If you want a really good compact camera … this could be the one for you!
At a time when everyone is carrying around a generally capable camera inside their smartphone, compact cameras have struggled to stay relevant. Barring Sony’s own wonderful RX100 series and Fujifilm’s X100F family, the world of point-and-shoots is usually an unremarkable one. Sony’s only camera announcements at IFA 2018 were intriguing, at least. It revealed two cameras, the Cybershot HX99 and HX95, which cram a technically impressive 30x, 24-720mm f/3.5-6 equivalent zoom lens into a 1.5-inch wide camera frame that feels very similar to the premium RX100 series. Both compacts join the Cybershot camera family, meaning they are cheaper than Sony’s aforementioned premium compact camera series. The HX99 — the one I tested — is priced at €520 (around $610), making it pretty much half the price of the latest RX100 models.
I think it’s important to frame this camera as one that offers imaging skills that point-and-shoot camera shoppers of the past want, but can’t get from the latest smartphones. While RAW shooting and 4K video, for example, are now possible on 2018 phones, 30x zoom is not coming any time soon. The ability to zoom-in and maintain detail, meaning no cropping or digital zoom, ensures travelers and occasional family photographers can get some great shots — especially when shooting conditions are decent.
The 24-720mm zoom lens is nimble for a compact camera, and I was surprised at how quickly the compact was able to lock onto distant faces and features, bringing the details into focus. Image quality is admirable, given the compact camera’s petite imaging sensor, and pushing the HX99 to its superzoom limits. The crucial part is that the superzoom offers shots that are impossible on your iPhone or Galaxy S9, let alone the ability to record (admittedly pretty wobbly) 4K video from a distance.