Photography has always been one of those art forms that truly astonishes me. It can produce some truly beautiful images that capture a solitary moment of fun, sadness or passion, ready to be shared to friends or printed on glossy paper. A camera in the hands of someone who knows how to use it is a powerful tool indeed. Unless, that is, the camera is handled by someone whom is, themselves, a powerful tool. My name’s Troy and I’m to photography as Lara Bingle is to Australian TV.
I take resources that could be better used and turn them into something that could make anyone unfortunate to witness the resulting chaos to wretch in horror. That’s right, I am a complete and utter n00b when it comes to the wonderful world of photography.
So many years standing in outside in the cold, pouring rain, looking in awe through the warm window of brilliance that is other people’s achievements. But all of that was about to change (very slightly) when I received an email from The Contagious Network’s ‘Sony X’ arm -- a celebration of all things Sony and gizmo goodness.
Placed in a team of four, including myself, we each received the chance to spend a several days with the new Sony HX-20 Cyber-shot camera, exploring it and its features, before passing it on to the next person and sharing our thoughts. Being the last in line meant I had the horribly anxious position of seeing all the fun and great pictures being produced by the other team members, taking shots from all corners of Melbourne. The more I saw and read, the more I wanted my time with the HX-20. The excitement was thick and somewhat palpable the day the HX-20 arrived at my office.
Now, despite my previously stated shortcomings with a camera, I couldn’t wait to give this baby a whirl. I have always enjoyed, but never had the understanding, confidence, or funds to try my luck with a DSLR camera – instead using a poor excuse for a digital camera that was more akin to a brick.
The first thing I noticed about the Sony HX-20 is that it’s a very sleek camera. It seems, to be an aesthetically pleasing blend of both modern and classical cameras, with a large, crisp 3-inch display that really helps colours pop when you go back through your shots. But let’s be honest, you don’t care how it looks (mostly), you care about the features available and how the HX-20 performs. Let’s get into the proverbial nitty gritty!
The Sony HX-20 Cyber-shot camera boasts an incredible 18.2MP resolution, further bolstered by what Sony is calling ‘By-pixel Super Resolution Technology’ that reduces noise significantly, even in low light situations. As you can see below, even in night with fog, there is still little to no noise or blurring in the photo. This is something that makes the camera incredibly handy if you want to be taking shots while you’re out on the town, or having drinks with friends in a dankly-lit watering hole.
It is also worth noting that the Sony HX-20 is also capable of shooting images in 3D, although I didn’t have a shot at this as I don’t own a 3D TV, so it would be impossible to check the results for myself.
Zoom with a view
The HX-20 also sports impressive zoom functionality. Firstly, the 20x optical zoom is accurate and crisp, as would be expected. But the true highlight, thanks to the HX-20’s powerful BIONZ processor, is its 40x digital zoom. Rather than the standard cropping techniques for optical zoom found in other cameras, the HX-20 cleverly compares pixels around the target area, then, using the patterns it finds, creates new pixels to fill in the gaps, resulting in sharper images, even further bolstered by the onboard image stabilisation technology, meaning even shaky hands have the ability to shoot crisper zoomed images.
As I have already mentioned a couple of times, the Sony HX-20 Cyber-shot camera is powered by a new a super-powerful BIONZ image processor, which, when combined with its quality Sony G lens, Exmor R CMOS sensor and hugely optimised focus processing, gives you focus on your shots in as little as 0.1 of a second. Now as I mentioned earlier, I don’t know cameras that well, or the technology that goes inside them -- but those little specs are important to some people. Maybe you?
All I know is that not only does the HX-20 focus faster than any other camera I’ve ever used, but it also focuses more accurately. When setting the camera to the ‘intelligent auto’ setting it will even find how far away your subject is and then track their position, adjusting to landscape, portrait, macro, and more modes than I care to list, automatically. I’ve even been told that the speed and quality of focus is so fast that it even comes close to that of fully fledged DSLR cameras, and if that’s true than you could have an amazing camera in your hand that is not only a fraction of the size of a DSLR, but also a fraction of the price. Nifty.
Modes! Oh so many modes! To me extra modes and functions in a camera are like a lightning bonus round on a Japanese game show – sure, the end-result is all that counts, but I’ll be damned if the novelty of the added extras isn’t enjoyable.
The Sony HX-20 is just jam-packed full of extra features and settings to ensure that no matter what you’re shooting, you’ll have multiple ways to shoot it, and more importantly, have fun doing it. I spent a heck of a lot of time exploring the extras in the camera with all sorts of results varying from tragic to absolutely awe-inspiring. Some of these modes and features at your disposal are:
•Soft Skin Mode: Detects and analyses skin tones before making slight adjustments to you photo to reduce the appearance of fine lines and blemishes while leaving the rest of the photo untouched.
•Background Defocus: This is an absolute gem of a function, and does something most non-DSLR camera can’t -- put emphasis on the subject via focal points. The way it does this is very sneaky but very clever. The HX-20 first detects the subject and then takes two photos. The first is the overlay with the subject, which is applied to a blurred background image to give the illusion of depth of field. An absolute stroke of genius for a camera in its price bracket.
•Sweep Panorama: By pushing the shutter button and steadily panning your camera around and area, the HX-20 takes amazing panorama images. This feature is one I loved to bits, but is a little tricky to master, as you will often move the camera too quick or too slow. Once you’ve got the hand of it, however, it can create some seriously wall-worthy panoramic scenes.
The bottom line
This is the perfect camera for those who want something that is more than just a entry level digital camera, or perhaps even for those who want something that is almost as good as a DSLR for much less the cost. For those who take their pictures seriously, but not too seriously. For those who want to put fun and enjoyment back into the shooting without having to let go of the bells and whistles.
It's really is one of the best little cameras I’ve had the pleasure of playing around with in a long time. Unfortunately all good things must come to an end and I’ve had to send it back to from whence it came. But for the few short days I had to spend with the Sony HX-20 Cybershot camera were a joy. For the first time ever I felt I was taking photos I could actually be proud of. It’s a good feeling.
Troy and his group have an Imageshack page where you can see more images shot with the HX-20.