Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX60V Review
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX60V is a premium travel-zoom camera. Featuring a 30x zoom lens with a focal range of 24-720mm, 20.4 megapixel back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor, Bionz X processor, Wi-Fi/NFC connectivity and built-in GPS tracking, the HX60V also offers 50p Full HD video recording with stereo sound and HDMI output. Other key features of the Sony HX60V include a 3 inch LCD screen with 921,000-dots, Multi Interface Shoe, Multi Terminal for using a remote controller, fast 0.1 second auto-focusing, 10fps burst shooting mode at full resolution, ISO range of 80-12,800, Optical SteadyShot with Active Mode, full P/A/S/M manual controls, artistic Picture Effect modes, Intelligent Sweep Panoramas, and support for both Memory Stick PRO Duo and Secure Digital cards. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX60V is available in black or silver for around £340. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX60 model doesn't have GPS and retails for £330. Note that neither model is available in the USA.
Ease of Use
Sony's new Cyber-shot DSC-HX60V is virtually identical to the HX50V model that it replaces, so a lot of the comments that we made in our review of that camera apply equally to the new HX6V. The Sony DSC-HX60V's defining feature is a 30x, 24-720mm extending optical lens with respectable enough maximum apertures of f/3.5 at the 24mm wide-angle setting and f/6.3 at the 720mm full telephoto setting. The HX60V's lens is a real joy to use, with a 30x zoom in such a relatively small package making this camera incredibly adaptable, with everything from ultra-wide landscapes to candid long-distance portraits within easy reach. The 24mm focal length provides an entirely new wide angle of view that can only increase your creativity.
When set to 720mm, the lens does admittedly extend quite a long way from the front of the HX60V, but for the most part it look to all intents and purposes like a "normal" compact camera. If that's not long enough for you, then the Clear Zoom function effectively digitally doubles the zoom range, using Sony's Pixel Super Resolution Technology to increase the magnification. The combination of the f/3.5 aperture, effective optical image stabilizer and maximum ISO speed of 12,800 makes this camera well suited to hand-held low-light photography, not to mention the wealth of dedicated shooting modes. Sony has fitted a dual image stabilisation mechanism in the shape of both optical SteadyShot and an ISO range that extends up to ISO 12,800, much better than you'll find on your average point-and-shoot. Note that as with other recent Cyber-shots, you can't actually turn off the SteadyShot function, Sony assuming that it's better turned on permanently.
Despite its big zoom lens, the HX60V is still a fairly slender camera, measuring nearly 4cms at its narrowest point and weighing 272g with the battery and memory card fitted, with a large 3-inch, 921k-dot resolution LCD screen at the rear. As you'd expect with a screen of that size on such a small camera, the HX60V has no optical viewfinder to fall back on in brighter lighting conditions.
Providing the means of gripping the camera is a substantial textured, rubberised protrusion on the front and a small thumb-shaped lozenge on the rear, making the DSC-HX60V easy to get to grips with despite its mostly smooth recycled plastic surface. Also located on the front of the HX60V is the lens and a porthole on the left for the self-timer/AF illuminator. There's a clever folding pop-up flash unit on top of the camera which is automatically raised when you select a flash mode.
Press the small On/Off button on the top plate and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX60V quickly readies itself for action in a just over a second. The adequately sized shutter-release button has a definite halfway point, very quickly determining focus and exposure with a bleep of affirmation even in low-light, focus points highlighted as green rectangles on the LCD. Go on to take the shot and the JPEG images are committed to memory in less than a second, the screen momentarily blanking out and then displaying the captured image before the user can go on to take a second shot.
The shutter release button is encircled by a responsive forefinger-operated push/pull rocker zoom lever, with the camera taking around five seconds to zoom from wide-angle to full telephoto. The HX60V's twin built-in stereo microphones are also located on top of the camera, either side of the Multi Interface Shoe. Sheltered underneath the housing at the front of the hot-shoe we find a number of connector pins that allow users to mount a range of proprietary Sony accessories, which is why the company calls this accessory port a 'Multi Interface Shoe.' It can be used for attaching one of a range of accessories, including a more powerful flash, an electronic viewfinder (FDA-EV1MK), and even an optical viewfinder (FDA-V1K).
Sony have usefully included an Exposure Compensation dial on the top of the HX60V, which makes it very easy to quickly change this key setting. It has a positive clicking action and stays in place even when stored in a pocket or bag. A round shooting mode dial with a knurled edge and positive action is also found on the HX60V's top-plate, letting you quickly switch between the various shooting modes that are on offer. Sony has included Intelligent Auto scene recognition, which works in virtually identical fashion to the intelligent auto modes of Panasonic's and Canon's compact ranges. Simply point the HX60V at a scene or subject and the camera analyses it and automatically chooses one of 11 pre-optimised settings to best suit. There's also the Superior Auto mode, which places greater emphasis on reducing blur and noise and increasing the dynamic range.
In addition to the regular Program mode, which provides the full range of camera options and additionally allows you to change settings like the ISO speed and metering, is the welcome inclusion of Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and Manual modes, which will instantly appeal to the more experienced photographer. The ability to choose from 30 - 1/1600th second shutter speeds and set both the aperture and shutter speed if you wish opens up a lot of creative potential. Sadly there's still no support for the RAW file format, which would really have been the icing on the cake for serious photographers looking for a backup pocket camera to their DSLR.
The Intelligent Sweep Panorama mode lets you capture a panoramic image very easily without the use of a tripod. All you need to decide is whether you would like to start from left or right, top or bottom. Then press and hold down the shutter release while doing a "sweep" with the camera in hand. Exposure compensation is available before you start the sweep, but the exposure is fixed once you depress the shutter button. After you are done with the sweeping, the camera does all the processing required, and presents you with a finished panoramic image. There are three modes, Standard, Wide and 360 degrees. Note that if you do the sweeping too slowly, or you let go of the shutter release button too early, the panorama will be truncated.
Present and correct is the increasingly ubiquitous ability to shoot High Definition video clips. The HX60V does so at full 1080p HD rather than 1080i or 720p, and also with stereo sound rather than mono. The various options are 1920x1280 pixels at 50p or 50i and 1440x1280 at 50i in the AVCHD format, and 1440x1280, 1280x720 or 640x480 pixels at 25fps in the MPEG4 format. During video recording you can take a 15 megapixel still image by pressing the shutter button, or alternatively grab a still from your video footage during playback.
There is full use of the 30x optical zoom during recording so you can really make the most of that massive focal range, plus the ability to change the EV level, white balance, and metering options and turn on either standard SteadyShot or the Active Mode mode, which provides up to 10x more effectiveness with no side-effects. There's also a direct HDMI output from the camera, useful for playing back your footage on a HDTV set, although sadly there's no HDMI cable supplied in the box. The dedicated Movie button on the rear of the DSC-HX60V allows you to start recording a movie with a single push of a button, and then stop recording by pressing the same button. You can also activate the movie mode with adjustable settings via the Shooting Mode dial.
Built-in GPS allows you to seamlessly geo-tag your photos (latitude and longitude co-ordinates are stored in the EXIF data) and then sort and display them using geo-friendly websites such as Google Earth and Google Maps or the supplied Picture Motion Browser PC software. The HX60V also uses the GPS to keep the camera time accurate and can plot your progress using the GPS Log Recording function even if the camera is turned off.
The GPS function can be manually turned on or off and the current GPS status is displayed as a small icon on the LCD screen. Three bars appear next to the icon when the GPS has synced with one or more satellites, which unfortunately takes a few minutes from powering on the camera. The main downside of the HX60V's GPS is the subsequent drain on battery life, with the camera only managing just over 300 shots with GPS turned on instead of the 400 that it can manage without.
The HX60V also offers built-in wi-fi connectivity. You can wirelessly transfer your photos to a smartphone or tablet that's running the free PlayMemories Mobile app, or directly to a networked PC for easier backup. You can also view on a DLNA-compatible TV via a wireless router, or send them straight from the camera a TV that supports Wi-Fi Direct. Finally, you can take control of the camera using your smartphone (fire the shutter, set the self-timer and operate the zoom), handy for including yourself in the frame or even more remote shooting.
The rear of the DSC-HX60V is dominated by the large 3 inch LCD screen, with the resolution a satisfyingly high-res 912k dots. To the right of the screen is the useful one-touch movie record button and a small button for playing back your images. Users have the ability to dip in and out of created folders of images or the calendar view, view thumbnails, select slideshows and choose transitional effects and accompanying music, or delete shots. Press the shutter button halfway and you're helpfully catapulted back into capture mode. And that's basically it. With a press of the Menu button in playback, users have access to a few in-camera retouching effects, including the ability to crop and sharpen an image and apply red-eye correction.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
Also on the rear is the new Function button, which depending on the current shooting mode provides quicker access to up to 12 of the camera's key settings. You can also customise this menu to suit your needs. Underneath the Playback button is a traditional round navigation pad which you can use to navigate through menus and options, in conjunction with the small button in the middle which activates whatever it is you've chosen. The four directions on the navigation pad also provide a quick way of setting the Display, Flash, the Photo Creativity interface and Continuous Shooting/Timer options. The Photo Creativity tool makes it easier for beginners to change the colour, brightness, vividness and Picture effect modes, with changes previewed in real time on the LCD screen.
Finally, there are buttons for the camera's menu system and for deleting images underneath the navigation pad. A press of the former opens a number of shooting and setup folders, with white text on a black background aiding visibility. The seven shooting folders allow users to select image size, ratio and quality, plus features like SteadyShot, long exposure and high ISO noise reduction - all in fact activated as a default. The Settings folder allows you to tweak the HX60V to your way of working, while the other four folders contain the various Wi-fi, Applications, Playback, and Setup options.
The navigation pad also doubles up as a control ring that's used to set the aperture and shutter speed in the creative shooting modes, amongst other things. The ring is a little small and over-sensitive, and having to press the tiny central button to toggle between the ISO speed, shutter speed and aperture quickly becomes a bit tiresome, but the ability to take full control of the HX60V is still very welcome.
Pressing the drive mode button brings up two options, single or burst, with high-, mid- and low-speed continuous options then available in the Menu system. Out of these, the high-speed continuous mode is the most remarkable. The HX60V takes up to 10 full-resolution photos at a frankly astounding 10 frames per second, which is faster than most compact cameras and indeed most DSLRs too. The only fly in the ointment is that once the burst is completed, it takes over fifteen seconds for the camera to clear the buffer, during which you cannot take another picture. In the other two continuous shooting modes, the Sony HX60V also takes up to 10 pictures, but at slower speeds of 5 or 2 frames per second.
The bottom of the Sony HX60V features a standard metal screw thread for attaching it to a tripod which is conveniently located in the centre. A plastic cover protects the lithium-ion battery and the removable memory card, with the HX60V supporting the SD / SDHC / SDXC format in addition to Sony's own proprietary Pro Duo Memory Stick format. There's also a hardly worth it 11MB internal memory to fall back on which can store 7 full-resolution still images. Completing the bottom of the HX60V is an unprotected the HDMI port. The right side of the HX60V has a small metal eyelet for the supplied wrist strap and also the Multi Terminal port for using a remote controller underneath a sturdy plastic cover, while there are no controls on the left side except for a hole for the built-in microphone (looking from the rear).