Seemingly it takes a big camera to outsmart a smartphone these days, and the DSLR-styled Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX300 bridge model is a big camera in several ways.
First, it has physical heft, the body being larger than Canon’s EOS 700D DSLR, albeit with a deeper, more comfortably rounded handgrip on the Sony.
And secondly, there’s the key reason for this Cyber-Shot’s existence: a huge, class-leading 50x optical zoom range using an enthusiast-baiting Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T lens to cut down on zoom lens flare and reflections.
This is backed up by an equally large pixel count, courtesy of a 20.4 megapixel 1/2.3-inch Exmor R CMOS sensor. Image stabilisation is claimed to have been refined over previous Cyber-Shot cameras, as will be autofocus speed.
More positively, we do get the useful unison of both a tilting 3-inch, 921k-dot LCD screen at the rear plus an electronic viewfinder ranged directly above. This combination enables either hip-level or eye-degree shooting, dependent on your compositional preference.
In terms of other headline features packed into the camera, let’s turn our attention back to that jack of all trades lens.
Sony HX300 Specifications
- 20MP – 1/2.3″ BSI-CMOS Sensor
- ISO 80 – 12800
- 24-1200 mm F2.8-6.3 Zoom Lens
- Optical Image Stabilization
- 3″ Tilting Screen
- Electronic viewfinder
- 10 fps continuous shooting
- Full HD – 1920 x 1080 video
Here it provides a 35mm equivalent focal range of an ultra-wide 24-1200mm if shooting in standard 4:3 digital photo aspect ratio, or 26-1300mm if opting for 16:9 widescreen imagery, as you do when shooting video.
Sony HX300: Price
Check Out: Best Superzoom Camera
Sony HX300: Build and Quality
As established in our introduction, the Sony HX300 is a chunky beast. And with chunky dimensions of 129.6 x 93.2 x 103.2mm (5.1 x 3.7 x 4.1 inches), it’s one for the camera bag or wearing around your neck rather than for squeezing into a pocket or purse.
Weight too is really a hefty 650g (1lb 7oz) with the NP-BX1 lithium ion battery and choice of either a SD card or memory stick inserted. At least it feels like we are getting our money’s worth, and certainly this is a camera that feels more comfortable to grip with both hands, thereby providing extra stability when shooting handheld at longer focal lengths.
Because the camera is styled like a consumer DSLR, from the get go we were expecting a DSLR-like handling experience. On the Sony HX300 this extends to a funky metal-ridged manual ring for zooming and focusing – flick a switch on the lens barrel to alternate between these two options – plus a jog dial and customisable buttons in order to retain favourite settings.
Naturally, aside from the creative filter effects, we get the creative quartet of program, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual shooting mode settings ranged around a bottle top-shaped mode dial set behind the shutter release. This button is encircled by another means of adjusting the zoom, via a regular zoom lever.
As well as the mode dial featuring the regular P,A,S,M quartet, we also get two auto modes, a scene mode, video mode, intelligent Sweep Panorama mode and even a dedicated 3D option; 11 choices in all.
A red video record button sits top-right of the back plate where it falls under the thumb, ready to instantly commence filming with a single press, whereby the view on the rear LCD narrows to display a 16:9 format image.
In truth the Sony HX300’s backplate controls are more redolent of a compact camera than a DSLR, such is their pared-down simplicity.
Thus we furthermore get a familiar four-way control pad alongside the angle-adjustable LCD screen, which can be tilted up or angled down, but not fully swung out parallel to the body or turned towards the subject for self-portrait shots. It’s not a touchscreen either, but it does feel large enough that such a feature could have been implemented.
On-screen menu options are bright and clear, with the initial function menu extending the height of the screen on its left-hand side, its options tabbed through in conjunction with the multi-directional control pad.
We had to immediately disable the operational beep sound though, since it was so loud that it distracted us and our subjects.
Confusingly, at first we couldn’t locate how to adjust ISO from this menu – it simply isn’t listed. It turns out that a spin of the DSLR-style command wheel top-correct of the backplate highlights configurations such as ISO and aperture on-screen, so that you can tab between them with a press of said steering wheel.
Perhaps we’re wrong to expect everything, but we missed the fact that Sony hasn’t provided an eye sensor together with the camera’s electronic viewfinder, to automatically switch it about and deactivate the screen below.
Instead we get a simple finder/LCD button in the Sony HX300’s top plate, just right behind the main power button. The location here means it’s easy to overlook, and we’d have preferred to have this control adjacent to the EVF itself on the backplate. Rather, Sony has chosen to put the video record switch in this position.
In short, though more or less every control we expected falls within reasonable reach of finger or thumb, we didn’t find ourselves stretching or grasping in the heat of the image-making action.
Sony HX300: Performance
The Sony HX300 powers up for action from cold in two to three seconds, the lens jutting a little proud of its housing to the sound of whirring mechanics to arrive at maximum wide angle setting, while the rear screen bursts into life with a flourish of audio.
OK, this isn’t the fastest response ever – certainly it falls short of that of an actual DSLR. A half squeeze of the shutter release button and focus and exposure is determined in a blink of an eye, which is a bit more like it.
Squeeze the shutter launch button fully and, with a barely discernible shutter delay in single shot mode, a full resolution image is committed to memory in 2-3 seconds, with a tiny internal capacity suitable for six shots provided out of the box.
Manually rotating the zoom by hand, it is reasonably responsive to the touch, but not as responsive mainly because a simple twist of the zoom lens on your DSLR would be, which is slightly frustrating.
Also, it appears slower to respond when pulling back or zooming out than when you’re zooming in initially. Still, if you’re not in a rush to quickly snap that candid shot you saw in your mind’s eye before you powered up the camera then working this way is fine, and it does feel like you’re putting a bit more effort in than just alternately toggling a switch with your forefinger.
Fortunately the zoom can also be used when shooting video – you’d think that would be a prerequisite of a camera such as this, but it isn’t always the case. Though the zoom reaction is slower still, it thankfully loses the mechanised motor sound that accompanies its use when shooting nevertheless images.
What is impressive is that the image relayed to the Sony HX300’s rear plate LCD or EVF even when towards optimum telephoto setting is nice and steady, whereas on the likes of the cheaper superzoom such as Nikon’s Coolpix L820 it wobbles all over the place.
It’s also possible to get a nigh-on sharp chance shooting at the maximum 50x optical zoom, gripping the camera inside both hands, without the aid of a tripod, that is just what you want from a camera like this.
On most superzooms you have to take at least two or three shots of the same subject to end up with one that’s reasonably crisp. OK, so the shots from this Sony digital camera aren’t as sharp as those you’ll get from a genuine DSLR, but then a DSLR and zoom lens with this sort of reach is beyond most of our possibilities.
With the camera’s metering set to multi-segment in order to get a well-exposed overall image, that’s by and large what we got. However, there were instances of over-uncovered highlights and lost detail, as well as purple pixel fringing between areas of high contrast. In fairness, these are the kind of aberrations that would blight the JPEG output from most consumer-level compact cameras.
There is naturally an HDR option, which pulls back again some of the detail lost when exposures are otherwise tricky, but you can be left with an image that looks a little more painterly than photographic if we’re nit-picking.
Of course there’s not the option here to shoot raw images to give you even more hands-on control over the images.
Sony HX300: Specifications
|Body type||SLR-like (bridge)|
|Effective pixels||20 megapixels|
|Focal length (equiv.)||24–1200 mm|
|USB||USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)|
Sony HX300: Conclusion
The Sony Cyber-Shot HX300 looks great, is nicely designed, feels robust and built to last when grasped in the hands, and we enjoyed the fact that we could operate the zoom manually and also achieve sharp results when shooting handheld towards the telephoto end of the zoom.
The negatives are a lack of raw shooting, a relatively small sensor burdened with a high pixel count, and omissions including Wi-Fi, GPS, a hotshoe… the list goes on.