Everyone loves a superzoom. Sony has updated its HX line with the beefed-up Cyber-shot HX400V model to inject a dash of speed into proceedings.
The HX400V is, for the most part, a mirror image of the earlier HX300V camera from last year. The key difference: it comes equipped with the new Bionz X processor. Does this matter to you? Well, yes and no. When we were using the camera it was quick to shoot and be available for the next shot, while specific scene modes did - as Sony claimed - have little to no waiting time before the camera was free to shoot again.
But what you'll really want to know about the HX400V is why you should - or, indeed, should not - buy one. It's all about the zoom. The 50x optical zoom lens equates to a 24-1200mm equivalent that can cater for wide-angle scenes or far-away subjects. We love the focal length markings across the top of the zoom barrel and there's even a zoom ring control on the lens for zooming in and our or, if you would prefer, adjusting another setting such as manual focus. There's everything here that we liked about the predecessor's lens.
Just like the mirror of features in the lens, the HX400V also reflects the earlier HX300V in the sensor department. There's a 20.4MP chip to handle image quality, with Sony banking on new processing technology to sharpen, counteract diffraction and area-specific sharpen for the best results. It's a concept that Panasonic uses to great effect already, but as we weren't blown away by the earlier HX300V model's image quality output, the latest model is going to have to do something pretty special to wow us. As we've been testing a pre-production model we're yet to see if the HX400V can truly elevate the quality bar or not.
That's a big open question. Whereas the rest of the HX400V felt well wrapped up to us. The design is solid, the abundance of controls - including a mode dial to cater for manual and auto modes to suit all levels - and variety of features such as GPS, Wi-Fi and NFC all stack up to one decent offering.
And unlike the budget H400 model, the HX400V is a far more formidable bit of kit when it comes to performance. Following the less than successful autofocus attempts from its 63x zoom little brother, we're pleased to report that the HX is leaps and bounds ahead. The image stabilisation works well to steady the longer focal lengths, and we were even snapping shots indoors in not-so-great light with success. Feed it some good light and the HX400V is fast just like the earlier models from the series.
We find the tilt-angle LCD of great use for waist level work too, while that small built-in electronic viewfinder is handy for adding additional support when composing. We'd still like to see a bump in size and resolution of the viewfinder, but then at this price point it's no surprise it has remained as is. We'd rather have it than not and found ourselves using it more than the rear LCD screen to get that extra dash of support from supporting it against the face.
Overall Sony's not exactly pushed out a revolutionary upgrade to the HX-series, but the Cyber-shot HX400V does build on the positives of the earlier models in the series without taking any steps backwards. And if you're not aware of the earlier models and are seeking out a superzoom camera then this will be one of a handful likely to make your shortlist. And for good reason: it's a decent bit of kit with some great innovations such as that lens ring.
The Sony Cyber-shot HX400V will be available from March, priced £420. Not a budget camera, but then as a DSLR alternative with a giant zoom lens it ticks the box and then some.
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