Sony Focuses on Long Zoom, Low Light, and Fast AF With Nine New Cameras

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX30V
Every big-name camera company now has at least one megazoom model in its point-and-shoot camera lineup. From the looks of it, Sony's 2012 Cyber-shot offerings will include about as many long-zoom cameras as its competitors combined. The company announced seven new long-zoom additions to its Cyber-shot stable for 2012 today, including a larger-size 30X-optical-zoom model, a pair of pocketable 20X-zoom cameras, and a sub-$200 compact camera with a 10X-optical-zoom lens.

Far-reaching optics were just one of several common themes across Sony's nine-camera rollout, as some of the new cameras also have the low-light-optimized, 18-megapixel Exmor R backside-illuminated (BSI) CMOS sensor introduced last month in the Cyber-shot DSC-TX200V. Sony says that the new sensor produces less visual noise than its predecessors when shooting in dark environments, and the company claims that it allows for autofocus speeds around 0.2 second in low-light situations.

Most of the new cameras also feature Sony's full in-camera arsenal of motion-controlled panorama modes, 3D still-shooting options, speedy bracketing modes for low-light and HDR images, and digital-zoom technologies that Sony claims will retain image resolution more effectively than traditional "crop-and-enlarge" digital-zoom technology. Save for the ultracompact Cyber-shot DSC-TX66, all the new cameras will accept either SD/SDHC/SDXC or Memory Stick cards for storage via a single slot that handles both card formats.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX30V: 20X Zoom With Wi-Fi

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX30V
The new highest-end pocket megazoom is a successor to last year's excellent Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V. The 18-megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-HX30V offers a 20X-optical-zoom lens (25mm to 500mm) in a 1.4-inch-deep body; steadying the lens is a new hybrid optical/digital stabilization system, which Sony says corrects image distortion caused by twisting the camera in addition to shaking it vertically and horizontally.

The HX30V is the only model in Sony's new lineup to offer built-in Wi-Fi, which is limited to a peer-to-peer connection between the camera and Android or iOS devices. The HX30V wirelessly sideloads images to phones and tablets that have the free PlayMemories Mobile app installed; the mobile devices, rather than the camera itself, handle the last mile of Web uploading and sharing. Like the HX9V, it also offers in-camera GPS features for geotagging images with longitude and latitude data, though in-camera mapping remains absent.

It's one of seven new cameras to feature Sony's "Clear Image Zoom," which is a next-generation version of the "by-pixel super resolution" digital zoom introduced in last year's Cyber-shot DSC-TX55. The digital-zoom option bumps up the "virtual zoom" range to a simulated 40X on the telephoto end; we're eager to test how the digital-zoom system compares to the output of a pure optical zoom.

The HX30V offers manual control over shutter and aperture settings--unfortunately, however, as with the HX9V, aperture-priority and shutter-priority modes aren't in the mix. Similar to its predecessor, the HX30V looks to be proficient in video capture: It can record full 1080p high-definition video at 60 frames per second, and it can also capture 13-megapixel shots while recording movies.

Like many of Sony's recent Cyber-shot cameras, the HX30V should add a lot more value through its specialized in-camera modes for a variety of shooting situations: automated bracketing modes for low-light and HDR shots, motion-activated panorama modes, a number of ways to capture 3D still images, a 10-fps burst mode at full resolution, and a range of real-time image filters that simulate everything from tilt-shift photography to paintings. Due in May, the Wi-Fi-enabled Cyber-shot DSC-HX30V will be priced at $420.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V
Two nearly identical pocket megazoom cameras were also part of today's announcement.

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V ($400, available in May) shares the same hardware and in-camera features as the HX30V, but lacks the Wi-Fi capabilities. The 16X-optical-zoom (24mm to 384mm) Cyber-shot DSC-HX10V offers the same core features too, but it has a less-expansive zoom range, and its video mode maxes out at 1080i/60 fps. It will be available in March for $330.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V: 30X Megazoom With Manual Focus Ring

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V
The 30X-optical-zoom (27mm to 810mm) Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V is a larger-sized megazoom camera, and if you factor in the "Clear Image Zoom" digital-zoom technology, its zoom range will reach a simulated 60X. Along with full manual controls for shutter and aperture, the HX200V offers aperture-priority and shutter-priority modes, as well as manual focus controls that you can adjust by using a ring around the lens barrel.

In addition to an eye-level electronic viewfinder, the HX200V has a tiltable 3-inch LCD screen to help frame overhead and low-angle shots. Beyond the aforementioned features, it offers most of the same in-camera options as the pocket megazooms described above: the 18-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor, the new optical stabilization system, 1080p video recording at 60 fps with uninterrupted 13-megapixel photo capture, fast autofocus speeds, a range of in-camera effects and shooting modes, and built-in geotagging.

Priced at $480 and due in March, the HX200V will replace last year's HX100V. Most of the changes between the HX200V and its predecessor are under the hood; last year's model had the same zoom range and wide-angle/telephoto focal lengths, but the digital-zoom technology, sensor, stabilization system, and autofocus speeds are all new additions.

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