Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-H5 is the latest in their advanced range of ultra-zoom cameras and it makes considerable improvements over the earlier DSC-H2. Offering above average image quality with excellent colour balance and a reasonable list of advanced functions, the H5 is only really let down by a bulky design. For those who aren't quite ready to make their way into the world of D-SLRs, but still want the optional power and control of a manual camera with a big 12x zoom, this may be a good choice.
- Big zoom, Nice colour balance, Sharp shots
- Bulky, Unattractive design, Chromatic aberration issues
A solid advanced ultra-zoom from Sony that takes high quality pictures and offers a variety of advanced functions that should please.
Price$ 899.00 (AUD)
The H5 performed admirably in our image testing, absolutely blowing us away in the colour test. Scoring an extremely low 5.42, it is one of the strongest performers we have seen in this area. Most cameras score between 7 and 8, and only one or two have managed to break the 6 barrier, so this shows the H5 is an exceptional model when it comes to colour representation. As highlighted in our block test shots, red was the only colour that suffered any visible oversaturation. The rest of the spectrum was extremely well balanced and looked rich and vibrant.
Its 7.2 megapixel sensor also performed quite well in our sharpness test, achieving a result of 1368. This is slightly above average and indicates the H5's shots are suitable for enlarging to 6x8in or larger. Our test shots corroborated this, showing crisp, well defined edges with good separation between areas of contrast. There was a little colour fringing in some areas, but it wasn't significant enough to be visible unless you really zoom in.
However our tests also revealed slightly higher than normal levels of chromatic aberration. The H5 scored .142% in this test, which is a little above the average. It was visible in some of our outdoor shots, where the smoothness and clarity of our edges was lost in certain segments of the pictures. It wasn't as bad as we have seen on some other models, but does have an impact on the end result.
In our final test for image noise the H5 performed well at its lowest sensitivity. At ISO 80 it scored .51%, which is right about average, and indicates noise really isn't an issue at this level. We saw no signs of it in our test shots. However when increasing the sensitivity it was a different story. At the higher ISO levels of 800 and 1000 our shots became almost unusable. There were thick clots of blue and white noise that were visible even at smaller image sizes. We definitely wouldn't recommend this camera if you need to shoot at higher sensitivities.
Its feature set is solid, but not exceptional. While it does offer proper manual mode, it only has shutter speeds extending from 30 seconds to 1/1000th of a second, which isn't as wide as many other competing models. It offers the usual aperture range of f/2.8 to f/8. We were also a little disappointed with the continuous shot mode, which operates at just 1.3 frames per second; not really fast enough to be truly useful. Sony does however offer a bracketing feature as well, which takes your shots several times at a variety of exposures, allowing you pick the one you think looks best.
There are 7 scene modes which cover the basics, and an anti shake option, which is great for taking full advantage of the large 12X zoom. The lens is one of the key selling points of this sort of camera, offering some of the flexibility a large zoom D-SLR, without all the complexity, but at full lens extension even the tiniest jitter of your hands has a huge impact on your shots, so anti shake technology is a must. It worked quite well on the H5, and our long range shots were noticeably clearer with it running. ISO extends from 80 to 1000 (although as stated 800-1000 is virtually unusable) and there are a number of white balance presets, along with an easy to use custom mode. As expected, Sony has included manual focus, as well as the usual variety of autofocus options including spot, single or multi. The overall feature set should keep most amateurs happy but may fall a little short for true enthusiasts.
Our speed tests offered mixed results. The H5 exhibited a shutter lag of .1 of a second, which is a little slow compared to other recent models, but its 1.4 second shot-to-shot time was considerably speedier. Its 2.2 second start up time was about average.
Like previous Sony ultra-zoom models, our only big issue with this camera is its design. Boxy and quite large, the H5 really isn't a camera for the fashion conscious buyer. Sony has improved upon the construction quite a bit and this unit really feels quite solid, but the jutting right hand grip and bulbous 12x zoom lens make for an extremely chunky camera. There are quite a few buttons littered across the chassis, and while it can be a little difficult to operate at first, everything is well placed and after a few hours of use you should have everything under control.
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