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Good, but could have been better

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V, featuring a 20X Sony G lens, is more than a handy travel zoom camera. Compact and well-built, it sits pretty in your hands. The camera has a range of 25 mm to 500 mm, and is equipped with optical image stabilisation with an ‘active’ mode for extra shake reduction while filming. It sports a three-inch LCD display (912K pixels), which is sharp.

Layout
While most controls are neatly placed, accessing custom button is quite a task. Also, the control buttons and dial on the back of the camera are small and seem cramped. The design could have been better — the location of the USB port at the bottom of the camera, and the lack of finger space on the left hand side (above the lens) when the flash pops up — come to mind. This affects the stability of the camera (handheld) and introduces noise into the image.

Features
The camera displays a lot of character, especially on the point-and-shoot front. Intelligent auto modes include one that helps you click sharper pictures at multiple exposures with less noise. Features such as sweep panorama, high dynamic range (HDR), and anti-motion blur, among others, are sure to keep you engaged. For those interested in clicking smiley faces, smile shutter and face self-timer are the ‘go to’ features.

Unfortunately, the picture on the manual control mode isn’t that rosy. Though you can set exposure, white balance and focus as per you choice, only two aperture choices at any one time limit your creativity, as the camera has an ND filter. It’s the same story while shooting movies. While the camera has an impressive movie mode, the ability to record at 1080/60p with stereo sound, continuous autofocus and use of both optical zoom and image stabiliser and manual controls are absent. All you can do is play with the microphone level and turn on a wind filter.

Performance
The camera has an average start up time of 1.4 seconds, but thereafter it performs like a pro. Whether at wide-angle or telephoto, good or poor light, this one’s quick to respond. Shot-to-shot speeds vary from a second without flash to three seconds with it. Shutter lag isn’t an issue. The camera is capable of continuous shooting at two or 10 frames/sec. But Sony could have easily bettered the 10 frames/sec rate. Another highlight of the camera is its battery life — you can click for almost two days on a single charge with a moderate use of flash.

One aspect that needs attention is its picture quality. It tends to underexpose by about 1/3 of a stop, which, although common with many compact cameras, ends up clippings highlights in your pictures. Outdoor and low light visibility is average. The camera also has a built-in GPS receiver. Though it lacks information on landmarks or maps, the GPS performs pretty well.

Colours, both indoors and outdoors, look good. Though clicks look crisp at first glance, a closer look reveals that noise reduction has affected fine details and given low contrast areas a dappled appearance. The compromise is evident when you inspect photos at 100 per cent zoom on your computer. But presuming that most the HX20V buyers will be downsizing their pictures for web sharing or taking normal-sized prints, the noise level will blend in with the reduced image. However, downsizing will not rid you off your nemesis, redeye.

Bottom line
The DSC-HX20V is a responsive, fun-to-use camera, and is packed with useful extra features. However, the manual control option needs reworking. Priced at Rs 22,990, it’s worth considering. 

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