From the looks of them, two new Sony Cyber-shot cameras announced today will be among the league leaders in point-and-shoot versatility when they become available in April.
In addition to offering full manual controls and big-time zoom lenses, the 16X-optical-zoom Cyber-shot HX9V and 30X-optical-zoom Cyber-shot HX100V introduce a boatload of innovative features: Both cameras serve up several 3D shooting modes, 1080p video recording at 60 frames per second, in-camera GPS, the ability to record to SD or Memory Stick cards, and a new high-speed autofocus system that's geared to go toe-to-toe with the excellent Panasonic Sonic Speed AF.
Generously, both cameras also offer spec dissectors a few things to gripe about, such as smaller sensor sizes and higher pixel densities than other higher-end point-and-shoot cameras provide (both new Cyber-shots offer 16-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensors); relatively narrow apertures at the wide-angle end (the HX9V maxes out at F3.3, while the HX100V has a maximum aperture of F2.8); and the absence of RAW shooting modes and optical viewfinders.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V: Pocket Megazoom + Kitchen Sink
The 16-megapixel, GPS-enabled Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V is a feature-packed follow-up to last year's Cyber-shot HX5V, adding three 3D shooting modes, a higher 16X optical zoom range (24mm to 384mm), 1080p AVCHD video capture at 60 fps, and a revamped autofocus system that Sony claims can focus sharply within 0.1 second.
The camera lets you zoom in and out optically while recording video, and the HX9V adds a dedicated video record button and the ability to capture 3-megapixel still images while the camera is shooting video outside its 1080p-and-60-fps mode.
The HX9V comes with the new 3D Still Image mode, which debuted with Sony's CES camera announcements, as well as offering the 3D Sweep Panorama and Sweep Multi-Angle modes found in last year's Cyber-shot WX5 and Cyber-shot TX5. Though you can view images snapped in Sweep Multi-Angle mode on the camera's 3-inch LCD screen with a pseudo-3D effect, the camera itself lacks a glasses-free 3D display. You'll need to play back images on an .MPO-friendly 3D TV or hook the camera up to a 3D TV via HDMI and don some glasses to see the effects of the other 3D modes.
Sony says that it has revamped the camera's Backlight Correction HDR scene mode to add a third image to its bracketed shots for additional dynamic range, and that it has improved the unit's optical stabilization to combat hand shake more effectively. A new, searchable in-camera guide system explains what various in-camera settings do to your shots.
Like the HX5V before it, the HX9V includes a digital compass and in-camera geotagging so you can overlay images on a map once you've offloaded them to a computer. The camera geotags images on the fly, but you'll need to get the photos off your camera to take advantage of that feature fully; unlike GPS-enabled cameras that we've seen from Casio, Panasonic, and Samsung, the HX9V has no in-camera mapping interface or point-of-interest database.
The camera has full manual controls for shutter speed, aperture settings, and focusing, but not aperture-priority and shutter-priority modes. Equipped with a pop-up flash, the Cyber-shot HX9V will be available in black come April.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V: 30X Optical Zoom, Futuristic Features
The Cyber-shot HX100V is the successor to the 20X-optical-zoom Cyber-shot HX1, and it has many of the same new features that the HX9V has. The HX100V adds to the laundry list of in-camera attractions with a 30X optical zoom lens (27mm to 810mm), an adjustable 3-inch LCD in addition to an eye-level EVF, and aperture- and shutter-priority modes to augment its full manual capabilities.
The 16-megapixel HX100V offers quick switching between autofocus and manual focus modes via a toggle on the side of its lens mount. A ring around the camera's lens lets you control zooming and manual focus.
Like the new HX9V, the HX100V boasts three 3D-shooting modes, in-camera geotagging, revamped optical stabilization and Backlight Correction HDR, 1080p-and-60-fps video capture with optical zoom enabled, the ability to capture 3-megapixel stills while shooting lower-frame-rate video, a pop-up flash, and the speedier autofocus.