Sony HX10V £299
28th Sep 2012 | 11:15
Travel compact with built in GPS and 16x optical zoom
Sony introduced the HX10V in February 2012 to sit in its latest range of superzoom travel compacts.
The Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX10V features very similar specifications as the Sony HX20V, but comes with a shorter zoom range, at a still impressive 16x optical zoom.
Housing an 18.2 million pixel 1/2.3 inch CMOS sensor, the camera also features the latest Bionz processor, Full HD video recording, inbuilt GPS and full manual control.
The 16x optical zoom lens is equivalent to 24-400mm in 35mm equivalent terms, and is also boosted to double that by Sony's Clear Zoom technology.
Working in the same way as digital zoom, Sony claims that its By Pixel Resolution Technology is of a higher quality than standard digital zooms.
On the back of the camera is a 3-inch, 921k dot XtraFine TruBlack TFT LCD screen. There's no viewfinder, and no port or hotshoe to incorporate one either.
Unlike the premium Sony RX100, the Sony HX10V doesn't have the ability to shoot in raw format. It does come with a number of other advanced controls, though, such as Program and Manual mode.
Other interesting features, probably designed to attract holidaymakers, are a number of Picture Effects, or digital filters, sweep panorama, 3D shooting and intelligent Auto modes.
There's also an impressive sensitivity range, starting at ISO 100 and rising all the way up to ISO 12800.
The Sony HX10V has a full price of £299 in the UK and $329.99 in the US, putting it in the same price bracket and category as the popular Panasonic TZ25, which also features a 16x optical zoom.
Build quality and handling
For a compact camera, the Sony HX10V is relatively heavy and bulky, which gives it a good air of quality.
It's still small enough to slip neatly into a pocket or bag, which will surely be the main appeal to travelling (or holidaying) photographers.
A good size finger grip combined with a rubberised thumb rest on the back of the camera gives the camera good purchase when shooting one-handed.
On the top of the camera is a dial, which can be used to choose between the different camera modes. These include fully manual, program (which offers automatic exposure but with control over some other settings), scene mode, panorama mode and two intelligent Auto options.
It's handy to have a dial on the top of the Sony HX10V to quickly switch between settings, rather than having to delve into extensive menu systems to make changes.
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Buttons on the back of the camera are sensibly laid out, with a scroll dial doubling up as four-way directional arrows. Access to commonly used settings such as Display, burst mode/timer, flash and picture styles correspond with directional keys.
Hitting the menu button takes you into a Quick Menu, rather than the full shooting menu. This presents you with the options you're most likely to want to change, such as image size or turning the GPS log tracker on.
If you do feel you need more extensive options, selecting the toolbox icon from the camera's quick menu gives you access to the full menu.
The scroll wheel on the back of the camera can either be used for navigating through menus or images during playback, or it can be used in conjunction with the centre button to make changes when in manual mode.
To change settings such as aperture when in this mode, hit the centre button and scroll the dial. Hit the centre button again to shift to shutter speed, and again to change sensitivity settings.
The camera has the ability to record GPS signals in the EXIF data of an image, making it easy to plot the image on a map. GPS can be turned on or off via the extensive menu system, while the ability to record a log of the camera's movements can be switched on via the quick menu.
It would be nice to have a quick way to instantly switch off GPS altogether, especially because it can be a battery drain and doesn't work indoors.
In automatic modes, pressing the down button on the back of the camera accesses Photo Creativity mode. This enables changes to Brightness, Colour and Vivid to be made in beginner-friendly language. Using the scroll dial on the back of the camera alters the settings for each of the options.
You'll also find the Picture Effect setting here, a number of digital filters that can be applied. It's worth pointing out, however, that shooting in manual or program gives access to more digital filters than can be found in iAuto, and variations on some of the others. In manual or program mode, these can be accessed via the Quick Menu.
On the bottom right of the camera is a button marked with a question mark. Hit this to bring up an In-Camera Guide. This useful function can be used to explain what each icon means, or to walk you through taking the photo you want. There's also a basic operation guide, and a Troubleshooting option. Theoretically, you need never look at the instruction manual if you get stuck.
Overall, the images produced by the Sony HX10V are very pleasing. Colours are represented well in the majority of cases, though we did find a couple of incidents of under saturation of the most vibrant colours.
Images are sharp, with the Sony HX10V's 18.2 million-pixel sensor capable of resolving a good amount of detail. On occasion, some detail is lost in the highlights, but it's nothing to worry about if using images at printing or web sizes.
The 16x optical zoom range is a nice broad range that should suit most holidaymakers. Images taken at the telephoto end can only be shot with a maximum aperture of f/5.6, so it does struggle a little with focus in darker conditions.
That said, the optical image stabilisation system does a good job of keeping blur caused by camera movement when shooting at full zoom to a minimum.
Clear Zoom technology is included on the Sony HX10V, something that's unique to Sony. The company claims that By Pixel Resolution Technology produces higher quality images than traditional digital zooms can offer.
Although not as high quality as standard optical zoom, and there is some evidence of smoothing, the results from the Clear Zoom are more than useable, especially at web sizes, and having the option to boost the zoom capability to an incredible 32x is a real bonus for a travel camera.
Chromatic aberration is kept to a minimum, though there is some evidence of it when zooming in to 100% in high contrast areas. Again, it is unlikely to distract when viewing an image at a normal useable size.
Autofocusing is quick and, on the most part, accurate. Macro focusing is available from as close as 5cm, and it mostly performs well. On occasion it can appear as if an image is in perfect focus, but on closer inspection it reveals otherwise. It's therefore always worth double-checking on playback images by zooming in to make sure the focusing is critical.
Intelligent Auto does a good job of determining the scene in front of it, although on occasion it did set the camera to a high frame rate when shooting a portrait, rather than deploying a more appropriate portrait mode.
If you find the camera struggles to make the correct assumptions, you can easily switch to Scene mode and choose the correct one for yourself. For even greater flexibility, Program or Manual mode can be used.
It's nice to see a good range of Picture Effects available here, especially with the rise in popularity of smartphone apps such as Instagram.
On the Sony HX10V you can take your pick from the likes of Toy Camera (which comes with a number of variations), Miniature (which recreates the effects of a tilt-shift lens) and HDR painting. Some will appeal more than others, but overall the effects are pleasing.
One of the drawbacks of using these filters is that extra processing power is required, sometimes meaning that there is a pause between a shot being fired and the image being ready. Depending on the filter, this can range from near-instant to a few seconds.
It's also worth pointing out that since the Sony HX10V doesn't allow you to shoot in raw format, there's no way to remove a digital filter. Therefore, it would be nice to have a way to quickly remove the filter from being deployed without having to dive back into the menu and scroll through the options to switch it off.
On the whole, noise performance is good. Viewing images shot at ISO 800 zoomed into 100% does reveal some incidence of smoothing of details to reduce noise, but when viewed at print or web sizes, the effect is not particularly noticeable. Images remain useable up until around ISO 1600, beyond which there is a severe drop in quality. If it's a choice between a very noisy image and not getting the shot at all however, the former is of course preferable.
The 3-inch 921k dot screen on the back of the Sony HX10V is one of its standout features. It copes well in harsh light, but in the brightest of sunlight you may struggle to see the screen adequately.
Images played back on the screen look fantastic, but this can mean that photos appear sharper than they actually are, meaning a check on critical focus may be necessary.
Image quality and resolution
As part of our image quality testing for the Sony HX10V, we've shot our resolution chart.
If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 100 the Sony HX10V is capable of resolving up to around 22 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.
For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them, check out our full explanation of our camera testing resolution charts.
Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:
ISO 100, score: 22 (click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 200, score: 20 (click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 400, score: 20 (click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 800, score: 20 (click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 1600, score: 16 (click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 3200, score: 16 (click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 6400, score: n/a (click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 12800, score: n/a (click here to see the full resolution image)
Noise and dynamic range
We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.
A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.
For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.
Signal to noise ratio
JPEG images from the Sony HX10V show similar signal to noise ratio results to Nikon Coolpix S9300 throughout its sensitivity range, and also produces similar results to the Sony HX9V between ISO 400 and ISO 800. The camera produces stronger results than the Panasonic TZ25 and Sony HX20V at every ISO setting.
In contrast, images from the Sony HX10V are the weakest of all the other cameras in terms of dynamic range. Its results almost line up with those of the Sony HX20V between ISO 100 and ISO 200, and are most similar to those of the Nikon Coolpix S9300 between ISO 200 and ISO 400, but they tail off after that. The camera consistently performs weaker than the Panasonic TZ25 and Sony HX9V.
The Sony HX10V is capable of producing images with a good dynamic range, resolving a good amount of detail in both the shadow and highlight areas of the scene.
These images show the zoom capability of the HX10V. The first image was taken at the widest point (24mm equivalent), with the middle image taken at the furthest reach of the optical zoom, (16x - 384mm equivalent) and finally the Clear Zoom digital zoom in action, or 768mm equivalent.
Here you can see some detail has been lost in the brightest highlight area of the flower - something that is prone to happening with very bright subjects.
Macro focusing works from as close as 5cm, which is handy for shooting subjects such as flowers. We can also see that a pleasing restricted depth of field effect has been deployed.
Another one of the Picture Effects is "partial colour", which picks out a given colour (you can choose from blue, green, red or yellow, while shooting the rest of the image in black and white.
Here's an example where the colours of the image are slightly undersaturated compared with the real colours, especially the oranges of the flowers.
This has been shot with the Pop Colour Picture Effect applied, which although perhaps going a little overboard, is a slightly more accurate rendition of some of the vibrant colours.
The 16x optical zoom lens is handy for shooting subjects from a distance, or isolating details on subjects that may have otherwise been lost.
In this example, the HX10V has done a good job of reproducing the colour, producing a sharp image with plenty of detail.
Shot in fully automatic, the HX10V has done a good job of dealing with the mixed lighting conditions, producing an image with lots of detail and good colours.
Although the Sony HX10V doesn't have a large sensor or the same wide aperture as the premium Sony RX100, it still does a reasonably good job of producing shallow depth of field effects.
Toy Camera can be modified with different tones, taking it from the standard (see above) to "Cool" (see below). Warm, Green and Magenta are also available.
Rich Tone Monochrome is a way to produce black and white images with lots of depth.
Although a little over the top, the HDR Painting mode produces images with a high dynamic range, and can work well depending on the situation.
Sensitivity and noise
Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.
There's a lot to like about the Sony HX10V, and we can see this appealing to a broad range of compact camera users.
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Its sturdy design and sleek looks disguise the fact that it is packing an impressive 16x optical zoom lens inside the chassis.
With GPS, Picture Effects, panorama mode and full manual controls also available, we can see this attracting both beginners and those looking for something a little bit more advanced.
Perhaps most importantly, image quality is also great, delivering images with lots of punch, vibrancy and detail.
Easy to use and nice to hold, the Sony HX10V's full manual control is a real bonus for something you can slip into a pocket, as is the large zoom range boosted by Clear Zoom technology.
It's a shame that this doesn't offer raw shooting mode, as on the Sony RX100, since that would have added even more flexibility.
It has almost the same specification as the Sony HX20V, save for the extra zoom range, so if you're looking to save a little money, the Sony HX10V is a fantastic option for those in the market for a new holiday camera, or perhaps as an "everyday camera" for always having on you.