Sony Cyber-shot HX30V Digital Camera Review$369.99
The HX30V includes a physical mode dial that covers a variety of options. Most of the dial positions are reserved for the camera's many auto and creative modes, but manual control and program auto are both represented. There's also two full auto modes, intelligent auto and superior auto, which will both adjust exposure automatically. Superior auto automatically employs heavier sharpening and noise reduction in an attempt to produce better photos, but the effect is often over processed.
The other modes include "background defocus" designed to offer a shallow depth of field, 3D shooting, a full complement of scene modes, video, iSweep panorama, and the customizable "memory recall" mode. Memory recall mode is quite interesting, as it can save and recall the complete state of the camera, including options deep in the menu. It's very easy to use, letting you tune the camera precisely to your liking and save those settings for later use.
If you're keen to take full control over your shot with the HX30V you can manually adjust ISO, shutter speed, and aperture when in the manual shooting mode. Unfortunately, both shutter speed and aperture are fairly limited ranges. For shutter speed the camera offers a maximum of 1/1600th of a second, but only a minimum of 1/4th of a second in manual mode. There's even less control of aperture, as you have just two options at any given zoom setting: the maximum aperture and an aperture 2.67 stops below that.
You can get different aperture numbers by zooming in and out, but the lack of control or intermediate adjustment leads us to believe that it's either just an ND filter being employed, or Sony decided to unduly cripple aperture control. Either way, with such a limited selection of options, the manual control mode seems to be more for show than anything else.
The Sony HX30V offers a number of focus modes, including a basic manual focus mode. The camera's autofocus mode comes in several flavors, with options for multiple point, center-weighted, flexible spot, tracking, and face tracking autofocus. When using flexible spot, you can choose your spot to focus on, with the camera allowing you to move about a 13x9 grid of points.
If you want to fix focus on a certain point you can use manual focus or semi-manual focus. Both types offer a bar at the bottom of the screen that you can scroll along, with the focus adjusting accordingly from near to far. The only difference is semi-manual focus will still engage the autofocus, but it will attempt to do so at the pre-determined point.
The HX30V also allows for a macro focus, which kicks in automatically in the intelligent auto modes whenever the camera is placed very close to the subject. In macro mode the camera can focus as close as 1cm from the lens when zoomed all the way out, or 170cm (about 5.5 inches) when zoomed all the way in.
With so many different shooting modes and types, the HX30V produces quite a few different types of images. For still shooting the camera produces a JPEG image, with no options for different types of compression. The maximum resolution is 18.2 megapixels in a 4:3 ratio, with reduced resolution options of 10 and 5 megapixels, as well as VGA. If you want to take shots to show on a television you can shoot in a cropped 16:9 resolution, with resolution options for 13 or 2 megapixels.
The HX30V's panoramic mode iSweep Panorama produces a maximum image of 10480x4096, or around 42 megapixels in a very wide format. That camera can also produce a "Wide" panorama at either 7152x1080 (horizontal) or 4912x1920 (vertical), or a "Standard" one at 4912x1080 (horizontal) or 3424x1920 (vertical). As you can probably guess, all those sizes are designed to be viewed on an HD television, save for the maximum 42-megapixel version.