Sony Cyber-shot HX30V Digital Camera Review$369.99
The HX30V, like most Sony cameras, is beholden to the AVCHD format. In this case, the camera benefits from the latest AVCHD 2.0 spec, offering a maximum resolution of 1080/60p video at a 24Mbps bitrate. There's also options for 1080/60i shooting (28, 17, and 9Mbps bitrates available), as well as 720/30p and 1440x1080/30p at 6Mbps and 12Mbps, respectively. If you are really crunched for space or are purposely recording terrible video for an old television, you can opt for standard definition VGA video at 3Mbps.
When in video you also have the option of recording a still image, with the ability to capture 13- or 3-megapixel 16:9 images while recording a full 1080 AVCHD video, with VGA shooters left with just 10- and 2-megapixel options. Find out how the performed in our video image quality test./r:link_to_content
As you may expect with such truncated manual controls for still photography, the HX30V isn't exactly brimming with video controls either. The camera can record video just fine, but manual controls aren't its strong suit. There's no control for shutter speed or aperture, though you can adjust exposure compensation on the same +/- two-stop scale if you want to make your videos brighter or darker.
The HX30V offers an "intelligent auto" video mode, as well as a selection of many of the same scene modes that are available for still recording. These modes mostly just impact the look and feel of your videos, rather than drastically altering exposure. Some of the modes do unlock useful features like improved low light sensitivity, however, which can be useful when the scene is too dark for the other video modes to work properly.
The HX30V offers the full 20x zoom range in video mode, even while recording. The zoom motor operates just the same, activated by the zoom toggle on the top plate of the camera surrounding the shutter button. The zoom is quite audible when in use, though, so it may show up on your final video. It's a generally smooth zoom, with few hitches that would degrade from video quality.
When capturing video the HX30V will switch automatically to continuous autofocus, even if you've set focus manually to a predetermined point. The camera will adjust focus modes automatically, though, so it can activate macro focus if it detects that you've suddenly placed the camera right up against something that you want to focus on. Focus isn't immediate, but it does draw gradually onto the subject that the camera picks, which has a nice look on video.
As we've already explored, there's only limited control available for video. When in the video mode there's no manual exposure control (except for compensation), and the camera seems to switch to automatic exposure whenever video capture is engaged. Even when shooting in the manual shooting mode, activating a video recording doesn't maintain the same exposure settings, but immediately seems to even out exposure for you.
Most of your other automatic adjustments are available when shooting video, including options for white balance, smile detection, face detection, image stabilization, and GPS logging. These are all found in the base menu, which pops up over the screen when you press the menu key.
The HX30V includes a built-in stereo mic on the top plate of the camera. It is positioned directly above the lens, and seems to pull in a lot of ambient noise when in use. If you're shooting video outdoors you'll want to take advantage of the wind cut feature, which will help keep some of the muffling noise down in your final videos.