Last updated on February 10, 2019
With a smartphone in our pocket these days, we are all set to travel around the world and capture all the beautiful memories that we created along the way.
Although smartphone cameras often lack in sensor size, there’s no doubt that they work and it’s easy to use – just snap and go.
The real problem comes when you need to zoom into an object that’s far away from you or when you need to capture a beautiful sunset or night scene. Without a zoom lens, a manual dial or high ISO, it’s impossible for a smartphone camera to obtain an acceptable image.
So what fits in your pocket, has an incredible zoom lens and it can also shoot manual? The Sony HX99 Compact Camera checks all these boxes but with some caveats.
While the HX99 does not feel as premium as its cousins from the RX100 series, which it should not, it does pack a lot for an S$699 compact camera.
It has a 1/2.3 type (7.82mm) Exmor R CMOS sensor and an ~18.2 megapixels ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T* Lens. Its aperture ranges between F3.5 and F6.3. But in manual mode, it goes up to F8.0.
It also has a 180-degree flip screen for selfie shots, Wi-Fi and NFC connection to transfer your files from your camera to your smartphone in seconds.
These are only some of what the HX99 has housed in its compact body.
Flushed underneath it is also an Electronic Viewfinder, a built-in manual pop-up flash and a 24-720mm zoom lens.
Though the settings and the number of things popping out of the camera can seem a little intimidating, it’s very easy to use. Seeing past these functions as a plus to what makes the HX99 unique, it is still a compact camera, and its primary function is to allow you to point and shoot.
In addition, Sony also managed to add in a touch focus function so that users can choose where to focus their shots like how they do it on their smartphone.
Shots in the day were crisps and sharp though I noticed that the noise started to creep into the photo while shooting indoors like in the train station.
Of course, when you get the Sony HX99, you must be yearning to use that 24-720mm lens that’s nicely tugged into its body. No words can describe how the photo looks so here’s a sample photo of how “zoom” it got during our tests:
What I realised while taking the shot is that the optical image stabilisation got a little wonky when you zoomed in at 720mm. So you either use a tripod or make sure that you toughen up those arm muscles to hold your camera steady before attempting.
Luckily, I am blessed with a set of steady hands and here’s a photo taken from Amoy Street, zoomed in onto the Tokio Marine logo. The photo was not only usable, but it also turned out sharp for an overcast day.
Fast-forwarding to night time, photography on the RX99 started to get a little challenging. Noise can be seen in the photos but with a little help with the manual function, your photo will turn out beautiful.
Of course with a 720mm zoom lens, I couldn’t help it but pushed the night photography to another level by shooting the moon. I’m sure I can do better but this is only to demonstrate the versatility and capability of the Sony HX99.
Now to the most important question. Should you get it since you have a smartphone?
You can do a lot of things with a smartphone. But with its current limitations of having a bigger sensor, zoom function and limited manual settings, it’s not able to sit on the same rank as the Sony HX99.
That’s said, the HX99 is not perfect. Noise in the photos remains a persistent issue in low light conditions unless you have a tripod to stabilise your manual shots.
If you are looking to up your travel photography game from your smartphone, the HX99 is a good start. Not forgetting, it’s also beneficial for people who want to start learning manual photography but do not want to break the bank yet for a DSLR.
To learn more about the Sony HX99’s technical specifications, click here.