New and improved -- the Sony Cyber-shot HX300 boasts some substantial upgrades from the HX200. Welcoming a 50x zoom lens and a back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS image sensor, the HX300 is sure to please ultrazoom enthusiasts that can't wait to make use of this camera on their travels or in their back yard.
Sony's newest bridge camera, the HX300, picks up where the HX200 left off. In an effort to keep up with the Jones' (or in this case the Canon's) this DSLR-styled 50x zoom camera no longer wants the Canon SX50 HS in a class by itself. Offering 20.1-megapixels housed in an Exmor R CMOS sensor, the HX300 is the epitome of improvements. When compared with its predecessor, the HX300 has 2 times faster AF, 2 times faster optical image stabilization and more stable framing due to the Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T Lens.
The improved lens and image stabilization comes in handy with the 24mm-1200mm equivalent zoom and an aperture range of f/2.8-6.3. Another feature of this lens includes less flare and chromatic aberration thanks to the coated ED and SD glass. Built around the lens is a motorized zoom ring.
The HX300 offers ISO sensitivities up to 12,800. It also has a 3-inch LCD screen and ergonomics that are quite similar to a DSLR camera. Fast AF speeds and improved battery stamina (up to 300 shots) are also standard of the HX300.
Our First Impression
The Sony HX300 appeals to the DSLR lover in me. It has a lightweight chunky body, large ergonomic grip and a ton of physical buttons. One of my favorite parts of the camera is the motorized zoom lens ring that allowed me to adjust the focal length. It is responsive and easy to use. The one down side is that it is not as fast as a traditional DSLR zoom lens. Of course, finding a DSLR zoom lens with the focal length of 24-1200mm is impossible. Those that require more zoom over a speedy zoom will enjoy the beneifts of the HX300's lens and focal length. Sony has made advancements with the HX300 in terms of AF and image stabilization, however I found that when using the camera at the full 1200mm focal length it was still extremely difficult to get a stable shot. I did not have a tripod so I used a railing to stabilize the camera as much as possible. It was easier, but still very difficult. Pulling the zoom back, even just a bit, allowed for much easier handling of the camera. If you do not want to use the zoom ring around the lens to control focal length there is a zoom toggle switch on the top right side of the camera which is a familiar feature on point-and-shoot cameras.
On the back of the camera is a 3-inch tiltable screen with 921k dots. The screen is bright and crisp. In addition to the LDC screen, the HX300 has a built-in electronic viewfinder. Traditional function modes were also located on the back of the camera as seen in the image below. The top of the camera houses a mode dial which allows the user to switch easily between auto, scene, movie, shutter, aperture, program and manual modes. I was able to quickly change my setting and access the menu screen without any hesitation.
The Sony HX300 features a 20.1-megapixel 1/2.3-inch Back-illuminated CMOS sensor which should help with image clarity and reduce image grain. Below are images taken inside the museum. The lighting was better than in most of the exhibit, but not nearly as good as outdoors. You can tell that grain is kept at a minimum and the images have good color quality. I thought the camera did a great job with both the highlights and shadows in the images. The first image is the camera lens at 24mm. The next three images are zoomed in at increasingly greater focal lengths. The final four images are at full 1200mm focal length. If you look at the first image you can see the flowers on the lower right side of the image and the tree branch on the top left part of the image. This was the actual distance from camera to subject from which the final images were created. As you can tell the camera has amazing focal length. Although the images are not tack sharp, they are acceptable and can be sharpened with post production software if desired.
We can't wait to try out the HX300 in our own setting to see if we can improve on image clarity. The HX300 will be available in March for about $500.