Sony Cyber-shot HX30V Digital Camera Review$369.99
The Sony HX30V did excellently on our color accuracy test, producing a 24-patch ColorChecker chart with an average color error of just 1.87 in the "real" mode. That's a phenomenal result, and it's largely because Sony has tuned the camera to produce images with accurate saturation, instead of favoring the vibrant (often inaccurate) colors that their other cameras tend to produce. More on how we test color.
The HX30V's other color modes did fairly well at color accuracy, though they pushed color saturation considerably. The standard color mode wound up with an average color error of 2.88 due to a saturation percentage of roughly 119% of the ideal. The vivid mode, as you'd expect, pushed saturation even further to 128%, with color error jumping to 3.89.
NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.
The HX30V has simply phenomenal color accuracy when using the real color mode. Where most Sony cameras tend to sacrifice accuracy in order to push saturation to undue levels, the HX30V stays on the mark. While color accuracy isn't the ultimate measure of photographic quality (accurate colors tend to look flatter than oversaturated ones), it's a very important tool when you need it. Accurate colors tend to produce better looking skin tones, and you can always push saturation and contrast later if you like.
The color modes on the HX30V are accessible right in the on-screen menu, which is brought up by pressing the menu key while shooting. From there you can select standard, vivid, real, monochrome, or sepia color modes. We did not test monochrome or sepia for color accuracy for reasons that should be quite obvious.
The Sony HX30V produced excellent white balance results as well, with accurate shots recorded using both the automatic and custom white balance sections. The only area it struggled was in tungsten lighting with the auto white balance, and even then to a lesser degree than even high-end DSLRs.
Automatic White Balance ()
The automatic white balance on the HX30V was able to accurately diagnose the lighting temperature under lab conditions mimicking both daylight and compact white fluorescent lighting. The HX30V's shots produced a color error of less than 75 kelvins in daylight and around 200 kelvins under fluorescent lighting. Both are excellent results as 200 kelvins and under is barely perceptible in the final image.
Tungsten lighting was another story, as the HX30V was off by more than 1700 kelvins when shooting with the automatic white balance. This is normal, as more automatic white balance systems don't have the range to cover the warm light produced by incandescent bulbs like those found in most homes. Still, most cameras are off by more than 2000 kelvins under these conditions, so the HX30V still does well.
Custom White Balance ()
When taking the time to take a custom white balance reading, the HX30V does much better with tungsten lighting. With a custom white balance to work with, the color temperature error fell to 131 kelvins on average. Under fluorescents the error was 161 kelvins on average, while daylight error rose slightly to around 100 kelvins. All three results are excellent and fall within acceptable limits.
The HX30V performed well in the white balance tests. It compares well to most of its competition, with an auto white balance that outdoes even many high-end DSLRs. Almost all cameras struggle under tungsten lighting, which is an Achilles heel that the HX30V shares.
White Balance Options
You can set the HX30V's white balance settings by going into the menu while shooting. From there you can select either the automatic or custom white balance modes discussed. You can also opt for a number of presets, which offer narrower color temperature ranges, better dealing with specific lighting types. The HX30V has options for incandescent (tungsten), flash, three kind of fluorescent lighting, cloudy, and daylight scenes. In this menu you can also capture a white balance setting, or choose to shift the auto white balance in a specific direction.