Sony HX99, Review: A compact traveler for users who want to have “almost everything” and boast of zoom

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Announced at the end of the summer with the Sony HX95, we told you back then that the camera was presented as a discrete, small and lightweight camera with powerful zoom and advanced features, making it ideal for on the go. Sounds good, right? Well, after a detailed test, we’ll tell you what this little brat can say and where he “limps.”

Because if the title has caught your attention, you might wonder why this quote comes from “almost anything”. The answer is simple: you can not have everything in this world. Because it’s small, but with advanced features (like an electronic viewfinder and RAW footage), and also has a low price … Something had to fail, no? Of course you need to read this analysis to know it.

Sony HX99, Review: A compact traveler for users who want to have "almost everything" and boast of zoom

To begin, we will place it within the market, and the Sony catalog. Because seeing it may have reminded you of the cameras of the RX100 series , its known range of advanced compact . Yes, indeed the Sony HX99 would be something like a little sister of these models with similar characteristics but cheaper . Among the similarities that small retractable electronic viewer that makes its older sisters stand out and a compact and very well finished body that we are going to talk about after reviewing its main features in our usual painting:

Technical specifications of the Sony HX99

SensorCMOS Exmor R Type 1 / 2.3 (7.82 mm) 18 Mpixels
objectiveZeiss Vario-Sonnar Lens T *
Focal range24-720 mm (Equivalent in 35 mm format).
Openingƒ3.5-6.4
ViewfinderRetractable electronic type 0.2 Oled of 638,400 points
screenTFT LCD Xtra Fine 3 “, 921,600 points resolution and adjustable up to 180º (approx)
ISO80-3,200 (expandable to 6,400)
Maximum video resolution1,920 x 1,080 / 60i
StorageMicroSD Card
Dimensions102 x 58.1 x 35.5 mm
Weight242 grams (with battery and card)

 

Construction and ergonomics

Sony HX99, Review: A compact traveler for users who want to have "almost everything" and boast of zoom
We expect this model to be quite similar to the Sony RX100. At first glance, it is not easy to distinguish it from a Sony RX100 VI (model we analyzed a few months ago). The truth is that the design is very similar with only a few differences visible to the naked eye: the zoom control surrounding the trigger and the wheel of the shooting modes protrude slightly from the top of the body and include a small rubber grip on the front side.

Sony HX99, Review: A compact traveler for users who want to have "almost everything" and boast of zoom

The design is somewhat less luxurious than that of the RX100 but its size is even smaller and the built-in grip is appreciated

This makes its design somewhat less “exclusive”, although the finish and feel is good (with a predominantly metallic material), and even the incorporation of this small grip improves the grip with respect to the RX100. In addition, it includes the retractable viewer that looked the RX100 III, IV and V and that was operated in two steps (the VI already needs a single step).

Even the HX99 is a little thin (about seven millimeters) and light (60 grams). Not in vain, the Sony HX99 claims to be, according to the firm, ” the most compact and smallest body in the world in its category “. The truth is that it is really quite small, and fits perfectly in a pocket. And, taking into account all that it offers (especially by the viewer and the objective), it is undoubtedly an authentic work of art in the field of miniaturization.

Sony HX99, Review: A compact traveler for users who want to have "almost everything" and boast of zoom

But what’s the difference between this model and the Sony RX100? Well, outwardly, as we have already pointed out, and some other things. For example, a screen that is just spinning up (although it can – like – not taking selfies), the slot for MicroSD cards (instead of SecureDigital), and some more details in the form of connectors … but little else. The other differences we have in the form of benefits.

Benefits

As they are not visible, in order to find the discrepancies, we must go back to the specifications table where we find the other differences with the RX100 . Starting with a viewer that, although it is very similar to that of the RX100 III, has lower resolution, the same as with the rear screen.

Sony HX99, Review: A compact traveler for users who want to have "almost everything" and boast of zoom

The big difference, as you may have imagined, is in its small sensor 1 / 2.3 “that is still the one of any compact” normal “

The biggest difference, however, is undoubtedly something you have already suggested: the sensor. And if the older sisters have a one-inch CMOS, the HX99 is satisfied with a 1 / 2.3 “, ie the size of a compact” normal. “This, as in many other cameras of this type, explains the zoom factor is so big: 30x, not less than an equivalent of 24-720 mm.

This lens (which still has the Zeiss label printed on it) has a relatively high luminous intensity (ƒ3.5-5.6), but above all a stratospheric range that is much larger than that of the already extended Sony RX100 VI ), very noticeable for such a small camera and undoubtedly a good hook for potential buyers.

Sony HX99, Review: A compact traveler for users who want to have "almost everything" and boast of zoom
From left to right, detail of the camera off, with the lens in angular mode and, finally, in the maximum focal length.

As you can imagine, with such a small camera, it is naturally difficult to “hold” a fixed plane when the zoom is at its maximum focal length. Despite the fact that the previously mentioned small handle and the functional ring on the lens contribute to stability (since the camera has a digital stabilizer), it is not difficult to get many erroneous shots, although we will talk about it later.

In terms of approach, it is generally fast and effective (follows the general norm in the brand), although it is obviously not a model for action photography and / or sports (and the burst reaches 10 fps). Paradoxically, Continuous AF mode is not available for taking pictures but only for videos.

Sony HX99, Review: A compact traveler for users who want to have "almost everything" and boast of zoom

The one that can be used with still images is the system that detects the eyes and faces of people who, yes, we thought it worked a bit randomly. That is, sometimes he quickly recognized faces and / or eyes, and sometimes not. Anyway, despite the “simplicity” of this model, has many different modes of focus for the user to find (after studying and practicing, of course), the one that best suits your way of taking pictures.

Of course we have to talk about the retractable visor that offers a result with lights and shadows. Its size is very small and both the resolution and the refreshment leave to be desired, but it is still another feature that offers a model that would not normally have something like that (as the competition does not). It is not for regular use but it is certainly a resource that is appreciated.

Sony HX99, Review: A compact traveler for users who want to have "almost everything" and boast of zoom

Regarding the rest of the features, we do not miss anything and will certainly meet the needs of almost any user with different types of shooting and creative options, WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, selfies mode that automatically activates face recognition and, how not, the already inevitable function of recording video in 4K.

Handling the camera

In this section, the first thing to note is that, despite the small size, it is possible to select diaphragm and shutter speed in manual mode thanks to the ring that surrounds the objective and the wheel of the crosshead. Our opinion is that it will not be a mode that most users of this model use, but it had to be mentioned because it is well resolved .

 

The touch interface is still quite limited and the push button is “tight” on the right rear

This also resolved the “small issue” we experienced when closing the viewer in the Sony RX100 VI, which automatically caused the camera to turn off (and now you can choose). On the touch surface, Sony has preferred to limit its use to anything more than choosing the focal point. A decision that appears useful in the case of taking a picture (as this will prevent things from being accidentally triggered), but not in the case where the user expects to be able to use his fingers like a mobile phone.

Incidentally, help very small and very narrow buttons (all on the right side) to speed up the handling. Also a menu with a large number of sections (as usual in the mark), but undoubtedly both assumptions.

Sony HX99, Review: A compact traveler for users who want to have "almost everything" and boast of zoom

Image quality and noise

Once we have seen what the camera offers with a certain depth, we arrive at the section that is always crucial in every analysis. Which, in this case, is to blame for that “almost everything” that we mentioned at the beginning. Because, as expected, having a “normal” camera sensor the results had to be consistent .

Sony HX99, Review: A compact traveler for users who want to have "almost everything" and boast of zoom
Sony HX99 at 1/160 sec, ƒ6.4, ISO 80 to 118 mm

And if you can shoot in RAW, we have the opportunity to improve the result with a posteriori edition, but as they say, “where there is no can not be removed.” We do not say that the camera takes bad pictures, much less, but of course the level of detail that can be achieved with a small sensor is limited.

Sony HX99, Review: A compact traveler for users who want to have "almost everything" and boast of zoom
Sony HX99 at 1/125 sec, ƒ3.5 and ISO 80 to 4.25 mm
Sony HX99, Review: A compact traveler for users who want to have "almost everything" and boast of zoom
Crop to 100% of the previous image. Sony HX99 at 1/125 sec, ƒ3.5 and ISO 80 to 4.25 mm

Thus, in good light conditions, very acceptable photos are obtained with good color rendition, correct contrast and good resolution of the image thanks to a lens that retains the type. Of course, we thought that this tends to overexposure, and as we’ve already mentioned, it’s easy to be tempted to abuse the zoom, which inevitably leads to fairly unbalanced shots that are out of focus or are directly moved.

Sony HX99, Review: A compact traveler for users who want to have "almost everything" and boast of zoom
Sony HX99 at 1/250 sec, ƒ6.3 and ISO 100 at 57.6 mm

Especially when the light falls. At this time, the HX99 is at its worst, as it is expected that 18 million pixels in tight spaces will inevitably generate too much digital noise when the ISO is raised. If you have fixed, the maximum value remains at a modest 3,200 ISO (expandable to 6,400), but is also advised against its use. Beyond ISO 800, the noise is more than obvious and the processing the camera does to avoid the photo becoming a kind of watercolor.

Sony HX99, Review: A compact traveler for users who want to have "almost everything" and boast of zoom
Comparison of noise at different ISO levels. Sony HX99 to ƒ3.5 and 4.25 mm

Photos

Sony HX99: Our opinion

And, as we said at the beginning, you can not have everything . If in addition to the many features offered by the HX99 in a really pocket size we want a higher image quality for that we already have the RX100, which thanks to its one inch sensor are “another story”.

Thus, this model remains a small sister, reusing components and design lines to offer a camera that looks like an RX100 for a significantly lower price (for a less demanding public). An idea that, far from being censored, seems good to us. More than anything because it is still offering more options to the consumer , and not everyone is willing to spend more than a thousand euros on a compact.

Still, considering Sony’s habit of not recalling old models, maybe a Sony RX100 could be a better choice if you want higher image quality and for an even lower price, or an Sony RX100 III that already included a viewer similar to that of this HX99.

Of course, everything depends on the user. Because who is used to the mobile probably does not need higher image quality, and yet it is very possible if you feel seduced by the powerful zoom of this HX99 (which allows a huge range of scope), clearly the biggest argument for a weight possible buyer prefer this camera to a smartphone.

Where to buy Sony HX99

 

75%
  • Image quality
  • Controls and interface
  • Performance
  • Features
  • Design
  • Design and ergonomics

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