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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX99 - The all-rounder in a compact camera


Windows Master

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The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX99 initially aroused great interest in the test: The 30x zoom in the compact housing paired with a powerful sensor promise a lot of flexibility. At second glance, however, the mixed image quality clearly tarnishes the overall impression. And the compact camera also has to struggle with one or the other deficit in terms of equipment.


Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX99 Review: The all-round carefree compact camera?
What the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX99 has to offer at first glance in the test sounds enormously exciting: With a focal length range of 24 to 720 millimeters converted to a 35mm image, the compact camera covers almost every imaginable recording situation. The upper end of the focal length range can even be expanded to an impressive 1,440 millimeters using the digital, so-called “Clear Image” zoom. The optical 30x zoom lens is still reasonably bright in view of this flexible work area. Starting with an open aperture of f/3.5 in the wide angle up to f/6.4 in the telephoto position, subjects can be comfortably cropped at any time if necessary.

The stabilized optics developed in cooperation with Zeiss are supported by a fast contrast autofocus system, which can primarily impress with its very short reaction times in the wide angle. In the telephoto range, the HX99 takes a little more time to get the sharpness right; In view of the long focal lengths, however, it is quite bearable. Only the time between switching on and the first picture with autofocus support turned out to be very long in our test, at around three and a half seconds. It is positive that the compact camera can come up with the popular eye autofocus: Sharp portrait shots are so easy.

 

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX99 Test: Proven image chip with slight weaknesses
The manufacturer relies on the tried and tested for the image chip of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX99 in the test: The 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor with around 18 megapixels initially has a sufficiently high resolution for many shooting situations. The shortest shutter speed of 1/2,000s also reliably freezes fast movements. With extended ISO values between ISO 80 and ISO 12,800, the compact camera is theoretically well equipped for very different lighting situations.

In practice and in our laboratory measurements, however, the picture is rather mixed: The HX99 struggles with a significant loss of resolution and detail, especially in the corners of the picture. Even at ISO 100, the measured values at the edge of the image are only 50 percent of the theoretical maximum of 2,203 line pairs per image height. In the center we are still measuring a good 1.

An observation that unfortunately increases significantly with higher ISO values and thus less ambient light: Already at ISO 400, the resolution in the corners falls below the mark of 1,000 line pairs, at ISO 1,600 when taking pictures in closed rooms, for example: we only measure still around 700 line pairs, very sobering. For comparison: At this point in time, the resolution in the center of the image is almost twice as high.

An even more drastic picture emerges in the telephoto position of the lens and finally also in the display of fine details, in short: Really sharp and detailed pictures can only be taken with the Sony HX99 in wide angle and with comparatively much light and a maximum of ISO 800. Do that However, the travel zoom cameras from other manufacturers are not really better either.     

The compact sensor also takes a toll on noise behavior. From ISO 400 onwards, interfering pixels can be seen with the naked eye; beyond ISO 800, the noise in the recordings is clearly annoying. Overall, the optical characteristics of the Zeiss optics are positive: the edge shading is kept within pleasant and almost inconspicuous limits both in wide-angle and in telephoto. Distortion, neither pincushion nor barrel-shaped, can be seen with the naked eye at any time and focal length, very good. The only point of criticism here is the chromatic aberrations, which only come to light in the extreme telephoto range, but then very clearly and annoyingly.


Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX99: Compact camera with plenty of equipment
What the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX99 lacks in the test in terms of image quality, it tries to make up for in handling and equipment. And the compact and lightweight even succeeds: with around ten centimeters in width, six centimeters in height and a weight of almost 250 grams, the HX99 is extremely portable and can be easily transported in a jacket pocket. Despite its small dimensions, the compact camera is still easy to hold, and all controls are ergonomically positioned and sufficiently far apart.

The 3-inch touchscreen, which can be swiveled forward by up to 180 degrees, and the electronic viewfinder, which can be folded out if necessary, both have an appropriately high resolution and frame rate to present the subject in front of the camera sharp and fluent at all times. The HX99 connects to the smartphone and other accessories via WLAN, Bluetooth and NFC.

In the Sony-typical, very extensive menus, a multitude of functions are hidden that not only adapt the camera to your own needs, but also allow you to make another leap forward in terms of performance. Only highlights such as swivel panoramas, series shots with 10 images per second and a series length of almost 140 images, 12 different motif programs with scene recognition for 44 different groups of motifs or a zoom assistant are mentioned as examples. All in all, a lot of power that ultimately draws heavily on the power reserve. And with a capacity of 1,240 mAh, it is unfortunately a bit undersized. In the test, the HX99 had to be plugged back into the socket after around 250 pictures.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX99 technical test data specification:

GPS receiver: No
Dimensions: 102 x 58 x 35 mm
Weight: 245 grams
Maximum sensitivity (ISO max): 25,600
Minimum sensitivity (ISO min): 80
Memory card: microSDXC
Battery name: NP-BX1
Recordings: 250 photos
Noise at ISO 400: 2.40 VN (2.5 VN1, 1.5 VN3)
Noise at ISO 800: 3.06 VN (1.5 VN1, 3.2 VN3)
Noise at ISO min: 1.81 VN (1.0 VN1, 2.5 VN3)
Video: maximum battery life: 74 minutes of video
Price replacement battery: 30 euro
Hot shoe: No
Release delay Tele (with autofocus): 0.72 s
Release delay wide angle (with autofocus): 0.22 s
Noise at ISO 1600: 3.63 VN (3.2 VN1, 1.8 VN3)
Viewfinder: digital
Image formats: JPEG, RAW + JPEG
Test date: 02/22/2019
Texture / detail fidelity with ISO 400: 60 percent
Texture / detail fidelity at ISO 800: 58 percent
Texture / detail accuracy at ISO min: 72 percent
Image sensor size: 1 / 2.3 in
Image sensor type: CMOS
Waterproof: -
Spirit level: 2 axes
Camera class: Travel zoom camera
Texture / detail fidelity at ISO 1600: 56 percent
Display: 3.0 in
Expert assessment: attention to detail at ISO 400: satisfactory (3.0)
Expert assessment: attention to detail at ISO 800: poor (4.5)
Expert assessment: attention to detail at ISO min: good (2.3)
Optical zoom: 27.8 times
Product: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX99
Distortion (wide angle / telephoto): 0.1 / 0.0 percent
Video: Codecs: H.264
Switch-on time (up to 1st picture): 3.4 s
Expert assessment: attention to detail at ISO 1600: poor (5.3)
Vignetting (wide angle / telephoto): 0.6 / 0.8 f-stops
White balance: 1 preset, manual white point
Image size: 4,896 x 3,672 pixels
Luminous intensity lens (wide angle): 3.5
Series picture sequence: 137 images
Video: Container Formats: MP4
Aperture preselection: Yes
Time preset: Yes
Max Chromatic Aberration (Wide Angle / Tele): 1.02 / 3.95 pixels
Maximum resolution: 18.0 megapixels
Internal memory: -
Maximum focal length: 118.0 mm
Minimum focal length: 4.3 mm
Miscellaneous: 0
Video: Maximum length: 5 minutes
Video resolution: 3,840 x 2,160 pixels
Manual mode: Yes
Luminous intensity lens (telephoto): 6.4
Maximum shutter speed: 30 s
Minimum shutter speed: 1 / 2,000 s
Panorama program: Yes
Burst speed: 9.9 frames per second
Period between two images: 0.6 s
Display resolution: 921,600 subpixels
Swiveling display: 1 axis
Display: Touchscreen: Yes
Resolution in the corners at ISO 400: 983 line pairs
Resolution in the corners at ISO 800: 876 line pairs
Resolution in the corners at ISO min: 1,120 line pairs
Adjustable display brightness: Yes
Video: max resolution: 2160p / 30; 1080p / 120; 720p / 30
Resolution in the corners at ISO 1600: 682 line pairs
Resolution in the center at ISO 400: 1,580 line pairs
Resolution in the center at ISO 800: 1,481 line pairs
Resolution in the center at ISO min: 1,642 line pairs
Optical image stabilizer: optically
Resolution in the center at ISO 1600: 1,287 line pairs

 

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX99: The camera of compromises
The overall Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX99 package is completed in our test by the good video properties. UHD resolution is available with up to 30 frames per second, FullHD video with up to 120 frames. For fans of slow motion, there is even an extreme 1,000 images per second to choose from, which end up on the inserted micro SD card with interpolated 720p resolution. The proxy function, which also saves low-resolution material in addition to high-resolution video data, is also practical. This makes video editing a lot easier, especially on mid-range computers. The HX99 can only be recommended to a limited extent for vlogging because: The compact camera lacks connections for an external microphone or headphones.

In summary, the Sony HX99 positions itself in the middle of the field among travel zoom cameras. The weaknesses in image quality are offset by the extensive equipment, photographers who value flexibility rather than unconditional resolution and always clear details should risk a second look. Those who can do without a touchscreen and accept a conventional display would prefer to use the otherwise identical Sony HX95. Compared to the HX99, which costs 470 euros, it is around 70 euros cheaper. If, on the other hand, you want a little more picture quality, the more upscale RX100 series from Sony catches the eye; but then also at a higher price.

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