I've previous posted a detailed review of the Sony HX99 as well as a more general (and larger) selection of images taken with the HX99. While the HX99 is not necessarily the first camera that comes to mind if you're getting one for low-light shooting and isn't likely to be the driving reason for choosing this particular camera, I nevertheless thought it worth posting a selection of sample images focusing specifically on the HX99's image quality at high ISOs. The HX99 has a native ISO range from 80 to 3200 and extended option (ie. software enhanced) up to 6400. All of the images here were taken with ISOs of 1600 and above.1
In shooting with the HX99, I can't help but wish that its low-life performance was better. When I'm pulling out a camera on my travels, I want something that's not just going to work well in bright, sunny conditions outside but also one that's going to work well in a smoky and poorly lit morning market, inside a beautifully decorated mosque, or with a street scene at night.
On the one hand, the HX99 has built-in optical image stabilization. That helps. On the other hand, it has a relatively slow maximum lens aperture of ƒ/3.5-6.4 (the lens's party trick--the massive zoom--is, after all, a key selling point and the natural priority). As a potential alternative to something like Sony's own RX100 series or the Ricoh GR II--both of which are admittedly at least double the price--the HX99 doesn't really compete.
Yet it still performs better than other cameras I've used of this type and remotely in this price point. There is certainly image noise, and sharpness suffers. But you also don't get some of the other negative effects to the same extent that you see on some other cameras. The dynamic range and color fidelity do suffer, but they don't drop off a cliff. And, overall, if shared in relatively small sizes such as on social media, the images still look very good.
Here are some practical examples that hopefully will help you make your own judgement.
Most of these were shot in RAW, but a few were shot originally in JPG. For several reasons, I generally shoot in RAW when it's available. In this specific case, I don't really like the in-camera processing that's done to JPGs shot in high ISOs. In trying to improve the effects of the high ISO it gives it a murky, waxy look that, for me at least, looks like a step in the wrong direction. I prefer the RAW versions with their grainier but sharper look. These have been processed in Lightroom, but I've not applied any extra noise corrections beyond the Lightroom defaults (Luminance: 0; Color: 25; Detail: 50; Smoothness: 50).
Sony HX99 High ISO Examples
Each image has the ISO it was taken at in its caption. And you can click on each image to open a full-resolution version.
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- There's also an Auto ISO option where you can set the minimum and maximum ISOs. With Auto ISO, the maximum ISO available is 3200. ↩
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