Sony Cyber-shot HX200V Digital Camera Review
Sony stands by a successful superzoom design, but goofs up by cramming it with too many megapixels.
Based in part on the spec sheet but mostly on the price tag, the Sony Cyber-shot HX200V sits in the top tier of superzoom cameras, circa late 2012. It features a long zoom lens and a high-res sensor that unlocks fast performance and excellent video options. It has an eye-level electronic viewfinder that some photographers find essential, and it gives you the option to control the exposure yourself or let the camera do all the work. And all of these goodies are wrapped up in a lightweight body with a comfortable grip, all for less than $500.
That should all sound incredibly impressive—to anyone who lives under a rock. Okay, maybe that's overstating the point, but those once-headlining features are now par for the course. For better or for worse, camera makers keep pushing the boundaries of superzooms. Nikon, Canon, and Panasonic all made impressive upgrades to their superzoom lenses this year. Fujifilm rolled out a premium-tier superzoom with a physically larger sensor, rather than just cramming in more megapixels. Sony, on the other hand, only added extra megapixels to the HX200V, and called it a day.
Standing by a great design is no crime, and if the HX200V had maintained the stellar image quality of its predecessor, we'd give Sony a pass for treading water. But the lazy changes to the HX200V actually make it an objectively, scientifically worse camera than its predecessor. More megapixels aren't always either a good or a bad thing. But in this case, they have some unfortunate consequences on the overall image quality, forcing heavy-handed noise reduction to smear away too much detail.
If your aim is to take some nice snapshots, and you want the versatility of a long zoom range—for photographing wildlife or youth sports, most likely—the HX200V is perfectly fine. Colors are accurate and vibrant, and the lens can produce sharp-enough shots to view on your computer screen or as small prints. (In all honesty, most people never take full advantage of their cameras' maximum resolution. Few ever print large, and most simply upload without doing any post-processing.)
But when you're spending upwards of $400 on a camera, you should expect better results than what you'll get from the HX200V. If you look around for a minute or two, you can easily find another superzoom in the same price range with a longer zoom range and better image quality—start with the Nikon P510. Or, if you increase your budget by a few bucks, you'll discover truly top-tier superzooms that provide significantly cleaner image quality and additional features like RAW capture.
But wait, there are more alternatives! Price compression in the camera market means that if you can do without the full 30x zoom range (keep in mind that just a few years ago even 20x was outlandish), you can pick up a decent entry-level interchangeable-lens camera for less money than the HX200V. These models will give you better image quality than any superzoom could ever provide, offer better manual control, and are probably smaller as well. You can always add zoom later with another lens—and some budget telephoto zoom lenses go for as little as $300. Bottom line: Pass on the Sony HX200V.
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