The HX5’s overall performance is impressive to say the least. It starts up and is ready to shoot in approximately two seconds, and shuts down again in just under three seconds. In single shot mode at maximum quality it has a shot-to-shot time of approximately 1.5 seconds, which in continuous shooting mode it three different speed settings, the fastest of which can capture ten shots at 10fps. The other settings are 5fps and 2fps. One minor niggle is that the continuous shooting mode is activated by a button on the top panel which I found myself constantly mistaking for the on/off button.
The autofocus system is also exceptionally good. It has the option of centre spot, single zone or nine-point multi-zone focusing, and is amazingly fast in all of them. It does slow down a little at longer focal lengths and n low light, but still focuses reliably and accurately even in pitch darkness thanks to an AF assist lamp with a range of several metres.
The built-in flash is fairly powerful, with a range of 3.8m at 125 ISO, but the recharge time of approximately eight seconds is a bit on the slow side. Frame coverage is excellent though, and the flash is well metered, working equally well at very close range.
Image quality is, for the most part, excellent. The Sony G lens is particularly good, producing no distortion at any focal length, with excellent edge-to-edge sharpness and not a trace of chromatic aberration. I assume that Sony has learned some tricks from its long association with Carl Zeiss, and the results are superb. The level of fine detail recorded is among the best I’ve seen from a 10MP camera, and gives the 12MP TZ10 a fair run for its money.
Colour rendition is also superb, with rich well-saturated colours even in slightly overcast lighting, and exposure is also generally accurate, striking a good balance between shadow and highlight detail. The only slight issue in image quality is noise reduction at higher ISO settings, which is a bit heavy-handed compared to the many excellent examples I’ve seen recently. It’s not at all bad, but there is some blurring of very fine detail at 400 ISO, and the 3200 ISO maximum setting is decidedly blotchy.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5 once again demonstrates that when it comes to technical excellence Sony should never be underestimated. The camera is well made, handles and performs extremely well, and is capable of producing very good results under a wide range of circumstances. It is a technological tour-de-force loaded with more features than anything else on the market.