It's easy to rest on your laurels when you've created something great, so perhaps it's no surprise that the new HX200V is a very safe update. The body is largely unchanged, keeping the same 30x zoom ratio, same lens ring, same electronic viewfinder, and basically the same button layout. Really, the only significant change is the new sensor, bumped up to a massive 18.2 megapixels.

With an impressive roster of new superzooms on the market—many of them boasting longer zoom ranges, brighter lenses, and more control than ever before—can the HX200V compete with relatively few changes aside from its risky pixel-count boost?

The HX200V is available now in black for an MSRP of $479.

(For the uninitiated, superzooms are fixed-lens cameras with very long zoom ranges and big bodies. While they might resemble DSLRs, they nevertheless still have more in common with point-and-shoot cameras than with interchangeable-lens cameras.)

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Box Photo

• Sony Cyber-shot HX200V digital camera

• AC adapter

• power cord

• rechargeable lithium-ion battery (infoLITHIUM H series)

• micro USB cable

• shoulder strap

• lens cap

• lens cap strap

• basic user manual

The HX200V comes equipped with a 30x zoom lens, with a 35mm equivalent range of 27-810mm and a respectable aperture range of f/2.8-5.6. There's a lens ring to electronically control zoom or manual focus depending on the focus mode, which is controlled by a toggle on the side of the lens barrel.

The sensor is an 18.2-megapixel Exmor R backside-illuminated CMOS sensor, in a standard, 1/2.3-inch point-and-shoot size. That's a lot of pixels for such a tiny sensor.

The large size of the HX200V opens up room for a small, 201,000-dot electronic viewfinder. We've seen better, but it's typical of most superzooms at this price. It has an eye-level sensor and a diopter adjustment dial on the side.

The LCD is a 3-inch, 920,000-dot tilting (not articulating) screen—Sony brands it as Xtra Fine TruBlack, if that matters to you. It was generally bright enough to see in sunlight, though we usually just switched to the EVF if brightness or glare became a problem.

The pop-up flash is rated for nearly 41 feet of effectiveness at base ISO. There's no mechanical switch or lever to release it, so you'll have to activate it through the menu system (or, in auto mode, let the camera decide when it should fire).

Flash Photo

The flash emitter pops up from the top of the body via a mechanical release.

Like most cameras these days, the HX200V has a mini-HDMI port and a micro-USB/multi-purpose jack. Both are protected by a sturdy, hinged plastic flap on the left side of the camera. There's also a dedicated DC jack, housed behind a separate flap, also on the left side of the camera.

The HX200V runs on a removable, rechargeable InfoLITHIUM H series battery, rated for 450 shots per charge. That's a very solid number of shots per charge for a point-and-shoot.

Battery Photo

Like most recent Sony cameras, the HX200V accepts SD/SDHC/SDXC as well as Sony's proprietary Memory Stick media cards.

Memory Photo

The K2000 accepts inexpensive, easy to find SD cards.

Media Photo

Sony does not indicate any waterproof or durability ratings for the HX200V, so handle it with care. The light, hollow-feeling body doesn't inspire much confidence in the build quality, but that's not out of the ordinary for the superzoom class.

In a nutshell, the HX200V takes decent photos for a superzoom, but not the best that the genre offers. If you're looking at shots on your computer screen or making some small prints, they look great. Colors are accurate and lively (and adjustable, if you wish). The lens is sharp enough to render plenty of detail without much of the ugly color-fringing problems that can hamper long-reaching zooms. But on closer inspection, the shots don't always look so great. Megapixels are a double-edged sword, and they cause clarity problems here—it is unequivocally worse than last year's HX100V. That's what can happen when you cram over 18 million pixels onto a tiny, 1/2.3-inch point-and-shoot sensor. Sony goofed up.

Sharpness is decent for a camera with such a long focal range. We measured upwards of 2000 MTF50s at the dead center of the frame at the wide-angle setting, which is frankly where most people are going to take most of their pictures. Sharpness drops off significantly at the edges and as the zoom range extends, falling to a mediocre 650 MTF50s in the middle of the focal range at the edge of the frame.

We did measure a bit of an improvement in sharpness compared to last year's HX100V; assuming that the lenses are basically similar, the uptick is in line with what we'd expect from the resolution increase—18.2 megapixels this year, up from 16.2 last year.

Some artificial edge sharpening is at work, but that's always the case with point-and-shoots (even DSLRs, really). You won't notice any haloing unless you're looking for it. Sharpness can also be dialed up or down a notch. More on how we test sharpness.

Color rendition is accurate and lively. The Real color mode earned the best score for the HX200V. We measured a minimum color error of about 2.5, which is very strong. Shots are slightly oversaturated at about 106%, but we tend to prefer a bit of extra saturation from point-and-shoot images. More on how we test color.

The other color modes offer good-looking results too. The standard color mode scored nearly as well as Real, with punchier colors and a bit more contrast. Vivid mode totally oversaturates, but it looks great for landscape shots.

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 HX200V handles color very well. But so do most other superzooms. Last year's Sony HX100V was actually much more accurate than the new model—it may have something to do with noise levels affecting color consistency, or Sony might've tweaked the profile. From a practical standpoint, the HX200V doesn't look like it has color issues. But according to our lab tests, it's a step back from its spot-on predecessor.

White balance is a non-issue with the HX200V. Auto white balance is extremely accurate in most conditions. Warm incandescent lighting still comes out looking a bit yellow, but that's one of the hardest situations for an auto white balance setting to correct for. Custom white balance is very strong, about as good as we've seen among superzooms. No complaints from us.

It looks like 18.2 megapixels is just too much to cram onto a tiny point-and-shoot sensor. We're generally pretty forgiving about high megapixel counts, but Sony done goofed this time.

The HX200V is very noisy throughout the entire ISO range. We measured nearly 1% noise at ISO 100, which is pretty awful. We expect around 0.6% at base ISO from a camera like this. What's worse, the HX200V applies a ton of noise reduction even at that lowest sensitivity, so details are soft and smudgy. The noise-to-signal ratio climbs to about 2.25% at ISO 1600 and 2.5% at ISO 3200—those are figures we expect from, like, $120 point-and-shoots with crummy CCD sensors. Not good. More on how we test noise.

ISO sensitivity ranges from 100 to 12800, adjustable in stops of 1/3. An auto ISO setting is available. Above ISO 3200, a multi-shot noise-reduction mode automatically kicks in.

We measured about 5 stops of dynamic range at the base ISO setting, which is pretty decent for a camera with such a small sensor. D-range drops off very quickly throughout the sensitivity range, though, and by ISO 3200, the entire image was too noisy for our threshold. In short, since the HX200V is very noisy, the dynamic range is not as wide as it could be. More on how we test dynamic range.

Low-light performance is good enough for occasional decent snapshots, but it isn't the HX200V's strength. Focus is fast and accurate as long as you're shooting toward the wide-angle setting. Quick shots will look fine, but if the ISO setting is cranked up too high (ISO 1600), you'll notice lots of grain, and details will look as soft and smudgy as an oil painting. Avoid zooming in dimmer lighting, since the maximum aperture falls off quickly and focus becomes slow and unreliable. You'll get nothing but blurry shots.

It looks like 18.2 megapixels is just too much to cram onto a tiny point-and-shoot sensor. We're generally pretty forgiving about high megapixel counts, but Sony done goofed this time.

The HX200V is very noisy throughout the entire ISO range. We measured nearly 1% noise at ISO 100, which is pretty awful. We expect around 0.6% at base ISO from a camera like this. What's worse, the HX200V applies a ton of noise reduction even at that lowest sensitivity, so details are soft and smudgy. The noise-to-signal ratio climbs to about 2.25% at ISO 1600 and 2.5% at ISO 3200—those are figures we expect from, like, $120 point-and-shoots with crummy CCD sensors. Not good. More on how we test noise.

ISO sensitivity ranges from 100 to 12800, adjustable in stops of 1/3. An auto ISO setting is available. Above ISO 3200, a multi-shot noise-reduction mode automatically kicks in.

Chromatic aberration can be a big problem with long-range lenses, but like most top-tier superzooms, the HX200V actually controls the issue quite well. We spotted some purple fringing in high-contrast areas along the edges of the frame, but we didn't find to be to distracting. It's a non-issue, basically.

Again, high-zoom lenses should theoretically struggle with distortion problems, particularly barrel distortion at the wide angle. But in-camera correction has basically eliminated the problem from the HX200V, as well as most other superzooms. Another non-issue.

Video quality is excellent. The HX200V can shoot up to 1080/60p in the AVCHD format, which is as good as it gets in a compact camera. Motion is smooth, details are sharp, and video overall are free of any distracting artifacts or interference. Be forewarned—your computer might have some trouble editing these files. More on how CamcorderInfo tests motion.

Sony always offers a great mix of automatic and manual shooting options, and the HX200V sticks with the trend. The auto modes (particularly iAuto+) are much smarter than most hands-off modes, applying clever multi-shot processing tricks to improve photo quality when it's appropriate. You'll never have to think about it. A standard range of manual exposure modes are available, too, as well as a degree of control over processing options like contrast, sharpness, brightness, and noise reduction. The interface still feels caught in an awkward limbo, though, somewhere between a system that caters to casual photographers and enthusiast shooters. It lacks an effective hot key system or quick menu, feels a bit short on buttons, and offers no RAW processing, so hands-on photographers won't get the control they typically desire. But for novices, the extra modes and options could be distracting.

The HX200V has two dedicated auto modes, iAuto and iAuto+ (like most other Sony compacts this year). If you just want to let the camera do all the work, both modes are great options. We love iAuto+ because of the way it uses clever, multi-shot processing tricks to improve image quality—and you'll never have to think about it.

The button layout on the HX200V is decent for a superzoom, but the interface feels...unfamiliar at best, awkward at worst. The functions mapped to the four-way pad have an amateurish bent—you can adjust "Photo Creativity" (a simplified, jargon-free way to adjust brightness, color, and saturation) if you're in auto mode, but there's no ISO hot key.

The important exposure controls (ISO, shutter, aperture, and EV compensation) are mapped to the jog dial. It sounds fine, but is unintuitive in practice. You need to press the dial to cycle through the settings, which are laid out in a linear order, so it can take up to four presses to move from ISO adjustments to EV comp adjustments—and when you get there, the dial isn't very responsive when you rotate it.

By our count, the HX200V has 9 Picture Effect modes and 16 scene modes.

The menu system is a weak point. There's no quick menu for adjusting basic exposure or processing parameters, nor is there a great hot-key system. Exposure controls are mapped to the jog dial in a linear cycling system, which is weird for reasons we discussed above. Everything else is contained in one long menu, forcing users to scroll past a large handful of options every time they want to make an adjustment.

The HX200V comes with a basic printed manual, like most point-and-shoots. But unlike most cameras, it does not come with an electronic copy on a CD-ROM—you'll need to download it from Sony's website. Environmentally conscious, or just cheap? You decide. Doesn't it cost like 5 cents to burn a CD?

Handling the HX200V is comfortable, thanks to a large right-hand grip and light weight. The electronic viewfinder has an eye-level sensor, which makes it convenient to switch between the EVF and LCD—you don't have to press anything, just put your eye up to the window. The button layout isn't as ergonomically friendly as some other superzoom models (or similarly sized DSLRs), but it isn't detrimental to the overall experience. Our biggest disappointment is the lens ring. The weight and action are nice, but the electronic response (to adjust zoom or focus) is very sluggish.

Handling Photo 1

It's too big for any pocket, obviously, but it comes with a shoulder strap, and it's light enough to carry around comfortably. We didn't feel any wrist or neck strain after a long afternoon of shooting.

Handling Photo 2
Handling Photo 3

The button layout on the HX200V is decent for a superzoom, but the interface feels...unfamiliar at best, awkward at worst. The functions mapped to the four-way pad have an amateurish bent—you can adjust "Photo Creativity" (a simplified, jargon-free way to adjust brightness, color, and saturation) if you're in auto mode, but there's no ISO hot key.

The important exposure controls (ISO, shutter, aperture, and EV compensation) are mapped to the jog dial. It sounds fine, but is unintuitive in practice. You need to press the dial to cycle through the settings, which are laid out in a linear order, so it can take up to four presses to move from ISO adjustments to EV comp adjustments—and when you get there, the dial isn't very responsive when you rotate it.

Buttons Photo 1

We'd prefer to see more room for customization. There's only one customizable button on the HX200V, which is a good start. But there's room on the body for a few more controls. It could be argued that Sony wants to keep clutter to a minimum so that casual photographers don't get intimidated, but they botched that goal as soon as they included sharpness and noise reduction controls in the menu.

Buttons Photo 2

The LCD is a 3-inch, 920,000-dot tilting (not articulating) screen—Sony brands it as Xtra Fine TruBlack, if that matters to you. It was generally bright enough to see in sunlight, though we usually just switched to the EVF if brightness or glare became a problem.

The large size of the HX200V opens up room for a small, 201,000-dot electronic viewfinder. We've seen better, but it's typical of most superzooms at this price. It has an eye-level sensor and a diopter adjustment dial on the side.

The HX200V has two auto modes, PASM modes for hands-on shooters, three memory recall settings, some scene modes, special shooting modes (like sweep panorama), and a 3D shooting mode for the 5 people who care. All these modes are accessible from the mode dial.

The maximum resolution of the HX200V is 18.2 megapixels in a 4:3 aspect ratio. Three other resolutions are available in the 4:3 format, as well as two 16:9 options. There's only one JPEG quality level, and no RAW shooting.

A few specialized processing controls are available: noise reduction, sharpness, contrast, and color saturation. A neutral density filter is available as well.

Noise Reduction

Three noise reduction settings are available, adjustable in the PASM modes. It's set to the middle by default.

Sharpness

Three sharpness settings are available, adjustable in the PASM modes. It's set to the middle by default.

Contrast

Three contrast settings are available, adjustable in the PASM modes. It's set to the middle by default.

Color Saturation

Three color saturation settings are available, adjustable in the PASM modes. It's set to the middle by default.

ND Filter

Neutral density filters reduce light in very bright settings. The HX200V has a built-in ND filter, and it can be set to auto, off, or on settings.

Speed is one of the HX200V's assets, thanks to a speedy BSI CMOS sensor. A nice handful of drive options are available, including two burst settings, plus a white balance bracket mode and three EV bracket modes. All of them are available at full resolution.

The HX200V is one of the fastest burst shooters we've seen among point and shoots, tied with its own predecessor the HX100V and Panasonic's FZ150 (we've yet to test the FZ200). We recorded just under 11 frames per second at the maximum speed. But the buffer fills up after 10 frames, and the camera is completely incapacitated for about 15 seconds after each burst. If it's pure speed you need, the HX200V satisfies, but we've seen cameras that are nearly as fast without the same recovery limitations.

A whopping six timer settings are available, including the standard 2 second and 10 second options. It can also set to fire after it sees one or two face enter the frame. Another option is to fire off a 10 frame burst after a 10 second delay, and timed bracket shooting is available as well.

Like most Cyber-shot cameras above a certain price, the HX200V has a long roster of extra features. Plenty of picture effects and filters are available. It's one of the fastest burst shooters we've seen. Tons of video settings are available. And as the 'V' at the end of its name suggests, it has a built-in GPS unit for geotagging photos. Like most superzooms, the headline feature is really the huge zoom range—30x, in this case.

By our count, the HX200V has 9 Picture Effect modes and 16 scene modes.

GPS

GPS is built into the HX200V for geotagging (theoretically a non-GPS HX200 could be available, but we've never heard of it). We spent a couple minutes testing it out, but not scientifically. It's the same experience we've had with most other GPS-enabled cameras: Finding a signal in a crowded urban area is possible, but takes time. You'll have much better luck in wide-open areas. And it absolutely ruins the battery life.

Sweep Panorama

The HX200V can capture sweep panoramas (just press the shutter and pan the camera) in any direction. It doesn't accommodate 360-degree panoramas the way that many top-notch cameras do, but you can still capture a fairly wide field of view.

3D Shooting

Yeah, whatever.

The HX200V offers a wealth of video options, up to 1080/60p at 28MBPS in the AVCHD format. Two 1080/60i AVCHD quality options are available as well. It can also shoot the more edit-friendly MP4 format at 1080/30p, 720/30p, and VGA (standard-definition) quality. Find out how the performed in our video image quality test./r:link_to_content

Nothing usually considered to be manual control is available while shooting video with the HX200V aside from exposure compensation. Otherwise, it's all auto all the time, including focus.

Zoom

Optical zoom is available while shooting video.

The HX200V has a built-in stereo microphone. Wind cut is available and audio levels can be controlled in playback, but that's the extent of the audio features.

Mic Photo
Box Photo

• Sony Cyber-shot HX200V digital camera

• AC adapter

• power cord

• rechargeable lithium-ion battery (infoLITHIUM H series)

• micro USB cable

• shoulder strap

• lens cap

• lens cap strap

• basic user manual

Based in part on the spec sheet but mostly on the price tag, the Sony Cyber-shot HX200V sits in the top tier of superzoom cameras, circa late 2012. It features a long zoom lens and a high-res sensor that unlocks fast performance and excellent video options. It has an eye-level electronic viewfinder that some photographers find essential, and it gives you the option to control the exposure yourself or let the camera do all the work. And all of these goodies are wrapped up in a lightweight body with a comfortable grip, all for less than $500.

That should all sound incredibly impressive—to anyone who lives under a rock. Okay, maybe that's overstating the point, but those once-headlining features are now par for the course. For better or for worse, camera makers keep pushing the boundaries of superzooms. Nikon, Canon, and Panasonic all made impressive upgrades to their superzoom lenses this year. Fujifilm rolled out a premium-tier superzoom with a physically larger sensor, rather than just cramming in more megapixels. Sony, on the other hand, only added extra megapixels to the HX200V, and called it a day.

Standing by a great design is no crime, and if the HX200V had maintained the stellar image quality of its predecessor, we'd give Sony a pass for treading water. But the lazy changes to the HX200V actually make it an objectively, scientifically worse camera than its predecessor. More megapixels aren't always either a good or a bad thing. But in this case, they have some unfortunate consequences on the overall image quality, forcing heavy-handed noise reduction to smear away too much detail.

If your aim is to take some nice snapshots, and you want the versatility of a long zoom range—for photographing wildlife or youth sports, most likely—the HX200V is perfectly fine. Colors are accurate and vibrant, and the lens can produce sharp-enough shots to view on your computer screen or as small prints. (In all honesty, most people never take full advantage of their cameras' maximum resolution. Few ever print large, and most simply upload without doing any post-processing.)

But when you're spending upwards of $400 on a camera, you should expect better results than what you'll get from the HX200V. If you look around for a minute or two, you can easily find another superzoom in the same price range with a longer zoom range and better image quality—start with the Nikon P510. Or, if you increase your budget by a few bucks, you'll discover truly top-tier superzooms that provide significantly cleaner image quality and additional features like RAW capture.

But wait, there are more alternatives! Price compression in the camera market means that if you can do without the full 30x zoom range (keep in mind that just a few years ago even 20x was outlandish), you can pick up a decent entry-level interchangeable-lens camera for less money than the HX200V. These models will give you better image quality than any superzoom could ever provide, offer better manual control, and are probably smaller as well. You can always add zoom later with another lens—and some budget telephoto zoom lenses go for as little as $300. Bottom line: Pass on the Sony HX200V.

Meet the testers

Liam F McCabe

Liam F McCabe

Managing Editor, News & Features

@liamfmccabe

Liam manages features and news coverage for Reviewed.com. Formerly the editor of the DigitalAdvisor network, he's covered cameras, TVs, personal electronics, and (recently) appliances. He's a native Bostonian and has played in metal bands you've never heard of.

See all of Liam F McCabe's reviews
Liam F McCabe

Liam F McCabe

Managing Editor, News & Features

@liamfmccabe

Liam manages features and news coverage for Reviewed.com. Formerly the editor of the DigitalAdvisor network, he's covered cameras, TVs, personal electronics, and (recently) appliances. He's a native Bostonian and has played in metal bands you've never heard of.

See all of Liam F McCabe's reviews

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We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

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