Following the ideology that 'bigger is better' Sony has introduced their latest mega-zoom camera, the DSC-H2. Sporting a gigantic 12x optical zoom lens housed within an equally large chassis, the H2 definitely isn't suitable for carrying in your pocket. It boasts a solid array of manual features, but the six megapixel sensor is not up to scratch, producing below average images and making this a difficult camera to recommend.
- Big zoom, Nice colour balance
- Poor image quality overall, Ugly
If you desperately need an advanced model with a 12X optical zoom then maybe the H2 is for you, but the poor sharpness level and strange design mean there are probably better choices elsewhere.
Price$ 699.00 (AUD)
The biggest let down with regards to image quality was the H2's sharpness. It scored 1141 in our sharpness test, which is quite poor considering no other model at this level has achieved results lower than 1200. Looking at our test shots it is clear this has a big impact. Compare them to shots taken by something like the Canon PowerShot A700 and it quickly becomes apparent which is superior. They lack definition and clarity with blurry edges that really take away from the quality of the image. While sharpness is only one element of a picture, it is the most critical and although the H2 performed well in other tests, it was really let down in this area.
This problem was exacerbated by above average levels of chromatic aberration. With a rating of .129% in our testing it was above the .1% level which we consider to be acceptable and this furthered the lack of definition in our test shots. At very small print levels these problems may not be visible, but if you magnify your shots they will have a noticeable impact.
These problems are unfortunate as the H2 performed admirably in our remaining tests. Scoring 7.98 in our colour test it was one of the better performers in this regard, with 10 being about average. At this level your eye shouldn't be able to spot the difference between the real shade and what the camera produces unless they're placed right next to each other. The small amount of error was spread fairly evenly across the colour spectrum with no obvious weaknesses. Our tests shots came out with rich, deep hues that will more than satisfy most photographers.
Our image noise tests were equally as good, awarding the H2 a score of .57% at low ISO levels. It didn't quite fall under the .5% mark we deem to be excellent performance, but it came pretty close. We found no noticeable traces of image noise in our shots at these ISO levels.
Taking it up to the higher sensitivities however noise became a significant problem. At its highest ISO setting of 1000 the H2 scored 2.26% in Imatest. Some cameras score as low as 1.7% at even higher ISOs, so its performance in this regard was a little disappointing. At these settings our shots were fuzzy and even blurrier than before; we would not recommend this camera if you shoot at high ISOs a lot.
With many manufacturers focusing on attractive design for their latest models, we are baffled that Sony didn't put in more effort in this regard. This is one of the least attractive models we've seen in recent months. We understand that having a 12x zoom lens requires a large body, but it definitely doesn't justify the obtuse shape and jutting viewfinder of the H2. If aesthetics are any sort of a concern then this camera may not be for you.
The H2 has a mostly plastic casing, rather than the all metal affairs adopted by many of its competitors. While it is not particularly flimsy, it won't take the same level of punishment as more robust models.
The controls are laid out in a standard fashion, with most functions accessed from the wheel on top. One nifty design element is the way Sony hasimplemented aperture and shutter control. Normally there are two wheels in awkward spots, one for aperture and one for shutter speed; but the H2 has just a single wheel. You can scroll between the two settings and press down on the wheel to select one. It is quite intuitive once you get used to it and allows you to keep your hand in the same position no matter how you're shooting.
Performance and Functionality
The H2 is an advanced model, meaning it has a full range of manual modes including manual focus. Shutter speed extends from 30 - 1/1000th of a second and aperture is a very standard f/2.8 - f/8.0. There are seven scene modes, ISO levels up to 1000 and manual white balance. The burst mode is decent but not exceptional, operating at just over two shots a second, but there is a bracketing feature which is a nice addition. Sony has also included an anti-shake function, which is great for those of us with less than steady hands. Overall the features were fairly good, but not outstanding.
The H2 did however perform more strongly in our speed tests. The 2.3 second power-up was not particularly impressive, but the .1 second shutter lag was fairly speedy and complementing it was a shot to shot time of 1.5 seconds.
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