Sony's CyberShot DSCH1 is obviously going after the same buyers targeted by Panasonic's FZ5. Both feature SLR-like styling, two-piece clip-on lens hoods, image stabilisation, 12X optical zoom lenses and five megapixel sensors. Both also tout a full set of photographic controls in addition to basic point-and-shoot and scene modes to appeal to photographers looking for more control. Finally, both hit roughly the same price-point.
- Sturdy 'camera' feel, fast zoom, good image stablisation, good image quality, large LCD, intuitive button layout, easy to use
- None to speak of
This was Sony's first mega-zoom camera, and its combination of lens, price, big LCD, features and build quality, makes it a strong contender in the big-zoom market.
Price$ 779.95 (AUD)
The moment you pick up the DSCH1 you notice some key differences. The DSCH1 feels like a camera, where the FZ5 feels like a toy (sorry Panasonic, but it's true). Not only is it a weightier unit, but the quality and finish of the plastic outer shell feels far superior. To see if others agreed, I placed both cameras in front of ten co-workers, telling them they were being offered cameras of similar price and features. The score was a resounding 10:0 to the Sony, with words like "serious", "sexy" and "solid" being used to describe it, while "toy", "flimsy" and even "just plain wrong" were used for the Panasonic. Maybe Panasonic has faith in consumers to make judgements based on a product's full merits, but I'd say Sony has the more realistic approach.
Not that construction alone makes a camera. The DSCH1's 12x zoom (36 to 432mm 35mm equivalent), is fairly fast, and has a maximum aperture of 2.8 at wide angle and f3.7 at maximum zoom. Unusually for Sony, the lens is not Carl Zeiss glass but a Sony one.
Sony uses its Super Steady Shot image stabilisation technology to help reduce camera shake, which can occur with such a powerful zoom, and it does a fine job. Image quality was good; in our tests the Sony delivered natural colours with low noise at ISO 64 and 100. At ISO 400, noise was present, but acceptable. Shutter speed maxes out at a modest 1/1000.
The Sony features a large, 2.5" colour LCD that takes up about 60% of the back face of the camera.
The DSCH1 has auto, program auto, shutter and aperture priority, and manual modes, as well as seven scene modes. It has a good range of movie modes, including 30fps 640 x 480 movies when you use a Memory Stick PRO card. No memory card is included with the camera, but you do get 32MB of built-in memory.
The DSCH1 comes with two rechargeable AA-sized nickel-metal hydride batteries, and can be used with standard alkaline AA-sized batteries, giving you flexibility in power options.
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