As most people I dream of having a setup as light as possible while still allowing me to take great photos. I guess the definition of great is relative but the general principle shouldnít be. So I used my recent trip to Miami, an area that I knew well and already photographed with more serious tools, to try a very compact set: Sony RX-100, Sony HX30V and Sirui T-025X carbon fiber tripod.
While Iím not a Sony fanboy, on the contrary, Iíve been impressed with the RX100. The idea was to use the RX100 for my ďqualityĒ shots and for darker times and use the compact for when I need to extra reach and for unpretentious shots. I didnít follow this to the letter but overall I wasnít that far.
Everybody talks about the RX100 so Iíll quickly go over HX30V as a travel camera.
What I knew before I chose it. Looking through the reviews the main competition was the Canon SX260. The picture quality seemed better on the Canon with more details despite fewer pixels however the movies were not that good (and I wanted a versatile compact) and more important the focus seemed not to be that great particularly when the light gets lower. I already saw the huge difference between RX100 and the Canon S100 in regards to focus speed and shutter lag so that was worth the extra money (a good amount) and the fact that I already had extra batteries from my defunct S90 which worked with the SX260.
The good things:
So the HX30V is a really fast camera, very similar to RX100. Much faster than my Canon S100. Itís probably one of the few compact cameras that can be used for kids. The long zoom is intoxicating. Colors are nice. Movies are good. Stabilization works well. Has some fun and versatile picture modes: HDR, panorama and they work fairly well.
The so-so: not much manual control. You can get away partially by playing with the scenes and the modes. Itís not that bad considering itís a P&S after all.
The bad: picture quality at pixel level. Itís bad bad. Even at low iso. Forget about fine details, you will not have them. Now if you donít print large (more than 8x10 or so) or want to crop (you should use the zoom for that anyway) probably itís not that a big issue. The noise control is way too aggressive and if you want to like your photos donít enlarge them at 100%. I found myself adding grain in LR and while it might look less sharp it takes care of some of the artifacts and makes it look a little like film. The camera also blows some highlights very easily. And I couldnít get the damn wireless transfer to the phone to work (with Android, didnít try with Apple).
Could I use it as my only camera? Maybe only if I can stop pixel peeping, but realistically no. However, if all you want is snapshots with people (including kids) and places it should work very well. It has 25-500 mm equivalent focal length after all.
How does it compare with the RX100? Even if the RX100 is not the sharpest at the maximum zoom, the pixel level quality is much better so probably you can get as good or better results up to 300 mm or so on the HX30V. Beyond that though the quality that you will get with the HX30V, particularly at lower iso, will be better.
Sirui: not much to say, very light, very nice head, didnít use in a very demanding mode. I did post a pano with Miami in User critique and it looks quite good at pixel level although it was windy. I extended only a segment though.
Few shots that I took with the HX30V that I couldnít have taken with the RX100.