The first brave flowers are appearing in northern New Jersey despite the recent sub-freezing temperatures. We also spotted one Red-bellied Woodpecker, two Blue Jays and a pair of Cardinals (a male and a female)—all within a span of five minutes. No doubt about it, spring is here.

I’ve been using a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V and have mixed feelings about it so far. It has some incredible features, though, including outstanding AVCHD Video, built-in GPS, compass,10 fps burst rate and a 10X zoom that starts at 25mm.

The Intelligent Sweep Panorama mode is not to be believed. Simply swing the camera through a smooth arc and it captures a sequence of images which it immediately stitches into a seamless panorama. It’s very accurate as long as you’re reasonably careful about sweeping level and at a steady pace.

The Handheld Twilight mode produces photos that are virtually noise free, even in dim light, by capturing six images in a rapid burst and amalgamating all of the image data into one. I got some other-worldly skin textures in a couple of shots (which I attribute to subject movement) but other than that it’s a useful function.

In the Backlight Correction HDR, the camera fires two shots and balances the exposure between highlight and shadows to obtain proper exposure. It works great, too.

Face Detection, Anti-blink and Smile Shutter Technology, combined with in-camera retouching tools, make it hard not to get a good picture—even for a rank beginner. It even has a Manual exposure setting (although it has only two apertures).

What bugs me that the HX5V is a good camera, but it could have been a great one. The layout, ergonomically speaking, is all wrong. Sony located the Burst button on the top, right next to the On/Off button, and I’ve confused the two ten dozen times already. And the Movie mode button is about 2mm below the sculpted area where your thumb rests and right above the Playback button. To add to the hurt, the stereo microphone is positioned exactly where my left index finger normally sits on a camera of this size. My first few movies were silent.

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