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Box Photo

• Sony Cyber-shot HX10V digital camera

• wrist strap

• NP-BG1 rechargeable battery

• AC adapter

• USB cable

• instruction manual

• warranty card

The HX10V's lens offers the same 16x optical zoom as the HX9V, and is identical in design. The barrel construction doesn't seem particularly solid, so we'd avoid dropping it. Mechanical action is relatively slow, and although this bugged us, most travel zooms have the same problem. The lens is controlled by a small zoom lever surrounding the shutter release, which is in sort of a cramped spot off to the right of the body.

The 921,000-dot LCD is excellent, with bright, vibrant colors and an extremely wide viewing angle. We had no trouble shooting video with this device, despite the lack of a tilting panel. In fact our only worry is that shots may look better on the playback screen than they do on your PC.

The HX10V lacks a viewfinder, so this monitor is the only way to accurately frame shots.

In what seems to be an emerging trend this year, this camera's flash emitter is fully motorized. It automatically extends and retracts from the top left corner of the body, whenever the current shooting settings require more illumination. We don't love this concept, since the moving parts always seem to knock our grip out of position. At least it's possible to manually shove the flash back down to the locked position, unlike the Nikon S9100 for example.

Flash Photo

Only two ports reside on the entire HX10V body. There's a miniHDMI port concealed underneath a compartment cover on the right side of the camera, as well as an exposed microUSB terminal on the bottom. The position of the USB port makes tripod shooting very inconvenient, but we suppose few users other than ourselves will be doing studio work with this camera.

Note the HX10V does not ship with an A/V cable, so if you'd like to stream your shots to a non-HDTV, you'll need to invest in at least one accessory.

We were shocked by most of the image quality scores produced by this camera, especially color accuracy and noise reduction, both of which were significantly worse than the HX9V. We're not quite sure what happened here, maybe Sony is using a new sensor. But for whatever reason, image quality is the primary drawback of this camera.

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In rare situations the HX10V is rather sharp, but for the most part this huge lens cannot resolve the same detail that a less ambitious one would've. Resolution is best at the center of the frame, but sharpness quickly drops off as we near the edges. There's a hint of edge enhancement too, mandatory processing software that gives the illusion of cleaner edges at the expense of realism. Our advice for this and many similar cameras: keep important subjects centered. More on how we test sharpness.

Science Section 1 Images_2

It's impossible to turn off the HX10V's image stabilization entirely, only to choose between Standard and Active modes, so we're therefore unable to establish a baseline for scoring. However our tests do suggest the Active mode may offer slightly better performance than the alternative, by an average of about 7%.

We had some trouble framing accurately, even using the weaker Standard mode. The scene tends to slosh around a bit thanks to the aggressive stabilizer, but many users shooting from the hand probably won't even notice.

We ran the test four times to be sure, but sadly in terms of color accuracy the HX10V takes a giant leap backward. The best error value this camera produced in our test was a whopping 4.03, an entire point behind the 3.00 average. Saturation also went way overboard, by about 14%. Thankfully about half of the most inaccurate shades aren't flesh tones, so many human subjects should still be rendered fairly naturally. More on how we test color.

NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.

The HX9V boasted some of the best color accuracy of any travel zoom camera, but the HX10V has some of the worst. Even the old ZR100 does a better job here. We're guessing Sony is still experimenting with a new sensor for this camera, and maybe hasn't quite nailed it down yet. The other possibility, of course, is white balance....

The trouble with color accuracy may be due to a white balance quirk. At "daylight" color temperatures, the HX10V's custom white balance is actually less accurate than the automatic version. That's highly unusual and this does correspond with the temperature of our color test lights, so they may be connected.

In all other cases, white balance performance was typical. Highly inaccurate automatic white balance under tungsten light, decent automatic modes otherwise, and very accurate custom readings.

At ISO 6400 and 12800, the HX10V does something unorthodox. It activates a mandatory four-shot burst mode, then composites all four frames to average out unwanted noise. This makes for some very strange noise reduction behavior. The software smooths away noise gradually at the lowest ISOs, peaks at 3200, and then the composite technique kicks in. Noise rates plummet after that. More on how we test noise.

Science Section 2 Images

The HX10V's available sensitivity range is very impressive for a camera of this design. Rarely do we see ISO 6400 in the category, never mind ISO 12800. We do like the composite noise reduction technique, and believe it or not we actually recorded some usable stills at the maximum ISO.

Chromatic aberration from the HX10V most frequently manifests as dark purple fringing along the edges of high contrast zones. In this particular camera, that fringing rarely blooms from the darker area into the lighter section, and often remains either right on the edge or spreads inwardly. Of course no chromatic aberration is preferable, but this version is the lesser of two evils.

Pincushion distortion is extremely severe while framing, and this can make precision shooting difficult. However this effect is predictable, since the configuration of the lens is constant, so the camera's software quickly corrects distortion before outputting the final image. We therefore award a perfect score here, though many other compact cameras can say the same, thanks to their own software correction.

Videos captured with the HX10V do not exhibit the smoothness we expected from 60 frame per second footage. Moving objects have a stutter to them that makes some videos look unnatural. At the same time, significant motion blur affects those same moving subjects, but at least the footage isn't subject to noticeable compression artifacting. More on how CamcorderInfo tests motion.

The HX10V resolved 650 lw/ph horizontally and 600 vertically in full resolution panning videos. That's better than some of the competition, however sharpness performance is outclassed by the Casio ZR100, and even the HX9V. More on how CamcorderInfo tests video sharpness.

This fun camera is easy to use thanks to an extensive control set, intuitive menu interface, and decent grip. There are some quirks for sure, and plenty of room for improvement, but overall the shooting experience is rather painless.

This camera features not one but two fully automatic shooting modes. Intelligent auto is a scene detecting auto mode, which means it analyzes your subject and attempts to determine what kind of shot you're taking, such as a macro. Superior auto offers the same functionality, but adds some extra enhancement to reduce blur and noise.

We did most of our shooting in Program auto though, which is more versatile but requires a little bit of experience. Program shift, a relatively advanced technique, is not available.

Buttons on the rear control panel are way too small to use comfortably, requiring the thumbnail every time we wanted to strike the playback or OK key. At least the labeling is clear, so even beginners should have a good sense of how to perform most operations right away.

In Program mode, picture effects are built right into the quick menu, in fact it's the very first option. Here you'll find functions like HDR painting (which produces very ugly shots), HDR monochrome, the ever-popular miniature effect, color extract, and more.

Beyond that there are 16 scene modes, including options like Food, Beach, Pet, Fireworks, and all the rest of the usual suspects. Interestingly, the background defocus mode gets its own stop on the mode dial, and we think this is a good idea, since that scene mode is among the most important.

The interface is divided into a quick menu for shooting, and a tab-based main menu for preferences and details. The main menu is only accessible from the quick menu, so this does add an extra step, but that's one of only a few nitpicks we had with the otherwise-intuitive interface. The readout is very legible and clear, responsiveness is quick, and although we do wish the quick menu was even simpler, we had minimal trouble adjusting settings on the fly.

As of this writing no digital instruction manual is yet available for the HX10V, but a detailed printed manual is included in the box and we found it very useful during review. With printed manuals becoming more and more rare, we were pleasantly surprised to find such a useful document included with a compact camera.

While Sony has included some ergonomic features on the body, including a small thumb rest and a textured area for the right hand, they're only there for show and offer little in the way of actual grip.

Handling Photo 1

Thankfully the actual shape of the body itself is conducive to one-handed shooting, and that's the technique we used most often while working with this camera. Accidentally depressing rear buttons with the palm was an annoyance, but an infrequent one. Overall, the HX10V's physical handling is adequate.

Handling Photo 2

Buttons on the rear control panel are way too small to use comfortably, requiring the thumbnail every time we wanted to strike the playback or OK key. At least the labeling is clear, so even beginners should have a good sense of how to perform most operations right away.

Buttons Photo 1

Things are much better on the top plate. The shutter release has poor tactility, however it's almost ideally positioned for one-handed shooting. The power button is also in a convenient spot, and so is the low-profile mode dial. Never in our time with the HX10V did we accidentally turn it on or change the shooting mode.

Buttons Photo 2

The 921,000-dot LCD is excellent, with bright, vibrant colors and an extremely wide viewing angle. We had no trouble shooting video with this device, despite the lack of a tilting panel. In fact our only worry is that shots may look better on the playback screen than they do on your PC.

The HX10V lacks a viewfinder, so this monitor is the only way to accurately frame shots.

It's impossible to turn off the HX10V's image stabilization entirely, only to choose between Standard and Active modes, so we're therefore unable to establish a baseline for scoring. However our tests do suggest the Active mode may offer slightly better performance than the alternative, by an average of about 7%.

We had some trouble framing accurately, even using the weaker Standard mode. The scene tends to slosh around a bit thanks to the aggressive stabilizer, but many users shooting from the hand probably won't even notice.

An abbreviated hardware mode dial can be found beside the shutter release, and although we always prefer the full range of PASM shooting modes, the inclusion of a full manual mode is a nice compromise. There are also dedicated modes for panorama, video, and 3D photography; as well as two independent fully automatic modes in addition to Program auto.

Four resolution options of varying size are available in a 4:3 aspect ratio, and there are also two 16:9 options for viewing natively on an HDTV. RAW encoding is not available and JPEG compression settings are locked.

A good selection of drive mode options are available from a shortcut on the left side of the directional pad. This is where you'll find the HX10V's very quick burst mode, which we clocked at 10 frames per second for a maximum of 10 shots in a row. Those are good numbers for full resolution, however this does trigger a recording stage during which time the camera writes the images to memory from the buffer. It doesn't take very long, but it's worth noting for users planning to take advantage of this key feature.

Bracket mode is also available here and it's just as effective as burst. In fact, since the bracket only fires three shots, this cuts down on the aforementioned recording period, and gets you back into the action sooner.

There are no less than six self-timer settings. Ten second and two second countdowns are available, plus one- or two-person automatic face detecting portrait modes. It is also possible to pair self-timers with continuous shooting or bracketing of exposure or white balance.

We have no problem with GPS in cameras. It doesn't seem to add much cost, it works totally wirelessly without the need for Wi-Fi, and it melds seamlessly with the EXIF data we already use. Beyond that, the camera's feature set is above average. We were happy with the selection of drive modes, and video shooting isn't bad either.

In Program mode, picture effects are built right into the quick menu, in fact it's the very first option. Here you'll find functions like HDR painting (which produces very ugly shots), HDR monochrome, the ever-popular miniature effect, color extract, and more.

Beyond that there are 16 scene modes, including options like Food, Beach, Pet, Fireworks, and all the rest of the usual suspects. Interestingly, the background defocus mode gets its own stop on the mode dial, and we think this is a good idea, since that scene mode is among the most important.

GPS Transceiver

The HX10V offers GPS tracking and tagging, as well as an electronic compass. In addition to tagging of EXIF data, a real time Position Information screen can display latitude and longitude information at any time. The system also supports GPS logging, to record photographed areas along whatever route your travels take you.

The HX10V records AVCHD video at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels at 60i. Data rate may be set to the 24 Mbps maximum for AVCHD, or brought down to 17 Mbps to conserve space. One final option records at a resolution of only 1440 x 1080, and kicks the data rate down to 9 Mbps. Find out how the performed in our video image quality test./r:link_to_content

Auto Controls

Intelligent Auto is the default mode for video shooting, but it's also possible to choose from a selection of seven Scene modes for use in movies: Soft Snap, Landscape, Night Scene, High Sensitivity, Beach, Snow, and Fireworks.

Zoom

Zoom control is unlocked during video shooting, but like many cameras, the speed is intentionally reduced to cut down on mechanical noise.

Focus

Autofocus is pretty proactive while a recording is in progress, and that's important since this camera's long lens can mean quick, drastic changes in subject distance. Manual focus is not supported.

Box Photo

• Sony Cyber-shot HX10V digital camera

• wrist strap

• NP-BG1 rechargeable battery

• AC adapter

• USB cable

• instruction manual

• warranty card

Meet the tester

Christopher Snow

Christopher Snow

Managing Editor

@BlameSnow

Chris was born and raised less than ten miles from our editorial office, and even graduated from nearby Merrimack College. He came to Reviewed after covering the telecom industry, and has been moonlighting as a Boston area dining critic since 2008.

See all of Christopher Snow's reviews

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