Sony Cyber-shot HX5V Review

The Sony Cyber-shot HX5V is a 10.2MP point and shoot camera that was introduced in January 2010 with the Cyber-shot TX7.  The HX5V complements the TX7 well and, fortunately, packs in many of the great features of its thinner counterpart.

To see how the Sony Cyber-shot HX5V stacks up and whether it’s right for you, read on.

Key Features

  • 10.2MP Back-illuminated CMOS Sensor
  • 10x Optical Zoom (25-250mm equiv.)
  • 3-inch LCD (230k dot resolution)
  • 1080i AVCHD Video Capture
  • ISO 125-3200
  • GPS Receiver and Compass
  • iSweep Panorama
  • Rechargeable Li-Ion Battery
  • SDHC and Memory Stick Compatible

Handling, Ergonomics and Control

For a camera with a 10x optical zoom, the Sony HX5V is considerably compact.  While it is certainly a little thicker than the very compact TX7, the HX5V also more than doubles its zoom range.

The HX5V has a groove along the right front for getting a good grip on the camera, along with an indentation on the back for your right thumb.  The shutter release is well placed and provides enough tactile feedback to know where the halfway point is for obtaining proper autofocus and metering prior to capturing your shot.

The HX5V feels great in the hand and has a nice offering of controls, including a mode dial atop the camera.  I’m a big fan of mode dials on just about any camera because they give you quick access to a variety of different shooting modes.  On the HX5V, you can go from fully automatic (where the camera decides everything) to manual controls (where you input your own exposure preferences) with just a turn of the dial.

Unfortunately, the HX5V doesn’t include an aperture or shutter priority mode, so you go from P (program mode) to M (manual mode) with no quasi-auto modes in between.  As with other recent Cyber-shot models, the HX5V includes iSweep Panorama, which continues to work like magic on this model as well.

The Intelligent Auto Adjustment mode is the little green camera on the mode dial.  It will evaluate the scene and do its best to automatically detect and apply the appropriate scene setting – Backlight Portrait, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Twilight (w/ tripod), Portrait, Landscape or Macro.  The HX5V also features an Easy mode for those who may be intimidated at first by the abundant controls on the camera.

Rounding out the shooting modes are Movie, Scene Selection, Backlight Correction HDR, Handheld Twilight and Anti-Motion Blur.  I welcome the inclusion of the Backlight Correction HDR on the mode dial, which was something that I had to jump into the menu for on the TX7.  Of course, the TX7 is a touchscreen, so all the controls require menu navigation, but even the best of touchscreens can’t beat a good mode dial in my book.

On the back of the HX5V, you get a 3-inch LCD screen, albeit at a lower resolution of 230k dots than the TX7’s 921k dots.  Still yet, the screen looks nice for a 230k dot resolution display.

Next to the display, you’ll find your typical quick controls in easy range of your right thumb.  There is a direct record button at the top of the button cache for quick access to video capture.  Below it, you’ll find a preview button, followed by a four-way controller with a “set” button in the center.  Access to display options, flash, timer and Smile Shutter can be found on the four-way controller.  Menu and trash buttons round out the rest of the controls on the rear panel.

Shooting with the Sony Cyber-shot HX5V

What becomes immediately apparent when using the HX5V is the versatility that the camera offers in such a small package.  While I loved using the TX7, the short 4x optical zoom sometimes left me wanting a bit more.  And, that’s the biggest game changer for the HX5V.  It’s got the reach of what you’d expect to come in larger packages, but will still easily fit into the same pockets as ultra-compact cameras like the TX7.

As was the case with the TX7, the Backlight Correction HDR mode is a huge winner in my book.  It works by capturing two images and different exposure levels and then combining them together in-camera for a single photo with increased dynamic range.  The results is a natural-looking HDR image that’s much more akin to the way our eyes actually see a high contrast scene.

The image on the left, below, was captured in P mode, while the image on the right was captured with Backlight Correction HDR enabled.

While the HX5V can do a lot for you in Intelligent Auto mode, you would be doing yourself an injustice not to explore other modes of the camera.  For run of the mill shooting, I kept the camera in P mode; however, once you go low light, the Anti-Motion Blur or Hand-held Twilight can really help you out.  By blending multiple exposures together, these modes help you get shots that most other point and shoot cameras would miss.

Below is an example of the differences between a normal handheld, low light shot (top), followed by an image captured with Hand-held Twilight enabled (bottom).

GPS is another big headline feature for the HX5V.  While it takes a few minutes of “on” time for it to sync with satellites, it’s accurate when it gets up to steam.  Many popular photo management and editing programs will support the geotagging metadata from the HX5V images, including iPhoto, Aperture and Lightroom.  Clicking on the GPS coordinates in Lightroom (where I used it) takes you to a Google Maps results page which provides an aerial view of the location of your scene.

The downside to the GPS feature is that it forces you to use the camera differently that how most of us use point and shoot cameras.  Instead of pulling the camera out of your pocket, hitting the On button and snapping away, you have to keep the camera turned on in order to take advantage of the GPS function.  If it’s important for how you want to use it, you’ll need to remember that.

The HX5V essentially mirrors the video functionality of the TX7, by offering Full HD capture in AVCHD and MP4 formats.  The AVCHD capture is 1080i at 60 fps, while the MP4 capture offers 1080p at 30 fps, 720p at 30 fps or VGA capture at 30 fps. When playing back video, the camera creates 1920×1080 images from 1440×1080 by duplicating missing pixels horizontally.  Regardless of how it gets there, the video quality is pretty solid for such a tiny camera.

The zoom action during video is pretty smooth and, for the most part, quiet.  It only is a bit noisy in the video when filming in very quiet settings.  For a compact camera though, it is quite competent.

The video itself can get pretty grainy in low light situations, but does quite well in normally lit rooms.  I found myself picking up the HX5V for video more often that the Flip MinoHD that I’m so fond of.  It’s just nice to have the dual threat of video or still images that the HX5V provides.

Sony Cyber-shot HX5V Image Quality

Overall, I’ve been very pleased with the images produced by the HX5V.  While Sony has turned up the noise reduction pretty high on this camera, it still works out quite nicely when viewing the images at real world sizes.

As with the TX7, I applaud Sony for sticking with a 10MP sensor on the HX5V, instead of the noisy 14MP sensors that are customary in the ridiculous numbers of point and shoot cameras on the market today.  Staying smaller in megapixels numbers has to contribute to the solid image quality throughout the ISO range.  It’s easy to get pleasant 4×6 prints at any ISO setting on the HX5V.  If you want to enlarge to 8X10 or so though, you’ll need to keep it at ISO 800 or below.

In this first set of image crops at 100%, you can get a feel for what’s going on in the image at the pixel level.

Below, I have include the same images used for the above crop selections, but resized for web use to give you an idea of what normal viewing of images from the Sony HX5V will look like.  Feel free to download any of the following images for your personal inspection of the full resolution files.  To save an image, just right-click on the image and choose “Save link as…”

ISO 125

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

Below are a handful of additional images taken at various settings with the HX5V.

This first three images demonstrate the zoom range of the camera from the wide to telephoto settings.


25mm equiv. – ISO 125 – f/8 – 1/320s


250mm equiv. – ISO 125 – f/5.5 – 1/640s


500mm equiv. (2x digital zoom) – ISO 125 – f/5.5 – 1/640s


iSweep Panorama – ISO 125 – f/3.5 – 1/500s


P Mode – ISO 125 – f/9 – 1/500s


Backlit Correction HDR Mode – Combination of 2 exposures in-camera


ISO 200 – f/4 – 1/40s – on-camera flash (Note, slight redeye, but good mix of ambient light.)

Sony Cyber-shot HX5V Accessories

NP-FG1 Battery – The HX5V comes with an NP-BG1 rechargeable lithium-ion battery; however, if you’re going to be away from power for an extended period, you can pick up an NP-FG1 battery as spare.

Memory cards – I’ve used the basic Kingston SD cards in the HX5V, which worked well so long as you aren’t shooting AVCHD video.  If you’re shooting AVCHD with the HX5V, you’ll need to step up to at least a Class 6 card in order to handle the data rate transfer.  SanDisk Extreme III and Lexar Professional 133x cards are both Class 6 SDHC cards. The HX5V is compatible with all SD and SDHC cards – but not SDXC cards.

Memory card reader – If you don’t own a memory card reader, they make transferring images to your computer a world faster. I highly recommend picking one up with the HX5V. They’re cheap and big time saver. Lexar makes a good card reader for about $15.

Conclusions

In sum, the Sony Cyber-shot HX5V is an excellent point and shoot camera.  It has plenty of features for the enthusiast user, while being able to maintain a simple interface for those who need a little time to adjust to all that the camera can do.  If you decide to pick up this camera, remember, there’s always the Easy mode to fall back on if things get a little scary.

The HX5V is a dual threat with great still and video quality.  The AVCHD video format is stunning, while the MP4 format is highly portable for web sharing.  Images from the HX5V are solid and should provide more than satisfactory quality for travel and vacation shots, or just chasing the kids around the house.

The HX5V is another winner from Sony that I can highly recommend to anyone looking for a full-featured and highly-capable pocket camera.  While not as slick as the touchscreen interface on the TX7, the 10x zoom lens and GPS-capability make the HX5V equally lust-worthy for your gadget bin.

The Sony Cyber-shot HX5V is available from Photography Bay’s trusted retail partner, B&H Photo, at the following link:

Sony Cyber-shot HX5V at B&H Photo

By making your photography purchases at B&H Photo through these links, you are helping Photography Bay to continue bring quality camera tests, news and reviews. Thanks for your continued support.

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Comments

  1. says

    Sony Hx5v is compatible with SDXC

    Go to Sony website

    http://www.sonystyle.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?catalogId=&storeId=10151&langId=-1&productId=8198552921666077169&SR=sony_search_seo&SQS=hx5v#specifications

    Recording•Media Type : 45MB internal Flash Memory, optional Memory Stick Duo™ Media, optional Memory Stick PRO Duo™ Media, optional Memory Stick PRO Duo™ (High Speed), optional Memory Stick PRO HG-Duo™, optional SD/SDHC/SDXC media13

    • says

      @Jonathan – That’s the only place I’ve seen that documented as compatible with SDXC. Both the manual and the official marketing spec sheet only reference SD and SDHC compatibility. I have reached out to Sony on this inconsistency before (it’s also the same with the TX7) and have yet to receive a firm answer with regard to the full compatibility of these cameras with the SDXC format. However, until Sony provides a direct answer on this inconsistency, I’m referencing the specifications in the manual. If you are spending money on an SDXC card with the HX5V, I would recommend that you try one out in the camera first and confirm that you have 64GB of storage available (SDHC format only goes up to 32GB).