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Sony shows off engineering magic, squeezes 30x lens and EVF into compact camera

Correction: We originally stated the HX90V has a dust-resistant build quality like the RX100 III. While the HX90V has dust-resistant measures, such as rubber rings and a dust-proof filter, the camera itself is not dust resistant. We have amended the text below.

If the cost of Sony’s Cyber-shot RX100 III is a bit above your budget, you may want to consider the new Cyber-shot HX90V. Sure, it doesn’t have the 1-inch sensor as the RX100 III, but it does have the compact form-factor that Sony, thanks to some ingenious engineering, managed to squeeze not only a 30x Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens into the body, but also a high-resolution, pop-up OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF). Available at the end of June, the HX90V will list for $430 – nearly half the cost of the RX100 III. In addition, there’s a companion model, the Cyber-shot WX500, that offers fewer features, but has an even lower price (more on that at the end).

Of course, we’re comparing two different cameras; the RX is a premium, while the HX is a step-up long-zoom camera (and the WX is a casual long-zoom camera). The HX90V uses a much smaller 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, but it has a much longer zoom lens. But like the RX100 III, Sony is demonstrating its engineering know-how to shoehorn some high-end specs into a body that’s actually slightly smaller and lighter than the RX100 III’s. (The predecessor, the HX60V, also has a 30x lens, but it’s a larger camera.) The 18.2-megapixel sensor is Sony’s Exmor R CMOS, the lens has been upgraded from a Sony G lens to Zeiss glass (with Optical SteadyShot with 5-axis image stabilization), and Sony is using its new Bionz X image processor, which has been responsible for some of the amazing performance in many of its latest cameras, from the Action Cams to the A7-series of mirrorless full-frame cameras.

Sony Cyber-shot HX90V and WX500 highlights

    30x optical zoom Zeiss lens
    18.2-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor
    Bionz X image processor
    Optical SteadyShot with 5-axis stabilization
    OLED electronic viewfinder (HX90V)
    XAVC S video format

Sony claims the HX90V is the world’s smallest compact camera with a 30x optical zoom, and it achieved this by using an adjustable fifth lens group and newly developed aspherical lenses that makes the lens unit smaller and shorter. The EVF is similar to the retractable OLED display from the RX100 III, but it’s half the size (resolution, however, is much lower at 638k dots). Sony says the OLED’s color filter system is also faster than an LCD. Still, Sony managed to add a 3-inch, 921k-dot LCD with a 180-degree, selfie-friendly tilt, and a built-in flash.

Other features include a control ring around the lens; function button; Wi-Fi, NFC, and GPS; support for new PlayMemories Camera Apps (Sync to Smartphone, Smart Remote Control, and My Best Portrait); and support for Sony’s XAVC S video format, a compressed format that lets you record videos (up to 1080 at 60p) with 50Mbps bitrate. Sony says the XAVC S format meets broadcasters’ requirements, but you will need to use an SDXC card. There’s also a new jacket accessory that complements the camera.

The HX90V borrows many of the same mechanical structures of the RX100 III, Sony says. In its tests, it found the HX90V to produce sharper and clearer images than other long-zoom compact cameras (but we’ll wait to find out for ourselves). We are big fans of the RX100 III, and while we acknowledge it isn’t the same camera, we are looking forward to checking out the HX90V’s performance and features.

If you want an even less expensive version to the RX100 III, Sony also announced the new WX500. This model is nearly identical to the HX90V, but what are missing are the OLED EVF, a grip on the front, and GPS. The WX500 will sell for $330, a nice price for a compact 30x camera. We see both models as ideal travel cameras.

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