Like every year, Sony has treated its high-end superzoom to a new lens. So while the HX20V is getting a 20x zoom, this Cyber-shot HX10V takes the 16x lens seen in 2011's HX9V to become 2012's mid-range model. Apart from a boosted resolution of 18 Megapixels, Sony's basic superzoom compact formula hasn't changed much, based on a BSI CMOS sensor, a powerful zoom, a GPS and a Full HD video mode.
HandlingThe Sony HX10V has a similar design and control layout to the HX7V. Build quality is good and handling is flawless. An interesting new addition to this camera is the selection of settings in Auto mode (also seen in the HX200V), which allow you to adjust the exposure, white balance or add creative filters. However, it's a bit of a shame that the HX10V doesn't have the same practical customisation options seen in the HX9V (custom button and presets), which let users tailor the interface to their specific preferences or needs.
The screen is lifted straight out of the HX7V and HX9V. It therefore has the same advantages—including sharpness and wide viewing angles—and the same disadvantages, including poor colour fidelity and excessive contrast, making dark greys look black and light greys look white.
ResponsivenessThe HX10V does a pretty good job against the clock. It starts up in just under 2 seconds, which is really quite good for a superzoom compact as powerful zoom lenses usually take more time to deploy than regular compact camera lenses. In any case, it's good enough to bag the HX10V a five-star score in this field!
All in all, the HX10V is a reasonably speedy camera with an autofocus that's fast and effective in all conditions. You only have to wait one second between taking two photos, and the continuous shooting mode can capture ten frames in a second ... although you then have to wait several seconds for them to save onto the memory card.
Picture QualityThe HX10V uses the same lens as last year's high-end Sony superzoom compact, the HX9V, but with a new sensor. While it's still a BSI CMOS, resolution has been upped to 18 Megapixels, like in the HX200V bridge. That makes a new record for pixel density in a compact camera sensor at 63 Mpx/cm², but we'll be interested to see what effect that has on sensitivity.
With the 16-Megapixel BSI CMOS sensor in last year's superzoom compacts, Sony got pretty heavy handed with its image processing (see Sony Cyber-shot HX7V review). This year, however, Sony has promised to go easier on the image to help maintain texture and finer detail.
The result is excellent. Even if pictures look a little more grainy and the dynamic range has been curbed slightly, images look more natural and less evidently processed than those taken with last year's models. At 1600 ISO, there's still a good level of detail and speckling noise is kept in check on 8" x 10" prints (20 x 27 cm). At 3200 ISO there's a slight drop in picture quality and noise becomes more visible. Otherwise, we wouldn't recommend using the extended 6400 and 12800 ISO settings (obtained by combining several images taken successively at low resolutions)!
The lens holds no real surprises, as we've already seen these optics in action in the HX9V. Upgrading to 18 Megapixels brings no real gain in detail, but the lens still does a first-rate job. At wide-angle settings there's a very good level of sharpness, and this holds up pretty well in the corners of the frame, even if some chromatic aberration is visible in full-sized images. At telephoto settings, images are a bit less sharp in the middle of the frame, but overall quality is very consistent and generally very good.
VideoOut of the box, the HX10V films 1440 x 1080i video at 50 frames per second. You can also set the camera to film 1920 x 1080 but it's still an interlaced format—only the top-of-the-range models (HX9V, HX200V etc.) come with progressive scan video video modes. That said, image quality is still sharp and smooth.
The HX10V records good-quality stereo sound. Although audio quality is certainly on the better side of average for a compact camera, it's still no match for a decent stand-alone camcorder or some first-rate models like the Canon SX230—mainly because the Sony mics pick up echoes.