The photo quality is the weakest aspect of the DSC-HX1. Superzooms typically don't offer the best quality, especially given their usual price, and the DSC-HX1 fares slightly worse than many of its competitors in this respect, mostly due to what looks like poor image processing rather than any real problem with the lens or sensor.
The DSC-HX1 is capable of producing relatively sharp photos, and the lens displays little distortion or fringing artefacts. The colours look good -- appropriately saturated and relatively accurate -- and it delivers correct, even exposures. But most non-macro shots are slightly soft and have that smeary look associated with aggressive noise suppression at the default noise-reduction setting and even at low ISO sensitivities. As a result, shots that look good on the display disappoint when viewed or printed at full size.
The camera's 1080p movies looks better. Although the DSC-HX1 only shoots at a resolution of 1,440x1,080 pixels -- rather than 1,920x1,080 pixels -- at 30 frames per second, and the video suffers from the same general softness as the stills, the movies it produces (H.264-compressed MPEG-4 files) have solid exposure and focus. Like most models, the camera could really use a wind filter. But the most annoying thing about its video support is the bundled dongle -- one of those add-on connectors that you're bound to lose within weeks of unpacking the camera. You need to use the dongle to make an HDMI connection to a high-definition television.
Given the demands placed on the camera by a large LCD, high-speed burst mode and HD video, the battery seems to last a relatively long time.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 competes directly with the Canon PowerShot SX10 IS, which isn't as fast and lacks the HD video and low-light shooting features of the DSC-HX1, but shoots better daylight photos, and the Casio Exilim Pro EX-FH20, which matches it in the novelty features department but also has photo-quality issues.
While it's always a good rule to work out what you're most likely to be shooting before choosing a digital camera, it's never been more important than with the HX1.
Additional editing by Charles Kloet