I first drafted this article in October of 2019. Since then, I’ve formed some new opinions, so I’ll leave the original text, and add my thoughts from today, some 21 months later.
Let’s start with a little history
My first point and shoot was an HP PhotoSmart R507. I bought it in October of 2005. Since then, I’ve always had a point and shoot in addition to my DSLR. They’re just handy. Of course, back in 2005, camera phones weren’t what they are today, so the point and shoot was the only real camera I carried with me everywhere. After the HP died, I went through a series of Canon PowerShots, then an M and M3 (loved that M3.) Back then, I still worked in an office, had a 40-minute commute, and took 20-30 photos throughout the day. Every night I’d go home, do some light editing, and send the photos up to Flickr. Every. Day. The Flickr community was the reason I packed that little camera everywhere. Everyone was so engaged, and it was awesome seeing the world through other people’s lenses.
Sadly, we all know what happened to Flickr. (I’m looking at you, Yahoo!)
When I switched to the Sony A7, I sold all the Canon gear, (still don’t know why I sold that M3.) The A7 was small enough, and the iPhone camera was getting good enough that I didn’t think I needed a point and shoot.
I’ve been working from home for about 15 years now, (zero commute,) and there really isn’t a good photo sharing community anymore (I know Flickr/SmugMug is trying, but the magic is gone as far as I can tell.) Facebook is fine for sharing with friends and family, but the photos are surrounded by all the other crap that goes along with Facebook. For the most part, my iPhone is the only camera I need to carry around anymore. And without that awesome Flickr community, I’m not really inspired to sit down and go through snapshots to upload them. So they just sit in the camera roll collecting dust. There’s no destination for them anymore.
Anyway–I’ve written about Flickr before, so y’all know how I feel about it already. Felt good to get that rant out of my system again, though.
If you’re still reading, I’ll get back to the HX-99.
When Sony announced the HX99, I figured it would be a perfect replacement for my iPhone camera. It’s tiny, and has an incredible zoom (720mm.) I pre-ordered the camera on Amazon, and I wasn’t disappointed when it arrived in November of 2018.
I shot with the camera for months with no issues, then in March I noticed what looked like a hair on the lens. But there wasn’t one. Not on the outside of the lens, anyway. I tapped the camera a few times, and the “hair” seemed to go away. Then I started noticing a smudge on all my photos. Since it isn’t a removable lens camera, I had no way of cleaning the inside elements of the lens, or the sensor. So I contacted Sony.
Sony had me ship the camera to an authorized repair center in Connecticut. I shipped it on June 5th, they got it on June 11th, and I had it back in my hands on June 14th. It was shipped back via 2-day FedEx, so they basically fixed it overnight. I didn’t even know it was coming until FedEx showed up at my door.
I was impressed with the turnaround time until I started playing with the camera. For some reason, it would no longer focus on distant subjects. The same subjects it would focus on before I sent it back. The work order says they replaced the “lens operation”, so I’m wondering if something glitched there. I went back through my old photos to find something I could compare directly. It’s like it refused to automatically focus to infinity now. And I know it did before I sent it back. I even got the green boxes and audible beep that claims the camera has focused on something. But it wasn’t.
I sent the camera back on June 14th, and though it wasn’t as speedy this time, (I had to call the repair shop after waiting for a couple of weeks,) when they did eventually send it back to me on July 29th, it was working perfectly.
Other than those issues, the camera is perfect for my use case. It doesn’t replace my A7, but it does replace my iPhone camera nicely. I often drive with the iPhone on a dash mount, so removing it to grab a picture is a pain. Now I just keep the HX99 next to me when I travel. And the zoom. The zoom is outstanding (when it was actually focusing on distant objects.)
One tip that my buddy shared with me: I had trouble transferring images over WiFi from the camera to my phone. But if you initiate the transfer on the camera itself while viewing a particular image, and select “Images with this date”, it will flawlessly send over all images taken on the same day. Hasn’t failed yet. If you are planning on sending images to your phone over WiFi, make sure you’re shooting in JPG. RAW images don’t transfer. If you try, you’ll just end up with the tiny embedded JPG from the RAW file.
The flip up screen is great for selfies, and the video quality is decent. The microphone could use some work, but you’re not going to be filming Netflix’s next trendy series with this thing.
The control ring on the lens is perfect for exposure adjustments. I like to set my ISO on auto, and just modify the exposure with the ring. It’s quick and convenient, which is why we carry point and shoot cameras in the first place.
I do use the pop-up viewfinder on occasion, especially when using the full zoom range. It seems a little steadier than using the big screen on the back. It’s also handy in bright sunlight.
18 megapixels is more than enough on a little camera like this, and perfect for uploading to the web, (if Flickr ever makes a comeback.)
Build quality is about what you’d expect for the price. It’s plastic and probably wouldn’t survive a fall.
Since that first write-up, I moved from an A7 to an A7RIII, and got a truck with CarPlay so my iPhone is no longer in a dash mount while I’m driving.
I find myself forgetting to bring the HX99 when I go places, especially since the iPhone 12 Pro camera is so solid. The only thing I need the Sony for is the zoom. I still like the camera, but I’m not using it as much as I used to.
I’m still impressed with the photo quality from such a small camera, and it definitely works in a bind when I don’t have the A7RIII with me. When you’re at the end of the zoom range, images get a little soft, but I’ve found it to be acceptable. It’s great for hikes where I’m not planning a full-on landscape shoot and don’t want to drag around the big camera bag. For the price point, it’s a decent walking around or travel camera.
If you’re looking to buy the Sony DSC-HX99, you might still be able to snag one on Amazon. I’m a little late to the party with this write up, since it seems like Sony might be phasing it out.