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Old May 26, 2011, 2:14 AM   #1
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Join Date: Mar 2011
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Default HX7v Review

UPDATE 5/30/11: Please check out my video review, sample pictures and videos on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTJeWGNj_0I

I just purchased this camera today from Costco for $275, bundled with a sony case and a class 4 4gb SDHC card. I have been playing with it for the past three or four hours--which really isn't enough time to give a full review, but I would like to give my initial thoughts. By way of background, I am a "junior" shutterbug. I enjoy taking quality pictures. but I am more of a videographer--I have a Canon HG10, with a JVC Everio GZ-HM300 as a backup. My wife and I have been shooting with Panasonic TZ5 that we bought a few years ago and I also shoot with a Nikon D60 and a 1984 model year Minolta X-700 (I learned how to take pictures with this baby).

I wanted a compact camera that took excellent photographs in all conditions and could sub in for a full fledged HD camcorder in a pinch--and one that my wife could use to take pictures of our new baby (soon to be born). This camera seems to do the trick--with some caveats. First, the camera takes excellent photographs. With some tinkering on th EV levels, the pictures were very clear and, in my opinion sharp. There are some complaints by other reviewers, including pros that found the pictures to be on the soft side. I really can't say I share their opinion--at least based on the sample pictures that I have taken so far. They aren't comparable to my Nikon, but compared to the canon and panny compacts I have used over the years, they are way above average. Most of the images I have been shooting this evening have been in low light conditions. The camera takes excellent low light pictures, especially considering this is a compact. When the zoom is fully extended to 10x, there is a bit of noise in dark scenes, but it's only noticeable when you blow up and crop images. I don't think most consumers would even notice. The camera is also quite fast. Using the intelligent focus feature, I was apple to fire off 8 shots in about 2.5 seconds (shooting at 10mp, not the max 16mp)--with 7 of the shots coming out very good and one blurry. I was shooting inside using incandescent lighting, with the flash off. Please note that you do not need to use the flash with this camera unless you're basically in a dark (i mean pitch black) setting. The camera handles low light well and the flash only washes out the image. Dial up the EV setting if necessary, but the camera takes care of business in the dark.

The HDR mode which is incorporated in the superior autofocus mode is also excellent. I have heard different experts recite different mechanics for how this works, but since I heard six shutter clicks, I would assume the camera fires off six pictures in quick succession, then internally process all six images to compile one composite image with the best features of the six original images. The effect is quite stunning and worth the 1-2 seconds it takes to process the images.

As for video quality, this camera is capable of producing very solid video (and above average audio for a compact camera). Now, I did have some issues with the video quality. I am using a Dell Studio running a Core 2 Duo P8600 processor with ATI HD 4600 discrete graphics card, and the 17mb and 24mb per second AVCHD video's wrecked havoc with my computer and were not watchable--way too choppy. I am going to copy the files to a usb and watch them on my WD HDTV system--which should be able to handle them. Since I do like to edit video, I will probably be using the lowest setting AVCHD format (which shoots 1440x1080 video at 60fps) or MP4 at 1920x1080 at 30fps (both of which looked good--the AVCHD was a bit sharper and was compressed to a smaller size). The video in these mid-range formats was very clear, smooth with good color, although tinkering was required to get good color accuracy. Sound quality was good for a compact camera, but not on the level of a mid or high end dedicated HD camcorder. Image quality on the whole is definitely HD looking and kicks the crap out of a bloggie touch or Flip UltraHD. However, in most cases when shooting in indoor, night time incandescent light, if you zoom out to the camera's 10x zoom max, you will see artifacts and noise in the footage. I would suggest not zooming above 6x indoors at night. Please note, I would recommend using a class 6 or higher SDHC card with this camera (even thought Sony says you can use a class 4). I did notice that the video quality was noticeably smoother on faster cards.

As far as build quality goes, it seems pretty decent to me--I'll reserve judgment though. The camera is comfortable to hold and Sony was kind enough to use soft rubber grips on the camera to reduce slippage and make it more comfortable.

Anyway, that's my preliminary thoughts and I will add to and update this review as I play with the camera more in the coming weeks.

Last edited by set2374; May 30, 2011 at 3:46 AM. Reason: Add link to video review and sample video and photos.
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