar to the HX1. Pressing the Playback button displays the last shot taken and you can display basic data, such as the image size, aspect ratio, file number and number of images stored in memory as well as the date and time the shot was taken. It also switches the Guide button to delete mode.

      You can playback a grouped burst of images at a speed that simulates a movie and view the Sweep Panorama shots and movie footage recorded with the camera. You can also grab still frames from movie clips as they’re played back – but only at the resolution they were recorded with.
      Captured 3D images can be played back on the camera and viewed stereoscopically with the Sweep Multi Angle mode. You simply press the playback button, select an image for viewing in Sweep Multi Angle mode and press the OK button in the centre of the arrow pad. Tilting the camera to the right or left simulates 3D playback.

      Better results are obtained when 3D images are viewed on 3D TV sets or monitors. An HDMI cable is required for this capability.

      For some bizarre reason – as yet unexplained – in the S mode, we couldn’t set aperture settings smaller than f/6.3. This quirk was confirmed by a reader who expressed interest in the camera and pushed us to seek one to review.

      In the A and M modes, aperture adjustment went all the way down to f/8 (the minimum aperture available). The restriction in S mode is counter-intuitive since the shutter priority mode is often used to control the way motion is rendered and very small apertures are often required for maximum depth of field in shots.

      Test shots taken with the review camera appeared sharp but revealed the boosted saturation levels that have been common in small-sensor digicams for many years. Colour accuracy was compromised by variability in saturation with different hues. Imatest confirmed our subjective assessments and showed distinctive shifts in yellows, greens and dark skin hues. (Pale skin hues were close to the mark.)

      Resolution was below expectations for a 16-megapixel camera in our Imatest tests. However, the lens showed itself to be a good performer, delivering consistent results across all the focal lengths we were able to test, up to f/6.3, where diffraction kicked in to reduce overall sharpness.

      We found a much closer correspondence between centre and edge resolution than we found with the HX1 we tested, indicating a superior lens in the new camera. The graph below shows the results of our tests.


      Resolution declined progressively as sensitivity levels were increased but, unlike the HX1, we found no significant fall-off at the ISO 3200 setting. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests.


      Lateral chromatic aberration ranged between low and negligible, as shown in the graph below. (The red line marks the border between ‘negligible’ and ‘low’ CA.)


      Image noise became visible in long exposures taken at ISO 1600 and ISO 3200 when they were enlarged by roughly 33%. Some softening was also evident in the ISO 3200 shots – and also in flash shots at this sensitivity setting.

      Flash performance was generally good, with the test camera producing evenly-exposed flash shots from ISO 100 to ISO 3200. Noise levels were noticeably lower than those in shots taken with the HX1, particularly at the highest sensitivity settings.

      We found no evidence of vignetting and very little rectilinear distortion throughout the focal length range of the lens. Bokeh was also quite attractive with wide aperture settings at longer focal lengths, although you need to watch out for bright highlights in the background as they can become quite prominent.


      Close-up shots taken with the lens zoomed in to 144mm showing how bright highlights can create distractions in an otherwise nicely blurred background. ISO 100, 1/60 second at f/5.6.

      Video quality was very good for all quality settings (including VGA), although contrast levels tended to be quite high, leading to blown-out highlights with many subjects. The image stabilisation system was effective for shooting stills as well as for movie capture.

      With the former, we were able to use shutter speeds as low as 1/60 second with the lens at the 144mm position. However, unless light levels were relatively high, it could be a challenge to hand-hold the camera for shooting movies at focal lengths longer than about 20mm.

      The stereo soundtrack was also quite good for the size and position of the on-board microphones. The HX100V also benefits from a wind noise reduction filter, which was absent on the previous model. (It’s hidden away in the ‘Tools’ section of the menu.)

      Our timing tests were carried out with a 16GB Kingston Ultimate XX 233x SDHC U1 card, one of the fastest on the market. The review camera took a little more than two seconds to power up and slightly less to shut down. Shot-to-shot times averaged 1.3 seconds without flash and 4.4 seconds with.

      We measured an average capture lag of 0.15 seconds, which was eliminated by pre-focusing the lens. It took 2.9 seconds on average to process each 16M JPEG file. In the high-speed burst mode, the camera recorded 10 frames in 0.9 seconds, which is slightly faster than specified. It took 10.8 seconds to process this burst. With the low-speed burst mode we recorded 10 frames in 3.8 seconds and took 15.1 seconds to process them.

      Buy this camera if:
      – You’re looking for a well-built, long-zoom digicam with good wide-angle coverage, plenty of user-adjustable controls and image stabilisation.
      – You can benefit from the fast burst capture and multi-shot recording modes.
      – You’d enjoy shooting Full HD video clips with stereo sound.

      Don’t buy this camera if:
      – You’re looking for a pocketable camera.
      – You want to shoot raw files (the HX100V is restricted to JPEG capture).
      – You want fast and direct access to ISO, white balance and exposure compensation settings.
      – You require colour accuracy under artificial lighting.





      Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.


      Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.


      15-second exposure at ISO 100; 7.3mm focal length, f/6.3.


      8-second exposure at ISO 800; 7.3mm focal length, f/6.3.


      2-second exposure at ISO 3200; 7.3mm focal length, f/8.


      Flash exposure at ISO 100; 1/60 second at f/5; 27mm focal length.


      Flash exposure at ISO 800; 1/60 second at f/5; 27mm focal length.


      Flash exposure at ISO 3200; 1/60 second at f/5; 27mm focal length.


      4.8mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/100 second at f/6.3.


      144mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/320 second at f/5.6.


      Digital zoom; 144mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/250 second at f/5.6.


      Close-up; 4.8mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/320 second at f/2.8.


      Skin tones; 144mm focal length, ISO 250, 1/250 second at f/5.6.


      Skin tones; 117mm focal length, ISO 250, 1/250 second at f/5.6.


      Dynamic range; 99mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/1600 second at f/5.


      Backlighting; 13mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/1000 second at f/4.


      Handheld Twilight mode; 31mm focal length, ISO 1600, 1/25 second at f/5.


      12mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/1000 second at f/5.6.


      Still frames from 1080p video clips.


      Still frames from MP4 video clips recorded at 1440 x 1080 pixels.


      Still frames from MP4 video clips recorded at 1280 x 720 pixels.


      Still frames from VGA video clips.




      Image sensor: 6.16 x 4.62 mm Exmor R CMOS Sensor with 16.8 million photosites (16.2 megapixels effective)
      Image processor: BIONZ
      Lens: Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar T* 4.8 to 144mm f/2.8-5.6 zoom (27-810mm in 35mm format)
      Zoom ratio: 30x optical, 4x digital
      Image formats: Stills – JPEG (Exif 2.3); Movies – AVCHD and MPEG4; max recording time 29 minutes
      Image Sizes: Stills – 4:3 aspect: 4608 x 3456, 3648 x 2736, 2592 x 1944, 640 x 480; 16:9 aspect: 4608 x 2592, 1920 x 1080; Sweep Panorama: 10480 x 4096 (HD), 7152 x 1080 (183 deg), 4912 x 1920 (130 deg), 4912 x 1080 (126 deg), 3424 x 1920 (90 deg), 1920 x 1080 (49 deg); Movies – 1920 x 1080 (50p, 28M, PS) approx. 28Mbps, 1920 x 1080 (50i, 24M, FX) approx. 24Mbps, 1920 x 1080 (50i, 17M, FH) approx. 17Mbps, 1440 x 1080 (50i, 9M, HQ) approx. 9Mbps
      Shutter speed range: 30 seconds to 1/4000 in M and S modes; 1-1/400 sec. in iAuto mode
      Self-timer: 10 sec or 2 sec delay plus Portrait 1 & Portrait 2 modes
      Image Stabilisation: Optical SteadyShot
      Exposure Compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3EV steps
      Focus system/range: TTL contrast AF with Multi-point (9 points), Centre-weighted, Flexible Spot and Manual modes; range – W: Approx. 1cm to infinity, T: Approx. 200cm to infinity
      Exposure metering/control: Multi-Pattern, Centre Weighted, Spot metering
      Shooting modes: Superior Auto, iSweep Panorama, 3D Sweep Panorama, 3D Still Image, Handheld Twilight, Backlight Correction HDR, Anti Motion Blur, Manual Exposure, Shutter Speed Priority, Aperture Priority, SCN (Advanced Sports Shooting, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Landscape, Soft Snap, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, High Sensitivity, Gourmet, Pet, Soft Skin)
      ISO range: Auto, ISO 100, 125, 160, 200, 250, 320, 400, 500, 640, 800, 1000, 1250, 1600, 2000, 2500, 3200
      White balance: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent, Flash, One Push, One Push Set, White Balance Shift
      Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, Flash On, Flash Off, Slow Synchro, Rear Curtain Slow Synchro; range – 0.3 to 12.7 metres (ISO Auto)
      Sequence shooting: Max. 10 fps
      Storage Media: Memory Stick Duo/SD/SDHC/SDXC card slot
      Viewfinder: 0.2-inch (0.5cm), FLC (Ferroelectric Liquid Crystal) EVF with 201,600 pixels
      LCD monitor: 3-inch Xtra Fine TruBlack LCD with 921,000 dots
      Power supply: NP-FH50 lithium-ion battery; CIPA rated for 410 shots or 205 minutes of movie recording/charge
      Dimensions (wxhxd): 121.6 x 86.6 x 93.1 mm
      Weight: Approx. 525 grams (without battery and card)





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      Rating (out of 10):

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      • OVERALL: 9.0