The Sony HX5's 10x zoom and Sweep Panorama mode are great features, but sluggish performance and a hefty price tag make it tough to recommend.
Quite some time prior to my testing of the Sony Cyber-shot H55, I used to shoot 35mm slides (mostly Ektachrome and Kodachrome). I loved the bold and vibrant, but highly accurate colors and the incredible detail captured by slow ISO speed 35mm transparency films, but I hated waiting two weeks to get my Kodachrome slides back. The digital imaging revolution changed all that. Today's photographers can do things that old time shooters never imagined possible like adjusting color (in-camera) to mimic slide film and reviewing images immediately after you shoot them.
Cameras have changed, too. After spending many years carrying a heavy 35mm camera bag around, I've come to appreciate super capable pocket sized point-and-shoot digicams. Until quite recently most compact and ultra-compact cameras featured 3x or 4x zooms, but consumers have been demanding more megapixels, smaller cameras, snappier performance, longer zooms and lower prices since the introduction of the first commercially available digital camera (the 1.3 megapixel Kodak DCS 100) in 1991.
One of the most exciting developments in the ongoing digital imaging revolution is the compact ultrazoom - these minuscule cameras sport 10x to 15x zooms. Sony recently introduced two new compact ultrazoom Cyber-shots, the top of the line DSC-HX5 and its little brother the DSC-H55. The H55's collapsible 10x zoom makes it possible to carry a camera with a 25-250mm (equivalent) zoom lens around in your shirt pocket, and while most of its competition provides only auto exposure, the H55 features a full manual mode which may make it more appealing to photo enthusiasts who often disparage the compact ultrazoom class for its almost insidious dearth of user input.
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