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March 2009
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HX1 Cyber-shot with EXMOR CMOS and G Lens

Press release from Sony, March 3rd 2009 – important bits highlighted in bold, uncalled-for comments in italics:

The Cyber-shot HX1 by Sony, teams stunning picture quality, lightning-fast shooting and powerful creative features in a stylish, supremely easy to use camera. The new flagship of the Cyber-shot range showcases a range of sophisticated image sensing, optical and processing technologies that offer unrivalled creative possibilities.

Offering cutting edge performance and a powerful 20x optical zoom range, the compact HX1 fits effortlessly into a weekend bag or small travel case. It’s an ideal companion for anyone who needs top-flight imaging performance and advanced shooting functions without the bulk of packing a digital SLR and all its accompanying lenses.

At the heart of the HX1 is a new Sony-developed ‘Exmor’ CMOS sensor with an effective resolution of 9.1 megapixels. Originally developed for the Sony Alpha digital SLR programme, ‘Exmor’ technology delivers outstanding images with reduced noise, especially when shooting in high ISO settings.

(Editor’s note – sounds of hysterical mirth and weeping from A700 and A900 owners)

In tandem with the powerful BIONZ image processor, the ‘Exmor’ CMOS sensor supports full-resolution shooting at an incredible 10 frames per second (max) using a mechanical shutter. Outpacing many pro-spec digital SLR cameras, this super-fast shooting rate is ideal for capturing high-speed action or spontaneous events like parties, where anything can happen in a moment.

The ‘Exmor’ CMOS sensor supports two new shooting modes that reduce image noise when you’re shooting in low light. If you’re capturing static subjects, new Handheld Twilight mode grabs a high-speed burst of six frames, combining them to create a single optimised image with dramatically reduced noise levels. If your subject is moving, Anti Motion Blur mode also superimposes six frames to produce one crisp, composite image with less subject blur.

Also powered by the ‘Exmor’ CMOS sensor and BIONZ processor, ‘Sweep Panorama’ is a brand-new shooting mode that captures breathtaking landscapes, city scenes and more. Just hold down the shutter button and swing the camera horizontally (or vertically). The Cyber-shot HX1 seamlessly stitches together a high-speed burst of frames to create an extra-wide, high resolution image. Panoramas can be viewed as a scrolling preview on the three-inch LCD screen or new S-Frame digital photo frames or previewed on a PLAYSTATION®3.

(No indication is given whether this means the normal scrolling playback functions of the frames and Playstation, or whether software updates will enable additional dedicated modes)

Making its Cyber-shot debut is a new G Lens that has been designed to complement the extraordinary imaging possibilities of the ‘Exmor’ CMOS sensor and BIONZ processor.

Developed originally for the Sony Alpha Digital SLR family*, the G Lens in the HX1 teams aspherical lens elements and ED (extra-low dispersion) lens for uncompromising optical precision. You’ll experience superb resolution and minimal chromatic aberration at all settings, from 28mm wide-angle right up to 560mm super telephoto. This generous 20x optical zoom range accommodates a huge range of shooting possibilities, from landscapes and fun-filled family moments to action-packed sports events.

(*Editor’s further note: this is pure hype, no such G lens has ever been developed for the Alpha range, so we look forward to the release of the 28-560mm for full format in due course… though the press release missed the important bits, it’s a 5-100mm f/2.8-5.2 design – which makes the sensor, in linear size terms, about 70% of the Konica Minolta A2 megapixel CCD)

The Cyber-shot HX1 is the first compact camera from Sony that’s capable of shooting 1080/30p HD movies. It captures crisp, detail-packed HD video clips plus stereo sound at a smooth 30 frames per second.

HD movies and still photos can be enjoyed with superb quality on your BRAVIA or any HD Ready television*. BRAVIA Sync displays the camera’s playback screen on the TV screen, allowing handy control of slideshow, zoom, image index and other functions with your BRAVIA TV’s remote.

The Cyber-shot HX1 makes it brilliantly easy to get great results without the worry of adjusting camera settings correctly. Intelligent Scene Recognition has been enhanced with the addition of Smile Shutter. This lets you capture beautiful smiles automatically, even in tricky situations like twilight or backlighting.

The camera’s tilt-angle 3.0” LCD gives extra flexibility for framing your shots comfortably in any position. Clear Photo LCD Plus technology delivers superb picture quality and contrast, with a resolution of 230,000 dots that’s capable of resolving fine details.

(Further note – that’s a fairly low-res screen, not the same as the 3″ screen of the A700/900. And it’s good to see my old mate Juan Kerr showing the world how to hold a camera – ‘no, don’t put your big mitts all over it, we want to see the G logo – just prop it up from underneath – use your finger and thumb – that’s great..’)

A new jog dial simplifies ‘click and rotate’ selection and adjustment of camera settings. For extra convenience, there’s also a Digital SLR-style Custom button that can be assigned to Smile Shutter, White Balance adjust or metering mode select functions.

The Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 digital compact camera is available from the beginning of May 2009.

(End of press release – no price given, and no indication of formats or detailed specifications. The critical issue for most serious buyers will be whether a raw format is offered for recording; 9.1 megapixels is sufficient for good quality work especially with an ISO 50 option. Also, since no mention is made of it, we assume this EXMOR sensor does not use back-illuminated technology, but is a scaledown of the same CMOS used in the Alpha 700)

Serious issues

For Alpha owners, the HX1 becomes the first consumer bridge cam – presumably selling for slightly more than an entry level A200 kit if it is intended to compete with Pentax’s latest X70 model – to offer the G lens logo. Remember that former Sony digicams have been equipped with Carl Zeiss T* lenses, and no-one suggests that this degrades the Zeiss glass available for the SLR system. G lenses are also appearing on HDTV video cams, though not at such a low price point yet.

This points to Sony reducing their royalties to Zeiss. It has been rumoured that for a period, Sony were (or are) paying rights or royalties to Konica Minolta for their catalogue of lens designs. It was also assumed that the G designation was part of this. The apperance of the G branding on unconnected glass indicates that the G label was overlooked as intellectual property when KM handed over ‘Alpha’ to Sony. KM still makes glass for other brands – some JVC video cameras are fitted with Konica Minolta lenses, but not G.

So we must wait and see. The promotion of the Sony G lens branding could mean that future designs for the Alpha system tend to be G, not Carl Zeiss.

The HX1 looks, superficially, much like an Alpha DSLR with its Sony label on the prism-shaped eye level finder and flash housing. While it is clearly different from an Alpha 900, the distinction between this and the A300 is less visible. It’s no doubt smaller and lighter, but not that much smaller to the eye. The 5-100mm lens has a respectable aperture and at f/5.2 for the long end, is a stop faster than the 18-250mm SAL DT manages at slightly less tele-power. At the wide end, 5mm and f/2.8 combine for exceptional depth of field wide open.

This is an interesting camera – no successor to the DSC-R1, and no substitute for a DSLR, but incorporating many of the functions on wish-lists for future Alpha models.

– DK


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