High zoom travel compacts seem to be one area of the compact camera market that is continuing to do well in an area otherwise marred by smartphone sales.
[Update: The Cyber-shot HX60V has been available now for almost four years now and has been surpassed by other models. However, it's now at a very affordable price point.]
This type of camera offers something that smartphones can't – a high quality optical zoom. This makes them particularly appealing to those going on holiday, or looking for something a little more flexible than is currently offered by their phone.
In that respect, the HX60V is one of the most impressive options currently available on the market – at least on paper.
It has a market-leading 30x optical zoom, packed into a small body. It also boasts full manual control, although you can't shoot in raw format. It's matched in zoom ratio by the Panasonic TZ60, which is probably this camera's biggest competitor. Along with manual modes, there are also semi-automatic and, of course, fully automatic modes.
Alongside that optical zoom lens, there's a 20.4 million-pixel 1/2.3 inch Exmor R CMOS sensor. Sony's Exmor sensors are backlit for best performance in low light shooting scenarios.
What should also boost the camera's performance in a range of shooting conditions is the Bionz X processor. This is the latest-generation processor available from Sony, and is featured on much more expensive or advanced cameras, including the very top-of-the-line Sony Alpha 7R.
With a native sensitivity of ISO 80–3200, it will be interesting to see how well the Bionz X processor copes with low-light, high-sensitivity shooting situations, as it should offer a significant improvement over the HX50. In fact, we were left a little disappointed with the HX50, so I'm hopeful that all-round image quality will see an improvement.
Unlike other manufacturers, such as Canon, who often use older processors even when newer ones are available, Sony hasn't skimped on introducing this processor for its latest compact range, and you'll now find it on others, including the WX350, HX60V and the HX400V.
It's starting to become an industry standard now, but the HX60 features both Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity. This gives you a number of wireless options, including being able to control the camera remotely from a smartphone or tablet, as well as quickly sharing images between devices. Sony has also introduced the ability to expand the camera's functionality with PlayMemories apps, something we've previously seen on the company's range of compact system cameras.
A number of different apps can be downloaded – some are free, some are paid for – from the PlayMemories store. Although the number is fairly small at the moment, this gives good scope for Sony to introduce more in the future for download.
There are two variants of the HX60 available. The HX60V features GPS connectivity, which is useful if you want to geotag (i.e. record location information with) your images. Otherwise, specifications for both cameras are exactly the same.
With its full manual control, the HX60V is likely to appeal to enthusiast photographers who have a good knowledge of cameras, but there's also plenty to appeal to novices or those who like to have a bit more fun with their photography. For starters, there's Sony's Sweep Panorama function, and also a number of digital filters that can be applied to images.
It's getting increasingly difficult to find a camera that doesn't boast Full HD video shooting, so it's no surprise to see this functionality on the HX60.
The camera includes a 921,000 dot Xtra Fine TFT LCD, but Sony doesn't offer a touchscreen. The same can be said for the Panasonic TZ60.
Other interesting features include 10fps shooting capability and a 380-image battery life.
As mentioned, the HX60 goes head to head with the Panasonic TZ60, but it's also worth noting the Canon SX700. It also features a 30x optical zoom, but has only just been announced, so we haven't had a chance to review it yet.