The Capital Building in Madison Wisconsin lit up at night. Photographed with the Sony DCS – HX20V
I’ve had the Sony DSC-HX20V camera for a few years now and while the image quality was great the camera has been a big disappointment over the last few years. The problems I’ve encountered with this camera and other Sony products over the years has really soured me on the brand, and I don’t think I’ll ever by Sony again.
First off the good stuff, I was really happy with the image quality. The 18.2 megapixel claim is a little misleading, because it isn’t your standard square pixels. When you zoom in close you will see the pixels sort of swirled together to avoid the angular edges of normal pixels. In terms of image quality, I would say it really is more equivalent to 12 megapixels or so, which is still way more than is normally needed. As long as you don’t pixel peak the quality of the sensor and Sony G lens is very, very good for an upper mid-range point and shoot. What impressed me most though was the quality of the video. It was far greater than anything I have experienced with a P&S before. Even the sound and the autofocus exceeded the camcorders I had ten years ago.
Like with most digital cameras the Sony DSC-HX20V comes with a ton of features that I never used, and never will use. A few features I did like are the built in level in the view finder to help keep the camera straight and the built in GPS. The GPS allows you to instantly geotag your photos, so you’ll always know where you took them. Some people are creeped out by the camera keeping track of their location, that’s understandable, just turn it off. Some think it is a useless piece of hardware and software weighing the camera down. I absolutely love it though. I like to “collect” locations and view where I’ve been and what I’ve photographed in Adobe Lightroom, or on Google Earth. For my main job I work as a biologist on lakes and wetlands and having the location data to go along with restoration projects or plant surveys is a huge benefit for me. I’m a little sad that most new cameras like my Nikon D750 don’t come with a GPS, like my Nikon P6000 and Sony A-65v did.
Adult Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) highly cropped
The biggest problem with all camera GPS’s that I have experienced is the time it takes for the camera to obtain satellites and get an accurate location. Another problem is the GPS can really shorten battery life. I plan ahead for that by carrying extra batteries in the field and having a Watson Battery Duo Charger I can use in the car.
Major Camera DSC-HX20V Problems:
Dust on sensor
Steady Shot motor
Delamination of LCD Screen
Command dial easy to accidently move and change settings
The biggest failure of this camera is dust on the sensor. After about a year I got some nasty dust on the sensor of the camera. Although point and shoot digital cameras don’t have removable lenses they are not perfectly sealed. There are necessary gaps in the zoom lens that can allow dust inside. Once inside dust removal requires the camera to be disassembled, something I don’t have the skill to do. I shopped around for a repair shop that could do it and the cheapest repair I found was about $100. That’s a lot of money to repair a camera like this, so I looked for some alternatives to turning this camera into a paperweight. YouTube is a great source of help, and I found that if you but a vacuum hose over the lens it can suck dust off the sensor. However, you risk damaging the camera, and introducing even more dust. I thought I would give it a try despite of the risks and it worked. Over the course of a year I would have to do this several more times as new dust made its way onto the sensor. Now it’s gotten to the point where the dust won’t come off the sensor and a lot of dust is stuck between the lenses. Because of the dust, I can’t use the camera for good photos anymore, but I can still get away with shooting some review videos for YouTube purposes.
Another unfortunate problem with the camera is the delamination of the LCD screen back. The LCD screen has a clear plastic layer that is separating from the rest of the screen bubbles form underneath this layer and it is pealing from the sides. The same thing is happening to my A-65v SLT and I know it happens to other Sony cameras made at about the same time. Boo Sony. You can buy a new layer on eBay for relatively cheap and do the repair yourself, but you shouldn’t have to.
Something strange is happening to the Steadyshot motor that reduces camera shake. Sometimes when it kicks in I can feel my whole hand vibrate, which should never, never happen. I’m guessing the motor is going to go out very soon.
One of the issues I’ve had with this camera since the beginning was the command dial. It is very easy turn the dial, and suddenly you are in panoramic, 3D or some scene selection function, that will cause you to miss or ruin a photograph. I have to be diligent and check the dial every time I use the camera.
If you can’t tell by now I think this camera is a piece of crap. It worked well for about a year, but now it’s nearly worthless. If you are thinking about picking one up on the used market don’t and if you’re thinking about any Sony product, I’d think again. I hope I’m just having some bad luck with Sony, and not too many others are feeling like I do.