A slimline digicam with a 10x optical zoom lens, Sony's 10-megapixel backlit Exmor R CMOS sensor and Full HD video recording.Despite designing its Cyber-shot primarily for snapshooters, DSC-HX5V Sony has included some features to appeal to photo enthusiasts. For starters, there's the new Exmor R (back-illuminated) CMOS sensor, which provides a sensible effective resolution of 10.1 megapixels. Next there's the high-quality G lens with 25mm wide angle and 10x optical zoom. In addition, the HX5V can record Full HD video clips using the efficient AVCHD format. . . [more]
Despite designing its Cyber-shot primarily for snapshooters, DSC-HX5V Sony has included some features to appeal to photo enthusiasts. For starters, there's the new Exmor R (back-illuminated) CMOS sensor, which provides a sensible effective resolution of 10.1 megapixels. Next there's the high-quality G lens with 25mm wide angle and 10x optical zoom. In addition, the HX5V can record Full HD video clips using the efficient AVCHD format.
The HX5V is also the first Sony camera to integrate GPS and Compass functions for travelling snapshooters. The GPS receiver allows images and video clips to be automatically geotagged and displays the location in real time on the 3-inch Clear Photo LCD screen as shots are taken. The Compass function shows which direction you were pointing when the picture was taken.
Build and Ergonomics
Small enough to slip into a pocket or purse, the HX5V has a smooth metal-clad body that comes only in black. The finish has a low gloss that's slightly slippery to hold but looks quite elegant. The optically-stabilised lens is semi-recessed into the front panel and covers roughly one third of its surface area, with the barrel retracting into the camera body when power is switched off. A slim LED flash is the only other item on the front penal, aside from a shallow grip moulding.
Front view of the DSC-HX5V. (Source: Sony.)
Most of the rear panel is covered by a 3.0-inch TFT Clear Photo LCD panel, which covers the sensor's full field of view and has a comparatively low resolution of 230,400 dots. It lies flush with the panel and is easily fingermarked. No viewfinder is provided. An arrow pad and a cluster of buttons occupy the rest of this panel.
There's a dedicated Movie button, which is reasonably large and marked with a red dot, plus Playback, Menu and Delete buttons, which are so small they can only be operated with the tip of a fingernail. A shallow indentation just above the Movie button provides a resting place for your thumb when holding the camera. It makes the camera usable one-handed and is of a size that should suit most users (though perhaps not those with really large fingers).
Rear view of the HX5V. (Source: Sony.)
The most prominent features on the top panel are the mode dial and the shutter button, which has a surrounding zoom lever. Beside them, the power and drive buttons appear tiny and it could be easy to overlook the pair of stereo microphone holes that lie exactly where you would put your left index finger when holding the camera for shooting. Putting the drive button so close to the on/off button is also problematic as it's easy to hit the wrong one unintentionally.
Top view of the HX5V. (Source: Sony.)
The mode dial is richly endowed with settings that range from a full-auto ‘green' button through Easy, Anti Motion Blur, Handheld Twilight, Backlight Correction HDR, Scene Selection, Movie and iSweep Panorama to the Manual and Program AE settings. There's no Aperture- or Shutter-Priority AE and the Scene pre-sets include High Sensitivity, Soft Snap, Advanced Sports Shooting, Landscape, Twilight Portrait, Twilight, Gourmet, Pet, Beach, Snow and Fireworks.
The base plate carries the battery/card compartment, which has a fairly flimsy lift-up cover. There's a single card slot - but it accepts both Memory Stick Duo and SD/SDHC cards (but not, apparently, the new SDXC cards). Beside the battery/card compartment is the single ‘multi-connector' slot, which is bang in the middle of the base plate and combines USB, A/V and HDMI interfaces. A metal-lined tripod socket is located close to the other end of the base plate.
Sensor and Image Processing
Sony pioneered the development of back-illuminated sensors and was one of the first manufacturers to use them in its cameras. Unlike conventional sensors, with back-illuminated sensors, the light passes directly to the silicon substrate where the photodiodes are, instead of having to pass through a layer of electronics and wiring.
The above diagram shows the differences between normal (front-illuminated) and back-illuminated sensors. (Source: Sony.)
This increases the amount of light reaching each photosite - and, at the same time, provides improved sensitivity and lower noise levels. Problems like dark current, defective pixels and colour mixing that lead to image degradation are significantly reduced. Back-illuminated sensors also have wider acceptance angles for incoming light.
The sensor/processor combination has enables Sony to build on the multi-shot capture modes it pioneered with the Sweep Panorama function on last year's Cyber-shot HX1, TX1 and WX1 models. As well as providing an enhanced ‘Intelligent' Sweep Panorama mode, three other modes - Anti Motion Blur, Handheld Twilight and Backlight Correction HDR - combine two or more shots within the camera to produce the desired result. (Details below.)
The sensor in the HX5V is a 5.92 x 4.57 mm Exmor R CMOS chip with a sensible effective resolution of 10.2-megapixels. This gives each photosite a surface area of approximately 1.45 microns squared. Only JPEG capture is supported for still photographs.
Five image size settings are provided - three with 4;3 aspect ratio and two at 16:9 - but compression is not adjustable. Four image sizes are supported in the Sweep Panorama mode: two horizontal and two vertical. Typical file sizes are shown in the table below.
3548 x 2736
2592 x 1944
640 x 480
3648 x 2056
1920 x 1080
H: 4912 x 1080
V: 3424 x 1920
H: 7152 x 1080
V: 4912 x 1920
High-definition movies shot with the HX5V are recorded in AVCHD format at 50 fields/second (PAL standard) in interlace mode with Dolby Digital audio. Alternatively, users can select MPEG-4 recording at 25 fps in progressive mode with AAC audio in MP4 format. The maximum clip length of 29 minutes appears to apply to all movie formats.
Average bit rate
Recording time on 4GB card
HD 17M FH
1920 x 1080
HD 9M HQ
1440 x 1080
1440 x 1080
1280 x 720
640 x 480
* Note: 3M movie clips crop the frame to produce a zoomed-in result.
The SteadyShot stabilisation operates for movie clip shooting and users can select one of two modes: Standard and Active, the latter claiming ‘up to 10x more hand-shake correction than conventional cameras'. AVCHD and MPEG-4 clips are stored in separate folders, requiring you to use the Menu button to select the folder containing the clip(s) you wish to view.
Owners of Sony Bravia TV sets can playback Full HD video clips directly by connecting the camera to the set or inserting the camera's Memory Stick into the appropriate slot. Video clips can be transferred to DVD directly with Sony's optional DVDirect MC6 recorder.
Despite offering an M shooting mode, the HX5V has actually been designed for point-and-shoot operation and all the new shooting modes reflect this aim to varying degrees. In the Easy shooting mode, you can only choose between Large and Small image sizes and set the GPS to on or off.
The first page of the HX5V's main menu.
Even in the other modes there are few genuinely adjustable controls beyond the obligatory ISO, white balance and exposure compensation settings plus the standard three patterns for the 9-point AF system and three metering patterns to choose from. Drive settings are slightly more generous, with two Burst settings (single and continuous) and three Burst Shooting Intervals (10 fps, 5 fps and 2 fps), all capable of recording at full 10.2 megapixel resolution. Exposure bracketing is available across +/- 0.3EV, +/- 0.7EV and +/- 1.0EV and there's a single white balance setting that records three shots with different white balance settings - but it's non-adjustable.
You can set Smile Detection sensitivity and switch on Face detection. All other menu settings are lumped together in a set of sub-menus accessed via a briefcase icon. This is where you set the movie format, AF illuminator, grid overlay and digital zoom functions and switch on or off the auto-rotate, red-eye reduction and blink alert controls. The language, music and interface settings are also found here, along with the power save mode, GPS setting and compass adjustments.
The ‘briefcase' setting where the other menu controls are located.
Some of the functions that are adjusted in this sub-menu.
If you wish to format the memory card (or internal memory) you have to toggle down a step further to the Memory Card Tool, which also lets you create and adjust recording folders and copy files between the internal memory and a card. The date and time settings are found via the icon that sits below the Memory Card Tool.
The arrow pad buttons provide direct access to the flash, self-timer, smile detection and screen display settings. Aside from that, you're reliant on the mode dial.
Should you wish to set a particular aperture and shutter speed combination, the only option is via the M shooting mode. In this mode, selection is initiated by pressing the central button on the arrow pad. This lets you use the vertical arrow pad buttons to adjust shutter speeds, while the horizontal arrows set apertures. However, only two aperture settings are provided: wide open and stopped down.
At the 4.25mm position, apertures range from f/3.5 to f/8, while at 42.5mm they range from f/5.5 to f/13. An internal neutral density filter is used to subdue incoming light to provide a ‘correct' exposure and a linear display appears on the monitor showing the difference between the selected settings and the exposure determined by the camera's metering system.
As mentioned above, the new and enhanced multi-shot modes - Anti Motion Blur, Handheld Twilight, Backlight Correction HDR and‘Intelligent' Sweep Panorama - are sure to be of interest to many potential users. The ‘Intelligent' Sweep Panorama, which records a sequence of shots as you sweep the camera across a scene, now has the ability to ‘detect' moving people or objects in the scene and will automatically compensate for any mis-matching as shots are stitched together. (Examples are shown below.)
As in previous models, you can shoot from left to right or right to left or sweep up or down. Two image sizes are available, Standard and Wide. It takes roughly one second to combine a set of images into a single panoramic image.
The Anti Motion Blur is designed for indoor shooting without flash. In this mode, the camera records a burst of six shots in quick succession (the shutter beeps six times). These shots are combined into a single image containing the sharpest bits of each recorded frame. Processing takes roughly one minute.
The Handheld Twilight works in a similar fashion, recording a burst of six shots and combining them in a way that reduces both blurring and image noise. Both these modes require subjects to be at least a metre away from the camera.
The Backlight Correction HDR records only two shots but uses different exposure levels so that one shot favours highlight detail while the other favours shadows. In-camera processing combines the favoured parts of each shot to produce an image with a wider dynamic range than would otherwise be recorded.
An example of the Backlit Correction HDR function; the shot on the left was taken with the P shooting mode, while the shot on the right used the Backlit Correction HDR function.
The Face Detection system has been enhanced with the addition of Child Priority and Adult Priority settings. Up to eight human faces can be detected in a scene and the system operates only with the Multi AF focus and Multi metering modes. Face Detection, Anti-blink and Smile Shutter Technology are applied automatically in the Easy mode as well as the Portrait setting in the Scene Selection sub-menu. However, Smile Shutter is blocked in all the multi-shot modes.
There's also a new Portrait shooting mode for capturing self-portraits when you can't see the monitor to compose the picture. It uses Face Detection technology to detect when the subject is framed correctly and fires the shutter automatically. A 2-person setting in this mode can be used for couples portraits.
Face Detection is also used with the new Self-portrait One Person and Self-portrait Two people modes in the self-timer sub-menu. It's used to ‘recognise' the specified number of faces when they enter the frame. A beep sound and the shutter is triggered two seconds later to capture the shot.
The addition of built-in GPS and direction sensors will be of interest to anybody who wants to record location data on trips. Sony isn't the first to offer this feature; Panasonic provided it in the recently-released Lumix DMC-TZ10 model. Both cameras provide similar functionality.
Like the TX10, you can switch GPS recording on and off - although the setting is hidden away on page six of the ‘briefcase' sub-menu. The effect of keeping it on probably drained the battery a little - but not enough to cause concern.
Playback and Software
The HX5V provides the standard quick review button, along with a fairly standard suite of playback modes. Toggling the Menu button in playback mode lets you select Date View, Folder View for still images, MP4 Folder view and AVCHD view. The Date View sub-menu includes a calendar setting and the menu also provides a Burst Group setting that plays back all the images in a burst group one at a time. You can also display grouped burst images side-by-side.
In-camera trimming, resizing, red-eye correction and rotation are all supported and users can apply unsharp masking to selected shots - although only at a pre-set level. Images can be deleted individually or as a group and you can delete all images in a selected folder or all shots taken on a specified date. Protection can be applied to selected shots or groups of images, as can DPOF tagging for automated printing.
Unusually, the HX5V will also allow users to view still pictures taken with other cameras. The camera creates a database file and registers every shot taken. If it detects images that haven't been registered, it displays a message on the monitor and gives users the option of ‘registering' these files to allow them to be displayed.
To display location data in playback mode, you must toggle through the Display settings until you reach the screen display setting marked ‘Bright + Exposure Data'. It's not displayed with the normal quick review function.
When shots tagged with location data are played back, the GPS information and compass bearing are indicated on the monitor, as shown in the illustration below.
Image playback on the HX5V with the GPS data and compass circled in red.
The bundled software disk contains Sony's Picture Motion Browser V. 5.0 for Windows. Video clips can, however, be viewed with iMovie and JPEGs can be edited in any application for Mac and Windows PCs.
Designed to provide an easy way to transfer, sort, and view video and still images, Picture Motion Browser contains very basic editing facilities for both still images and video clips. The browser interface is straightforward - although highly automated and it will ‘take over' image uploading whenever it detects images in a connected device.
The browser interface in Picture Motion Browser.
GPS integration is quite good as the software can connect to Google Maps and display a ‘Map View' showing a thumbnail image plus a map of where the shot was taken. The date and time the shot was taken are also included.
The Map View.
When working with video clips, users can save individual frames as still images by clicking on the Save Frame button. The image is captured at a resolution of 2304 x 1296 pixels and saved in the same folder as the video clip from which it was taken.
The Save Frame function.
The HX5V also includes support for TransferJet, a new wireless system for sharing images between different devices by simply bringing them together. The process requires a special TransferJet-certified chip in both devices. In the case of cameras, this means a TransferJet-capable Memory Stick.
The protocol is supported by Canon, Casio, Kodak, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic and Samsung but has yet to be widely applied. Unlike Bluetooth, the devices don't need to be paired but they must be physically close for the transfer to work. The maximum data transfer rate is 375Mbps, which equates to between two and three seconds for a 1GB file.
In our shooting tests, the review camera turned out to be a mixed bag. Most of the multiple-capture shooting modes delivered surprisingly good results, although there were several times when the camera stopped recording frames in the iSweep Panorama mode before we expected, leaving part of the scan not covered. This wasn't a real problem and, with more familiarity with the camera, users would soon learn when to start and end panoramic ‘sweeps'.
Unfortunately, the high-speed burst mode was disappointing because it failed to find focus for almost all of our test shots showing a child jumping on a trampoline (surely a usage for which this mode was designed). We also recorded a comparatively high percentage of misses in low-light shots taken in the Easy, iAuto and P shooting modes when the Multi AF focus mode was used.
Slow focus tracking may account for some of these misses, although we feel the Multi AF setting should encompass the entire scene and be quick enough to adjust focus for subjects moving at a moderate speed. Interestingly, this problem wasn't seen in video clips shot with the review camera, even when they contained fast-moving subjects. Examples are shown in the Sample Images section below.
Exposure metering tended to favour shadows, which meant highlight details were often lost. We found the review camera delivered better outdoor exposures when exposure compensation was set to -0.3EV - or -0.7EV in very contrasty lighting. Indoor metering was usually spot-on, indicating this camera has probably been designed for gentler Northern Hemisphere lighting.
Imatest showed resolution to be slightly below expectations but generally acceptable across the camera's zoom range. However, edge softening was evident with the shorter focal length settings. The graph below shows the results of our tests.
Resolution fell sharply at ISO 1600 and even further at ISO 3200. The graph below shows the results of our tests.
Colour saturation was slightly elevated in our Imatest tests, which also showed some significant colour shifts, mainly in the reds but, to a lesser extend in skin hues. Test shots also revealed elevated saturation in most hues. Lateral chromatic aberration never rose above the ‘negligible' level and we found no significant colour fringing in test shots taken in contrasty lighting.
Low light performance was good for both still shots and video clips - although long exposures at ISO 3200 were noticeably noise-affected. The Handheld Twilight mode proved particularly effective for shooting stills in low light levels but had a few problems with fast-moving subjects. Noise-reduction processing is applied automatically for all exposures longer than one second and at ISO settings of 400 and above. Some image softening was introduced as a result.
The flash required an ISO setting of 400 or higher before it could illuminate subjects more than two metres from the camera. Flash exposures were quite even from ISO 400 to ISO 3200 and noise was much less visible in high ISO shots.
Auto white balance performance was similar to many digicams we've reviewed. The review camera failed to totally remove the colour cast of incandescent lighting but came close to producing neutral colours with fluorescent lighting. Both sets of pre-sets tended towards over-correction but manual measurements delivered neutral colours under both lighting types.
Video quality was very good, particularly in the Full HD mode which recorded a surprising amount of detail in quite dim - and variable - lighting. The image stabilisation system was good enough to allow hand-held shooting under these conditions and the optical zoom, which can be used while recording, didn't interfere with the soundtrack.
Although audio quality was generally good, the built-in microphones were quite susceptible to wind noise and easily covered inadvertently. This produced a muffled result that made the soundtrack unusable. Unfortunately there's no provision for an external microphone. The GPS tracking system was also effective and the Compass feature, which appears to work with magnetic signals, even records directions with indoor shots.
The review camera took just under two seconds to power-up and we measured an average shot-to-shot time of 1.4 seconds without flash and 8.8 seconds with. Capture lag averaged 0.15 seconds but disappeared with pre-focusing. It took 2.6 seconds, on average, to process each high-resolution JPEG file.
Burst mode performance depended on the setting used. The High setting performed to specifications, recording 10 frames in one second. The Mid setting captured 10 frames in 1.7 seconds, which is slightly faster than specified, while the Low setting recorded 10 frames in 4.2 seconds, which is slightly slower. It took between14.4 and 17.5 seconds to process each burst.
Buy this camera if:
- You're looking for a pocketable superzoom digicam with built-in geotagging capabilities.
- You would like to record Full HD video clips with stereo sound.
- You want good wide-angle coverage and competent image stabilisation for shooting both video and still pictures.
- You want high burst capacity at high resolution.
- You would enjoy the multi-shot modes this camera provided.
Don't buy this camera if:
- You require PASM shooting modes.
- You want to shoot raw files (the HX5V can't).
Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.
Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.
P shooting mode, 4.3mm focal length, ISO 125, 1/400 second at f/8.
P shooting mode, 42.5mm focal length, ISO 125, 1/500 second at f/5.5.
Digital zoom; 42.5mm focal length, ISO 125, 1/500 second at f/5.5.
P shooting mode, 4.3mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/250 second at f/3.5.
P shooting mode, 42.5mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/250 second at f/5.5.
Digital zoom; 42.5mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/125 second at f/5.5.
Close-up; P shooting mode; 4.3mm focal length, ISO 125, 1/125 second at f/3.5.
M shooting mode; 6.2mm focal length, ISO 125, 30-second exposure at f/4..
M shooting mode; 6.2mm focal length, ISO3200, 4-second exposure at f/4.
Flash exposure with P shooting mode; 26mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/60 second at f/5.
Flash exposure with P shooting mode; 26mm focal length, ISO3200, 1/60 second at f/5.
Handheld Twilight mode; 4.3mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/25 second at f/3.5.
Handheld Twilight mode; 42.5mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/6 second at f/5.
Dim indoor lighting plus M shooting mode; 42.5mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/15 second at f/5.5.
iAuto shooting mode, ISO 125, 1/160 second at f/8.
100% crop from the above image showing very slight coloured fringing.
Portrait with 16:9 aspect ratio; Handheld Twilight mode; 42.5mm focal length, ISO3200, 1/30 second at f/5.5.
iSweep Panorama with Standard setting; 4.3mm focal length, ISO 125, 1/250 second at f/3.5.
iSweep Panorama with Wide setting; 4.3mm focal length, ISO 125, 1/320 second at f/3.5
iSweep Panorama with Wide setting but only 2/3 of the scan recorded; 4.3mm focal length, ISO 125, 1/400 second at f/3.5
Vertical iSweep Panorama with Standard setting and only 2/3 of the scan recorded; 4.3mm focal length, ISO 160, 1/100 second at f/3.5.
Nine frames from a 10-shot sequence in the High-speed burst mode, showing the camera's inability to find focus with fast-moving subjects. 9.9mm focal length, ISO 125, 1/160 second at f/4.5.
A still frame from an HD video clip covering a fast-moving subject.
A still frame from an HD video clip recorded in bright ambient lighting.
A still frame from an HD video clip recorded at an outdoor concert after dark.
Image sensor: 5.92 x 4.57 mm Exmor R CMOS sensor with 10.6 million photosites (10.2 megapixels effective)
Lens: Sony G 4.25-42.5mm f/3.5-5.5 zoom (25-250mm in 35mm format)
Zoom ratio: 10x optical, up to 20x digital
Image formats: Stills - JPEG; Movies - AVCHD/MPEG-4
Image Sizes: Stills - 4:3 aspect: 3648 x 2736, 2592 x 1944, 2048 x 1536, 640 x 480; 16:9 aspect: 3648 x 2056, 1920 x 1080; Sweep Panorama - 7152 x 1080 (270deg), 4912 x 1080 (185deg), 4912 x 1920 (185deg), 3424 x 1920 (129deg); Movies - 1920 x 1080, 1440 x 1080 at 50i; 1440 x 1080, 1280 x 720, 640 x 480 at 25 fps
Shutter speed range: 30 to 1/1600 second
Self-timer: 2 or 10 second delay plus Portrait 1 / Portrait 2 modes
Image Stabilisation: Optical SteadyShot
Exposure Compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3EV steps
Focus system/range: Contrast-based AF with multi-point (9 points), centre-weighted and spot modes plus Face detection AF; range 5cm to infinity
Exposure metering/control: Multi-pattern, centre-weighted and spot metering
Shooting modes: Intelligent Auto, Easy Shooting, Program Auto, Manual, Intelligent Sweep Panorama, Handheld Twilight, Backlight Correction HDR, Anti Motion Blur, Scene Selection (Sports, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Landscape, Soft Snap, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, High Sensitivity, Gourmet, Pet)
ISO range: Auto, ISO 125, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
White balance: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent , Flash, One Push, One Push Set
Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, Flash On, Flash Off, Slow Synchro; range 0.05 - 3.8m (ISO auto)
Sequence shooting: Max. 10 frames/second
Storage Media: 45MB of internal memory plus dual-purpose slot for Memory Stick Duo and SD/SDHC
LCD monitor: 3-inch Clear Photo LCD with 230,000 pixels
Power supply: NP-BG1 rechargeable lithium-ion battery; CIPA rated for 310 shots/charge
Dimensions (wxhxd): 102.9 x 57.7 x 28.9 mm
Weight: Approx. 170 grams (body); approx. 200 grams (with battery and card)
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Rating (out of 10):
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- Image quality: Stills - 8.0; Video - 8.8
- OVERALL: 8.3