Sony HX90V Camera Puts 30X Zoom in Your Pocket for $430

The CyberShot HX90VThe CyberShot HX90V

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.)   

Popup viewfinder on the HX90VPopup viewfinder on the HX90VIt 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.

The WX500 lacks the OLED viewfinder and grip.The WX500 lacks the OLED viewfinder and grip.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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Key Specs

Model name: Sony HX90V (and WX500V)
Megapixels: 18.2
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

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  • voodoochicken
    If storage is mentioned in the article I missed it. Does it still use Memory Sticks that are incompatible with the entire planet?
  • razor512
    a 1/2.3 inch sensor means that the camera will likely lost pretty much all fine detail at about ISO 400, meaning portraits will be devoid of all skin texture.

    A long zoom does not mean much unless it can maintain a good aperture f6.3 on that sensor means 100% no bokeh even at full zoom, and not enough shutter speed to freeze the action of even someone jobbing during a sunny day, thus there are very few areas where that zoom will be useful.

    The camera is also horribly overpriced. You are better off spending that money on a Nikon D3200 (both are about the same price) While the zoom will not be as good with the kit lens, you will get far better image quality, and high ISO performance. On top of that, you have the option of later on adding a better lens.

    And most importantly, you can shoot in camera raw.
  • apc12
    Hey, this is a *compact* camera. It fits in your pocket. If you're looking at the Nikon D3200, then you're not in the market for this kind of camera at all. A comparison with the Panasonic ZS50 makes sense if you want a viewfinder, and to the Canon SX700 HS or Nikon Coolpix S9700 and others make sense if you don't need a viewfinder. However, it's simple physics: a compact 30x lens needs a small sensor. That's why all the compact 30+x zooms and even the larger SLR-like bridge cameras use a 1/2.3" sensor.