The Sony DSC-HX5V is the king of the company’s compact point-and-shoot range, a pocket-sized snapper packed to its metal gills with grandstanding features and eyebrow-raising performance.

Sure, it’s fairly pricey for a compact camera (you could buy a DSLR for the same wedge), but Sony would point to the HX5V’s flexibility as reason enough to splash the cash.

Zoom with a view

For starters there’s the 10x optical zoom, delivering a shooting range equivalent to 25-250mm on a traditional camera. Although there are rivals with better reach (the Samsung WB650 with 15x and the Canon SX210 IS with 14x), the Sony lets you shoot both wideangle landscapes and tight close-ups of far-off subjects. That makes it a handy holiday camera.

It can also capture huge panoramic snaps with Sweep Panorama, in which you move the HX5V through an arc as it takes several pictures. It then joins these together in moments and, although there’s the occasional glitch in a stitch, the resulting shot usually ends up pretty damn impressive (note that it’s nowhere near as impressive as Sweep Panorama on the new Sony NEX-3 and NEX-5 cameras, though).

Geotagging joy

There’s much more in the Sony HX5V’s box of tricks. Built-in GPS will geotag your stills and videos with location data. You can take a single burst of 10 shots in a second if you want to capture a speedy subject, and there’s the ability to instantly snap HDR-style photos boasting detail in both dark and light areas of the image.

The rear-illuminated Exmor R sensor delivers above average results in poor lighting conditions, and this talent is supplemented with a pair of useful low-light shooting modes: one for snapping moving subjects without motion blur and one for noise-free results. Both work well, particularly the latter, which all but eliminates pesky noise at the expense of a bit of sharpness.

Review continues after the break…

Sterling performer

But what about ‘normal’ performance? The HX5V does a sterling job with general snappery, whether you’re a seasoned shutterbug fiddling with the settings in manual mode or a greenhorn flipping between the preset scene modes and the clever Intelligent Auto mode, which works out (usually successfully) what you’re trying to do and adjusts settings accordingly.

Photos are sharp and detailed and noise-free at lower ISO settings, and colours are clean and accurate. Some cameras (the Canon S90, for instance) deliver punchier colours in their JPEGs, but there’s really nothing about the Sony HX5V’s photos that strikes you as sub par.

You can also capture HD video at 1080i, which is a notch sharper than the 720p footage offered by most rival cameras.

On the design and build front the camera’s a winner too. The 3in screen is usable in bright sunlight – we wish it was a little crisper, mind you – while the metal shell is hella sturdy.

Stuff says... 

Sony DSC-HX5V review

This incredibly versatile snapper’s wealth of shooting modes make it our new favourite premium compact