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Sony Cybershot DSC-HX20V Digital Compact Camera Review

The Sony Cybershot DSC-HX20V is a digital compact camera with an impressive 18.2 megapixel sensor, Daniel Bell tests the camera to see how this new sensor performs.

| Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V in Compact Cameras
Sony Cybershot DSC-HX20V Digital Compact Camera Review: Sony Cybershot DSC-HX20V Lens Extended

Sony announced the Cybershot DSC-HX20V in February 2012, a premium digital compact camera, with its headline features being an 18.2 megapixel sensor and 20x optical zoom lens. It is available in black and brown for £379.00.

Sony Cybershot DSC-HX20V Digital Compact Camera Review: Sony Cybershot DSC-HX20V Front

Sony Cybershot DSC-HX20V Features

The Sony Cybershot DSC-HX20V has an 18.2 megapixel Exmor CMOS sensor which works with its BIONZ processor to reduce noise for low-light shooting as well as Pixel Super Resolution which optimises detail and sharpness. There is a 20x optical zoom lens, a 35mm equivalent of 25-500mm which can be extended to 40x with Clear Image Zoom. Sony claim the camera will focus in 0.13 seconds even in dim conditions, with Tracking Focus to keep your subject sharp even when its moving.

For beginners there is Easy Shooting mode with on-screen instructions and an in-camera guide. Superior Auto mode adjusts settings automatically for images with low noise and high dynamic range. There are advanced manual functions to give you DSLR-like creative control and the Photo Creativity interface is designed to make it easy to make quick adjustments to colour, brightness and other picture settings, which can be previewed in real time on the screen. There are also Artistic Picture Effect modes to make your images even more creative.

The HX20V has a number of panorama modes, including Intelligent Sweep (standard, wide and high-resolution), 3D Sweep and Sweep Multi Angle. The Digital Level Gauge will help you keep your images straight and GPS geotags your images and video clips as well as log your journey and act as a compass. Other modes include Background Defocus, High-speed Continuous shooting at up to 10 fps, Face Detection, Smile Shutter, Backlight Correction HDR and Soft Skin. Images can be edited via the in-camera retouching menu.

Videos are recorded at full 1080i HD with zoom available and Optical SteadyShot Active Mode correcting shaky handheld camera movements. You can even capture high-resolution images at the same time as recording movies. Videos can be viewed on a HD TV via a HDMI cable.

Sony Cybershot DSC-HX20V Digital Compact Camera Review: Sony Cybershot DSC-HX20V Top

Key Features

  • 18.2 megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor
  • 20x optical zoom lens (35mm equiv: 25-500mm)
  • 3 inch XtraFine TruBlack LCD screen
  • GPS and Log Record with Compass
  • 1080i Full HD movie recording
  • ISO 100-12800
  • 1cm minimum focusing distance
  • Artistic Picture Effect modes
  • 10 fps high-speed continuous shooting
  • Digital Level Gauge
  • Intelligent Sweep Panorama
  • Available in brown and black
Sony Cybershot DSC-HX20V Digital Compact Camera Review: Sony Cybershot DSC-HX20V Rear

Sony Cybershot DSC-HX20V Handling

The HX20V has a good, solid feel thanks to its metal body and rubber grips on the front and rear of the camera. The flash pops out from the top when required and automatically retracts when the camera is switched off. There is a mode dial placed on top of the camera along with the on/off button, shutter release, zoom rocker and custom button. The latter can be set to change with exposure compensation, ISO, white-balance, metering mode and smile shutter.

On the rear is a rotating d-pad which has options to enter photo-creativity mode, where you can change the brightness, colour (warm/cold), vividness and picture effect. The menus are clear with good explanations as to what each option controls. The 3 inch LCD monitor is bright and clear to see in all light and from acute angles. When you first switch the camera on you can choose the display colour, activate GPS and display resolution (high/standard). The GPS only takes a few seconds to activate.

The battery has a CIPA rating of 320 shots, it managed nearly 600 before going flat after its first charge and this included using the GPS. We tested the cameras performance at focusing, shutter response, shot-to-shot time, continuous shooting etc. and have posted the results below. To test this we took 6 or more shots and calculated the average, so that consistent results were produced.

Shutter Response   0.1 seconds
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response   0.15 seconds
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response   0.3 seconds
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo   1.8 seconds
Shot to Shot (without flash)   1.25 seconds
Shot to Shot with Flash   3.6 seconds
Continuous shooting High   6.4 fps
Continuous shooting Low   2 fps

Continuous shooting High shoots full resolution images, Sony claim it can shoot up to 10 fps, although we managed just 6.4 fps.

Sony Cybershot DSC-HX20V Digital Compact Camera Review: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V Battery And Memory Card

Sony Cybershot DSC-HX20V Performance

Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review and product ratings.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V Sample Photos

Sample Photos - Images are well exposed, with good colour reproduction. Background Defocus mode gives the effect of using a large aperture on a DSLR, blurring the background while keep your subject in focus. High sensitivity modes gives well exposed, bright pictures in low light. When using Superior Auto mode, the camera will (if it decides it's necessary) take multiple frames and combine then into a single image to reduce noise. Portraits have pleasant skin tones, but they have plenty of red-eye when using the flash, fortunately this can be fixed easily and quickly in-camera via the retouch menu.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V Lens test images

Lens Performance - Images have plenty of detail whether shooting wide or close up, although there is purple fringing and chromatic aberration evident in contrasting areas. When shooting close-ups, the camera doesn't require you to switch to macro mode, and with a minimum focusing distance of 1cm, it is capable of taking excellent, well detailed pictures.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - The HX20V takes a crisp, noise free image at ISO 100, with a minute amount appearing at ISO 200 and again at ISO 400. Noise at ISO 800 begins to soften images, with sharpness and detail further reduced at ISO 1600. Images are very soft at ISO 3200, but it is not until you switch to ISO 3200 and 6400 where you see lots of detail lost due to noise, with these two highest settings best used for images which are to be resized for use on the web, with colour reproduction remaining fairly good.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance (AWB) copes well under our studio lighting. The incandescent and AWB settings take an almost identical picture under our incandescent lights. There are three different fluorescent presets available, none of which coped as well as the AWB setting, with a magenta cast when using preset 1 and orange casts for presets 2 and 3.

Sony Cybershot DSC-HX20V Digital Compact Camera Review: Panorama Standard | 1/500 sec | f/3.2 | 4.5 mm | ISO 100
Panorama Standard | 1/500 sec | f/3.2 | 4.5 mm | ISO 100

Sony Cybershot DSC-HX20V Digital Compact Camera Review: Panorama Wide | 1/500 sec | f/3.2 | 4.5 mm | ISO 100
Panorama Wide | 1/500 sec | f/3.2 | 4.5 mm | ISO 100

Sony Cybershot DSC-HX20V Digital Compact Camera Review: Panorama High Resolution | 1/400 sec | f/3.2 | 4.5 mm | ISO 100
Panorama High Resolution | 1/400 sec | f/3.2 | 4.5 mm | ISO 100

Panoramas are impressive, with a good amount of detail and no sign of any stitching issues. The High Resolution mode is difficult at times to complete, leaving a small black strip which can be easily cropped.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V Scene modes

The HX20V can be switched to manual mode to give you control over shutter speed and aperture, with an example above using a fast shutter speed to capture the water droplets. You can also use bracketing to take three shots at different exposure. We have done this in testing and have combined the three images in Photoshop to create a HDR image.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V Digital filters

Digital Filters - The HX20V has a range of colour modes and picture effects which can be applied while shooting, with examples of each above.

Video - Below is a video shot at full 1080p HD, optical zoom can be used during recording, an example of which can be found on the ePHOTOzine Youtube page.

Value For Money

The Sony Cybershot DSC-HX20V is currently priced at £379.00. So far, Sony are the only providers of compact cameras with 18 megapixel sensors, which can also be found on the WX100 (£229), HX200V (£429) and HX10V (£329). Other premium compact cameras with a similar amount of zoom to consider include the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 (£369), Panasonic LUMIX DMC-TZ30 (£299.95), Canon PowerShot SX260 HS (£299), Fujifilm FinePix F770 EXR (£279), Olympus SZ-31MR (£264.95), Nikon Coolpix S9300 (£259.99) and Panasonic LUMIX DMC-TZ25 (£249).

You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.

Sony Cybershot DSC-HX20V Verdict

The HX20V is one of a new breed of cameras from Sony boasting its new 18.2 megapixel sensor as well as a whole load of shooting features and 20x optical zoom, making it an ideal travel camera. Image quality is good, the body has a firm, solid build, but the biggest issue with the camera is the price, there are plenty of good travel cameras available for less than £300, at least around £80 cheaper than the HX20V. Putting that aside, if you have the budget, the HX20V doesn't disappoint.

  Sony Cybershot DSC-HX20V Digital Compact Camera Review:
  The Sony HX20V is a feature packed travel zoom compact with good image quality.

Sony Cybershot DSC-HX20V Pros

Feature packed
Image quality is good
Solid body
Excellent battery life
Decent noise performance up to ISO 3200
Good colour reproduction
Panoramas are free of stitching issues

Sony Cybershot DSC-HX20V Cons

Most settings rely on navigating in menus rather than buttons
Occasional purple fringing and chromatic aberration
Red-eye in portrait shots
Fairly expensive


Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V Specifications

Max Aperturef/3.2 - f/5.8
35mm equivalent25mm - 500mm
Optical Zoom20x
Image Sensor
Pixels18.2Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4896
Pixels (H)3672
Sensor TypeExmor CMOS
Sensor Size1/2.3 inch
Sensor Size (width)No Data
Sensor Size (height)No Data
Aspect Ratio
  • 4:3
  • 16:9
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution921,600
Touch ScreenNo
Min Focus1cm
Focusing modes
  • Manual
  • Spot
  • Multi
  • Centre
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/1600sec
Shutter speeds longest4sec
Bulb modeNo Data
Exp modes
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Manual
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Multi Pattern
  • Spot
ISO sensitivity100 - 12800
White balance
  • Auto
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Flash
Exposure Comp+/-2
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting10fps
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080 FullHD
  • 1280x720 HD 720p
  • 640x480 VGA
Video FPS25
Stereo SoundYes
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationYes
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • SDXC
  • Memory Stick (Sony)
File Type
  • JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeLithium N NP-BG1
Battery Life (CIPA rating)320shots
Box Contents
Box ContentsRechargeable Battery Pack (NP-BN), AC Adaptor (AC-UB10/UB10B), Multi USB Cable, Wrist Strap, Paint Pen, Tripod Adaptor, Instruction Manual, AC Power Cord

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Photographs taken using the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V

Flooded GraffitiFollyThe End.KyreniaRed LillyIt's Grim Up NorthBlood Swept Lands and Seas of Red 2Blood Swept Lands and Seas of RedLizzyHappy Bank HolidayPoppiesMarsh BridgeBee in Fuchsia

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