Camera makers are fighting off the decline of the point-and-shoot business with the one thing smartphone cameras don't offer: a big, honkin' zoom lens. A whopping 30X zoom has emerged as the standard in pocket-size cameras from Nikon and Panasonic. Now, Sony is getting into the big-zoom game with its 18.2-megapixel HX90V, which goes on sale in June for $430. Sony will also offer a pared-down version of the camera, the WX500V, for $330 also in June.
Sony offers a few twists to make the HX90V stand out. Chief among them is an OLED viewfinder eyepiece that that pops up from the top right of the camera. The viewfinder resolution is extremely low, however — about half that of the LCD viewfinder in the rival Panasonic ZS50 pocket zoom (also 30X). The 3-inch rear LCD — which, of course, tilts up 180 degrees for selfies — has a respectable resolution of 640 x 480 pixels.
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Sony brags that the HX90V's video quality is professional-grade because it's recorded at 50 Mbps — the minimum required for TV broadcasts in Europe. It remains to be seen, however, how good the many bits from the camera's smallish sensor are. (It's about 1.6 times the size of an iPhone 6 sensor — the same as in rival zooms from Panasonic, Nikon and Canon.)
It will be interesting to see how this small sensor handles low-light shooting. While Sony has pushed its camera resolution to about 18 MP, Panasonic has taken its resolution down to 12 MP in its ZS50 camera (from 18.1MB in the predecessor ZS40), in order to improve light gathering with larger pixels. (The Sony HX90V has a max recommended light sensitivity of a meager ISO 3200, while the Panasonic goes to 6400.)
Like the Panasonic ZS50, Sony's new camera features a 5-axis optical and digital image-stabilization system. Image stabilization is a must for long-zoom cameras, which magnify every jitter.
Built-in GPS tags the locations where you took your shots. But if you don't care about GPS or the OLED viewfinder, you can save $100 with Sony's WX500V, which forgos those features for $330.
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Model name: Sony HX90V (and WX500V)
Price: $430 ($330 for WX500V)
Shots per second: 10 fps for up to 10 frames
Sensor type: 1/2.3-inch backside illuminated CMOS
Lens: 30X (24-720mm equivalent), f/3.5 (W) - 6.4 (T) Zeiss
Autofocus: Contrast detection
Shutter-speed range: 1/2000 to 4 seconds
ISO range: 80-3200. High sensitivity mode up to 12,800
Main video resolutions/frame rates: 1920 x 1080 at 60p, 60i, 24p
Screen: 3-inch LCD, 640 x 480
Viewfinder: Approx. 0.2-MP OLED (HX90V only)
Built-in flash: Yes
Hot shoe: No
Shots per charge (CIPA standard): 390
Wireless: Wi-Fi (both), GPS (HX90V only)
Image stabilization: Yes, 5-axis optical/digital hybrid
Dimensions and weight: 4.1 x 2.4 x 1.4 inches, 8.6 ounces