Steve's Conclusion

Steve's SnapShot

  • 18.2-Megapixel Exmor R CMOS Imaging Sensor
  • BIONZ X processor
  • 3.0-Inch LCD Screen
  • 30x Optical zoom lens: 24-720mm (35mm equivalent)
  • 5 Axis SteadyShot image stabilization
  • Dedicated Video Record Button
  • iAuto mode
  • Full 1080p HD video recording
  • Built-in WiFi with NFC
  • Built-in GPS
  • Rechargeable Li-Ion battery
  • HDMI output
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card compatible
  • iAuto and Program shooting modes are accurate and easy in all situations
  • Dedicated Video Capture Button is always ready to record
  • 30x optical zoom lens is great for all shooting situations, near and far
  • Great overall image quality
  • 5-axis image stabilization goes a long way to help steady your handheld shots and videos
  • 3.0-inch, 921.6K dot Tilting LCD screen is sharp and produces excellent detail and color
  • Pop-up EVF gives the camera a unique feel at eye-level
  • Lens ring adds more versatility and control while shooting
  • Built-in GPS and WiFi are great features for adventuring
  • Good Battery Life
  • Competitively priced
  • Some noise in all sample images, common with an 18-Megapixel sensor of this size
  • Lower Resolution EVF doesn't give you the realistic feel that many of Sony's other EVFs do
  • Higher ISO images show very high levels of noise
  • Burst shooting stops at 10 images
  • Performance was a little slower than expected
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 2.4 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused = less than 1/10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = approx. 1/10 to 4/10 of a second
  • Shot to shot delay wo/flash = 1.0 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 2.58 seconds
  • Sequential burst = 8.33fps for 10 images
  • Sequential flash burst = 2.27fps for 10 images
  • All tests were taken using a SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-1 8GB SDHC memory card, Program mode, ISO auto, flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise.
Bottom Line
The Sony CyberShot HX90V is an incredibly versatile and compact digicam. A powerful processor and Zeiss 30x optical zoom lens are great compliments to the 18-Megapixel CMOS imaging sensor. Its versatility and great collection of features make it an awesome travel companion.
Pick This Up If...
You are looking for the smallest yet most versatile digicam you can find. Great for anyone looking for a little more out of an ultra-compact, especially for travel.
Ultra-compact and incredibly versatile, the Sony CyberShot HX90V proves to be a fantastic travel companion. Sporting a Zeiss 30x optical zoom lens and 5-axis image stabilization, there is little that is out of reach for this camera; even when you are shooting handheld. Add that to the backside illuminated 18-Megapxiel Exmor R CMOS imaging sensor and BIONZ X processor, and you get a powerful camera that performs well in both speed and noise/flaw reduction. Its versatility is also extended with the built-in WiFi and GPS options, keeping track of your locations and allowing you to share your images from just about anywhere.

Built-in WiFi with NFC capability adds a great deal of versatility and usability, allowing you to quickly and easily connect your smartphone to share your images. Once your phone is connected, you can view and copy images from the camera. It also gives you the ability to use the phone as a remote control for the camera; giving you options for camera settings, zoom, and the shutter release without being anywhere near the camera. Finally a built-in GPS system can tag all of your images while you shoot, recording exactly where they were captured. This makes it easy to return to a certain spot or even map out your tip afterwards via the captured images.

For a compact digicam with a huge zoom like the 30x optical zoom lens of the HX90, the camera itself is incredibly small. A front grip and textured thumb pad on the back give you a solid grip on the camera. While holding it is easy, its operation with just one hand is a little trickier. The small surface to grip makes control of the camera a little tricky, even though it is easy to hold onto. Two hands via the "pinch" technique take away any hardships of operating the camera. Two hands also allow you to use the zoom ring around the lens for increased stability and easy zoom control in steps. The camera body features a few controls, all of which are simple to understand and reach while shooting. Assisting with the incredibly large zoom range is Sony's Optical SteadyShot, 5-axis Image Stabilization system. It goes a long way to help steady the camera at the telephoto end when shooting handheld.

Composing and viewing your images can be accomplished with either the tiltable LCD screen or the pop-up OLED electronic viewfinder. The 3.0-inch, 9210k dot LCD screen tilts a full 180 degrees; making it easy to shoot subjects that are low to the ground, or to face the camera back at yourself for easy and accurate selfies.

Shooting with the EVF gives you a little more of a traditional camera feel, bringing the camera up to eye-level. After you pop-up the EVF, it must then be pulled outward in order to operate correctly. Once opened, dioptic adjustment allows anyone to adjust the viewfinder for their own personal needs. It shows all of the same information that you will find on the LCD screen, and can be much easier to see in bright lighting conditions.

Our outdoor image samples are very good for an ultra-compact digicam. The exposure within these images is excellent, but some slight noise throughout all of the images, has a very slight dulling of the colors and fine details. This really isn't noticeable until you zoom in and view the images at the full 100% resolution. This is something that we see with all 16-Megapixel to 18-Megapixel, 1/2.3-inch image sensors, and is not anything to worry about unless you are looking to make very large prints of your images.

We also noticed a little softness around the edges of some of our objects, giving a slight shadow or ghosting of the outline of the objects. Composing your images is accomplished with the Zeiss 30x optical zoom lens. With a 35mm equivalent of 24-720mm, you can cover just about any shooting situation you find yourself in. Sony's 5-Axis image stabilization system goes a long way to steady the camera in low-light and handheld telephoto shooting situations. It also allows you to capture smooth video while on the move.

Our indoor sample images make it even easier to see the results mentioned above. Exposure is excellent, color and detail are very good but the same noise is easy to see. This takes away just enough to stop the image from really standing out over other ultra-compacts. Even at the lowest ISO settings, the noise is present and easy to see, increasing quickly as the ISO setting passes 800. After 800, the noise really takes over and really starts to take away from the image. Assisting with your low-light images is a compact pop-up flash unit. With a small operating range, this flash can be very useful in close quarters and to help tone down shadows in harsh lighting. Using the flash will also cause the ISO to increase quickly if set to Auto, so be careful with your settings.

Capturing portraits with the HX90V is as easy as ever, thanks to the fast and accurate face detection software. The camera is very quick to detect any faces within the frame and then follows them with ease. While the camera is following a detected face, it is also continuously adjusting the focus and shooting settings to keep the face as the target of your image. If there is more than one face, the camera will select a priority while still doing the best for the others as well. Face recognition allows you to give priority to faces that are saved within the camera's memory. The face detection can also be set to only find and follow these faces. Both of the faces in our sample portraits came out great, well exposed and very sharp. Noise on both of these images was high, softening some of the facial details.

Video Capture with the HX90V is a pleasure, especially if you are doing so on the move. The SteadyShot IS system listed above works wonders for steadying the camera while you are moving. Its dedicated video recording button allows you to start recording at any time, no matter what shooting mode the camera is currently in, so you will never miss that perfect moment. Sony offers you several movie formats, including their new XAVC-S format for even higher quality. XAVC-S and AVCHD are both available to record simultaneously with a lower quality MP4 video, giving you a high quality video for yourself and a lower quality video that is easy to share. The camera does also offer Full HD resolution MP4 video recording as well. To record video with this camera, it does require a UHS-1 Class 10 SDXC memory card. While completing our tests, the camera would not work with a SDHC card no matter how fast it was.

Powering the HX90V is the Sony's NP-BX1, 3.6V, 1240mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery. This battery is used with several of Sony's Cyber-Shot models, including the RX100 line. It is capable of providing the camera with up to 395 images on a single charge, and was able to capture well over 140 images and several short videos on a single charge for us while completing our tests. The camera comes with a USB adapter to keep the battery charged without taking it out of the camera, but this makes keeping more than one battery ready to more difficult. Extra batteries and an external charging unit are sold separately to aid you with this.

Bottom Line - The Sony CyberShot HX90V is a very versatile and powerful ultra-compact digicam. While there are plenty of cameras out there with similar specs, few of them are this compact and easy to carry, bringing out its true versatility. The large Zeiss lens, EXMOR R CMOS imaging sensor, and BIONZ X processor provide you with the top of the line components that you expect form Sony. The camera's image quality is as good as any others with this size sensor, but it lacks a bit compared to larger sensor cameras that can fall into the same price range; but without the bells and whistles that the HX90V features. With a MSRP of US $429.99, this camera runs a little more than most ultra-compacts, but if all the leading features are what you are looking for, the camera is definitely worth a look.

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