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Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX20V review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £318
inc VAT

A fantastic array of innovative and genuinely useful features, but image quality has its ups and downs


1/2.3in 18.0-megapixel sensor, 20.0x zoom (25-500mm equivalent), 254g

Pocket ultra-zoom cameras combine point-and-shoot simplicity with a big zoom to help frame shots more creatively, and are a worthwhile upgrade to a smartphone’s camera that can’t zoom at all. The HX20V is the pricier of two such models in Sony current range (HX10V review coming soon). Its specification are uncannily similar to rival models, such as the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS, Fujifilm Finepix F770EXR and Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ30: 20x zoom lens, 3in screen, 10fps continuous shooting, manual exposure control, 1080p videos and GPS for geo-tagging photos. It’s pricier than its rivals, though, which cost from £248 to £289 as of today.

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX20V

One justification is the HX20V’s ability to capture 1080p videos and 13-megapixel photos at the same time (lower than the full 18-megapixel resolution because these photos have the same 16:9 aspect ratio as videos). We think it’s a tremendously useful feature. There are so many times when we wished we’d captured a photo rather than a video, or vice versa; this camera removes any such worries. It doesn’t require a special mode to be selected in advance. As long as videos are recorded at 25fps rather than the top 50fps frame rate, the shutter button keeps on working. Olympus offers the same feature on the Olympus SZ-31MR but is limited to 24 photos per video clip. The HX20V can take photos every couple of seconds for the duration of its 30-minute video clips.

It helps that this camera excels for video capture. The picture was clean and detailed, displaying remarkably little noise in low light. Autofocus was smooth and responsive, and the optical stabilisation did a fantastic job in telephoto shots, delivering smooth pans while eliminating wobbles. Our only grumble is that manual settings are ignored for videos, even down to the white balance setting. That will put creative videographers off, but for everyone else, there’s little point in buying a dedicated camcorder.

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX20V

It’s a rewarding camera to take photos with, too. Performance is fast, with just one second between shots in normal use. Continuous shooting is at either 10fps or 2fps, although only for 10 frames per burst. There’s a mode dial on top, a wheel on the back for adjusting settings and a Custom button that can be set to exposure compensation, ISO speed, white balance, metering or smile detect. We’d have liked quick access to more than just one of these functions, though. Accessing the others involves delving into the menu, which presents photographic functions in one long list that’s easy to get lost in.

The mode dial includes manual exposure but not aperture- or shutter-priority modes. A sweep panorama mode captures and stitches as the camera is slowly turned. A new high-resolution option captures panoramas with the camera in portrait orientation for a taller view, and generates enormous 43-megapixel (10,480×4,096) images. The downside is that the camera must be moved reasonably quickly to capture the panorama before the buffer memory is full, so there was a small amount of motion blur except in very bright conditions.

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Basic Specifications

Rating ***
CCD effective megapixels 18.0 megapixels
CCD size 1/2.3in
Viewfinder none
Viewfinder magnification, coverage N/A
LCD screen size 3.0in
LCD screen resolution 921,600 pixels
Articulated screen No
Live view Yes
Optical zoom 20.0x
Zoom 35mm equivalent 25-500mm
Image stabilisation optical, lens based
Maximum image resolution 4,896×3,672
File formats JPEG, MPO; AVCHD, MP4 (AVC)


Memory slot SDXC, Memory Stick Pro HG Duo
Mermory supplied 105MB internal
Battery type Li-ion
Battery Life (tested) 320 shots
Connectivity USB, mini HDMI
Body material aluminium
Lens mount N/A
Focal length multiplier N/A
Kit lens model name N/A
Accessories USB cable
Weight 254g
Size 63x107x35mm

Buying Information

Warranty one-year RTB
Price £318

Camera Controls

Exposure modes program, manual
Shutter speed 30 to 1/1,600 seconds
Aperture range f/3.2-8 (wide), f/5.8-14 (tele)
ISO range (at full resolution) 100 to 3200
Exposure compensation +/-2 EV
White balance auto, 7 presets with fine tuning, manual
Additional image controls contrast, saturation, sharpness
Manual focus Yes
Closest macro focus 1cm
Auto-focus modes multi, centre, flexible spot, face detect, tracking
Metering modes multi, centre-weighted, centre, face detect
Flash auto, forced, suppressed, slow synchro, red-eye reduction
Drive modes single, continuous, self-timer, AE bracket, WB bracket, face detect, smile detect, 3D, panorama

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