Sony’s Sweet DSC-HX1 Zooms Into HD

My day-to-day digital camera is a simple, point-and-shoot model. That’s why I was a bit intimidated by Sony’s (s SNE) DSC-HX1 advanced megazoom camera at first. But it didn’t take long for the HX1 to wow me. This camera combines ease of use with high-end features, like HD video recording and an entertaining sweep panorama shooting mode.

The DSC-HX1’s impressive features include 10-megapixel resolution, 20x optical zoom, 1080p video capture, 3-inch tilting LCD viewfinder, and burst shooting at 10 frames per second. It also captures continuous panoramic images as you move the camera across a scene, and includes an “Optical SteadyShot” feature that helps nab images when you can’t hold the camera steady. And, if that’s not enough, you also get features designed to reduce blur when shooting in low light, or when trying to capture a moving subject.

A long list of features only matters if they work well, though, and after spending a few weeks using the HX1, I’m happy to say most of these features lived up to my expectations. But that doesn’t mean they all worked perfectly.

Take the HD video recording mode, for example. The videos I captured looked very good for the most part, though some of the action was slightly jerky. Still, the picture quality was much better than anything I’ve seen from a handheld digital camera. Even when blown up to full-screen size on my laptop, the images looked gorgeous. Audio quality was good, though occasionally a bit staticky. (The noise in the background of this sample video above, which was captured from a moving boat, is a flag whipping in the wind.)

What’s especially notable is that the HX1’s 20x megazoom, which lets you capture detailed still photos at great distances, also works while recording video. The zoom button is easy to operate while shooting videos, and the zoom mechanism itself seemed relatively smooth, much more so than on some pocket camcorders I’ve tried. The ability to zoom in and out easily, and at such great distances, means you can use the HX1 to create polished movies for business use, not just cute home videos.

It’s worth noting the camera’s sweep panorama mode. It’s incredibly simple to use: You set the dial to panorama, press and hold the shutter button, and move the camera as instructed on the LCD. The HX1 captures 224-degree horizontal or 154-degree vertical shots, and the results are fun.

One problem with the panorama mode: You need to hold your hand steady as you sweep across the scene, and trying to do that can be challenging, depending on the conditions. Even the smallest bobble can result in an image with a clear bump on the horizon. Take this image, for example, where the end of the scene seems to be falling off.


Sony’s DSC-HX1 lists for $499.95; that’s a fair price for a camera that provides a good mix of features for fun (like the sweep panorama mode), while still packing in plenty of tools that will help you capture excellent day-to-day photos.