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Like many people,in recent times I've probably abandoned digital cameras in favour of grabbing my smart phone to capture special memories, all well and good, but often resulting in photos of variable quality and focus. This is the camera that has got me back in the habit of taking better photos; it's a little more than a point and click and has some very nice features. The camera is great for casual use and anyone who wants to work on their picture taking a little more will find plenty of features to keep them busy.
Out of the box set up is simple, to recharge you don't need to faff around with taking out batteries, a lead and charger just plugs straight into the body. My camera did not come with a memory card, it does take a range of formats of these( SD/SDHC/SDXC, Memory Stick PRO Duo and Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo0, and I was able to purchase one for a reasonable price, although for a camera currently priced at £310 it might have been nice had it been included, you will need a card if you want to make the most of the ability to take full 1080p movies in AVCHD and MP4 formats.
The camera, in the main, is well built. It has a bit of a retro feel and, due to its impressive 30x zoom (24 - 720mm wide angle lens) is a little bigger than your average compact at H64.3 x W108.1 x D38.3mm. I have found my ten year old case from a former camera houses it well - I think like phones maybe cameras had got smaller and now are getting bigger again to fight back the smartphone as camera revolution, although Sony say that it is the world's smallest camera with a 30x zoom. In any case, being a bit larger, though at 270g not particularly heavy, you do get a good sized 3" screen to view your subject/s and scroll through the options, though disappointingly maybe, it's not touch screen and access is via a bewildering range of buttons and menus including a small wheel which does, I have to say, feel a little flimsy to the touch. Though, through extensive use of this camera I have got used to when to use the menu or "?" button I do still find myself having to refer to the incorporated camera guide for more advanced features. The guide is in A-Z form and is searchable and is a really handy feature. The button that you will use most probably is the dial on its top which enables you to scroll through the different modes, whilst the onscreen display tells you which mode you are on and what features are available to you.
Talking of additional features one thing that surprised me about this camera was its failure to include GPS. It's all the more strange as the DSC HX50V, available elsewhere does have GPS and I am really not sure why Sony decided the British public wouldn't want to record where their photo was taken, a feature I have been used to with the smaller, cheaper camera I used prior to this. You can get round this in a way as the camera has wifi and so you can actually upload pictures to a smartphone on the go and put straight onto, eg facebook, however it's still disappointing. That said, I have found it relatively simple to get the camera to sync with my wifi at home and have even managed to use the camera > smartphone wifi whilst on the go via the free Playmemories app provided by the manufacturer for use with this phone. You can actually use your phone as a remote control to take photos and to see the view on your camera screen, it's very, very clever and a feature that I have used for taking pictures remotely.
So, on then to the photos you can take. I am, I will admit, no expert, however I do like to try and take photos that will remind me of days out, in a good way. Here the camera which is 20.4 megapixel, does not disappoint at all and I find that although there are more features than I, personally, could ever use I can and do obtain good results. There are features such as being able to take HDR photos - so for example take black and white picking out only red, blue or green, which I really like - I have taken some really great shots of my kids with this, picking out the colour of their clothes from a scene to really make them centre screen. When taking pictures the screen is bright and apart from in the brightest of sunlight it's easy to see the different options. You can scroll through the different modes of picture taking from "Superior Auto" to "Intelligent Auto" - the latter being best for moving objects, to some of the modes I use most like the panorama sweep and video. To my amateur eye colour reproduction on this camera is good, and I like the fact that I can zoom in whilst taking video and can take good pictures without having to over worry about all the potential of this camera.
I have found through using the camera that over time I am using more and more of what the camera can offer. I made a bit of a rookie mistake at first by somehow managing to date stamp all my pictures (this can't be retrospectively removed) but now I find myself activating features such as the smile auto-detect and the on-screen plumb line with relative ease, and I have even worked out how to take photos whilst playing back video. You can use the picture effects (toy camera, watercolour etc) in video mode too and shutter speed (10fps for the technically minded) is good. I haven't really investigated the P/A/S/M modes, but for more advanced users who want to play with light and exposure these are a bound to be of interest, there is also an additional shoe on top of the camera and you can purchase an extra flash in addition to the inbuilt one or an electronic view finder or microphone can be installed on this should you wish. Not having such extras, I have found battery life for my use to be impressively long and that it is easy to transfer my photos to wherever I want to store them permanently.
Overall, this camera is a relative joy to use, due to the quality of the photos it produces. If feels good in the hand and looks good too and so I can ignore some niggles, such as the lack of GPS and the fact that even having used the camera a fair bit the menu can leave me confused as to which button I should have pressed. Despite all this, this camera has got me back into taking better photos. It's great for holiday snaps and for getting a bit more arty about your photos too and although I think it's quite pricey compared to similar offerings from other manufacturers I would still recommend it as being fairly compact but taking pictures that are significantly better than those from a smart phone, having an impressive zoom and good range of features - it's a pleasure to own.
Camera received for review as part of the Amazon Vine Program, rrp £350