Video review of the Sony DSC-HX400V 50X Optical Zoom Camera.
Purchase the Sony DSC-HX400V at Amazon.com
It has become somewhat of a tradition for me to buy new cameras in the Sony DSC-HX zoom bridge camera lineup, each year. When the Sony DSC-HX400V was made available for pre-order in February here in the States last month, I put in my order and have been patiently watching the days and weeks tick by as I waited for it to arrive. I received my shipping notification last Thursday, which meant that I wouldn’t be able to play with the camera over the weekend (sigh). After a busy weekend, Monday brought a pleasant surprise in the form of a package delivery notification. I was excited to get home and get my hands on the newest version of Sony’s super zoom camera, but–to be honest–on paper, it didn’t seem like there would be too many differences compared to the HX300. I had been through the specifications and features list of the HX400 dozens of times before the camera showed up today, but when I got my hands on the camera tonight there were a couple of features that caught my attention, right off the bat. I’m already glad I bought it…
One of the interesting–but somewhat limited–features on the HX100, HX200 and HX300 is the ‘Manual Focus’ mode. This mode allows you to use the ring around the lens to perform focus operations, with questionable success. The biggest issue that I’ve run into with the manual focus mode on the earlier HX model cameras is that it is extremely difficult to determine whether the subject is in focus or not. While reviewing images on the camera’s screen, it may look like everything is sharp; however, loading up the image at home on a large screen can reveal that the subject was not in focus. The HX400 fixes this issue with a few different options.
The first focus improvement feature on the HX400 is with a new selection called ‘DMF’, which stands for Direct Manual Focus. When you select this mode, you’ll see an on-screen display that provides you with various values which let you know how far away the subject is (in meters). As you zoom in or zoom out, the values change and you can more accurately gauge the distance between the camera and your subject. This is so much better than guessing!
In addition to the on-screen values, there is another feature that can be enabled in the camera’s menu system called ‘peaking’. You can enable this feature in still picture mode, or in movie mode; I haven’t played around with this too much in the movie mode, but have already discovered that the ‘DMF’ option still zooms the lens in/out in movie mode; in order to use the peaking feature in movie mode with manual focus, you need to use the ‘MF’ / Manual Focus setting on the camera’s barrel.
Peaking is a common feature on high-end video cameras and one that I’ve really enjoyed on the Sony A7 Full Frame Mirrorless Camera. When you enable this feature, areas that are sharply in focus are highlighted with a color on the display. On the HX400, you can enable peaking in the Menu settings under [Peaking Level] with ‘Off’, ‘Low’, ‘Mid’ and ‘High’ values that correspond to the density of the highlights on the screen. You can specify [Peaking Color] with values of ‘Red’, ‘Yellow’, or ‘White’. This feature alone is worth an upgrade over the previous models of the camera, since I will now have much greater confidence that my still pictures and videos are in-focus while using the manual focus mode.
Another new feature to the HX400 that helps you create sharp images is the ‘MF Assist’ mode. When you use this mode, the screen will magnify the frame so you can identify whether a particular section is in focus. As you increase the magnification, it becomes very obvious when things are out of focus because you’ll see blurred lines around objects or text. Moving the ring to bring your subject into focus is easy and the amount of time that the screen is magnified can be adjusted in the menu settings; after a pause, the screen will exit the “zoomed in” focus mode to let you see the whole frame.
Having a 50X optical zoom lens on a camera capable of shooting 1080P HD video is a lot of fun, but due to the HX camera line’s smaller sensor size (1-2/3″), video quality can suffer greatly in low light situations. Although the HX400 camera has a pop-up flash, its purpose is for still photos (not video). The HX400 is the first camera in this line to include a multi-interface shoe mount. This provides the ability to place an LED light like the Sima LED Light kit.
The menu system on the HX400 has been improved and provides options such as the ability to turn off the auto-review feature on the camera. This is something that drove me crazy on the HX200 and the HX300. After taking a picture, the camera always displayed the picture that you just took. Now you can select options of ‘2 Sec’, ‘5 Sec’, ’10 Sec’, or…’Off’! Thank you, Sony! Now I can take pictures more quickly and conserve battery.
In addition to the improved menu system, there is a dedicated Fn (function) button located just behind the shutter button. This button provides quick and easy access to a grid that allows you to make changes to parameters for Drive Mode, Flash Mode, Flash Comp, Focus Area, Exposure Comp, ISO, Metering Mode, White Balance, DRO/Auto HDR, Creative Style, Picture Effect and PASM Modes, when applicable. This means you’ll spend less time scrolling through screen after screen of options and more time taking great pictures.
The HX400 is the first camera in the HX line to support WiFi. This feature is finding its way into many new cameras and makes it so much easier to transfer files. You can connect to WiFi networks or WiFi enabled devices to transfer files, install applications on the camera (e.g., time lapse) or even control the camera remotely. I haven’t played around too much with this feature yet on the HX400 camera, but will cover it on the video review.
In addition to beautiful 60FPS high definition (1920×1080) AVCHD video, the HX400 supports 24fps 1080p video. You can still shoot at 30fps, if you select MP4 1440×1080; however, MP4 video encoding is limited to a bitrate of 12Mbps.
GPS is finally back on the HX400V. By utilizing internal Global Positioning, location information is embedded into your photographs. I hope this works better than it did on previous models.
I’ll be putting the HX400V through its paces over the next week or so and will be producing a full video review. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out/subscribe to our ‘brainyfaceproject’ channel on YouTube to be notified of new videos.
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