Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H10

Produces images that are softer than my belly

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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H10
  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H10
  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H10
  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H10

Pros

  • Big zoom, no noticeable barrel-roll, useful program modes

Cons

  • Soft images, plenty of chromatic aberration, spongy shutter button

Bottom Line

This camera has a big zoom for its size, and features some useful program modes and manual setting possibilities, but if you want super-crisp photos at a resolution higher than 1600x1200, you'll want to look elsewhere.

Would you buy this?

Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-H10 is almost small enough to fit snugly in your pocket — depending on how tight you wear your pants, it will produce a noticeable bulge. However, the ribbing you might get from your friends for this will be worth it, for within the confines of the DSC-H10's small housing there is a versatile 10x optical zoom lens. This is very useful for travellers who want something that's easy to carry, yet far-reaching when it comes to range.

Don't expect too much out of the camera as far as image quality is concerned. It's very much a point-and-shoot camera with its only stand-out feature being its zoom lens. When you scrutinise the camera's 8.1-megapixel shots at their full size, you see that the images are very soft, suffer from a lot of chromatic aberration and that some of its colour tones are off. Its images look sharp at around 50 per cent of their full size, which is approximately 1600x1200 pixels, so, for example, using photos as background images on monitors with resolutions greater than this will produce muddy looking images.

To its credit, the lens doesn't suffer from noticeable barrel roll. At its widest point, the lens captured lines that were very straight in our tests, so it's a good camera if you want to take simple box shots of products, for example. In saying that, the lens isn't extremely wide. It starts off at about 38mm, and with its 10x optical zoom can reach about 380mm. Accurately zooming in on a subject is difficult as the electronic motor tends to skip over many intermediate zoom levels; even if you tap the zoom control, it will still end up skipping ahead 0.6x per tap, which might impinge on your creativity. Its shutter button is also very spongy. There isn't a distinct two-step feeling when you focus and then take the shot, which means that photos sometimes get snapped prematurely.

While we took most of our shots in auto mode, both indoors and outdoors, the camera does have some useful modes and it also has a serviceable manual setting. You can prolong the shutter time by up to 30sec, or make it as quick as 1/2000th of a second, while the aperture goes as big as f3.5 when the lens is in wide mode. Close-up shots were handled quite well by the lens, with backgrounds taking on a nice rounded blur while the main subject of the photo was in focus, and motion shots (particularly of staff members running away from us while we were shooting them) were also acceptably sharp in the foreground, while exhibiting a well-blurred, streaky background.

So you can use this camera to good effect if you want to be creative, but just beware that its images will look very soft when scrutinised at their full size. Indoor shots were lit up well by the camera's flash, and outdoor shots looked decent even in difficult, cloudy conditions. However, chromatic aberration was a big problem in extreme contrast situations, such as when shooting powerlines in front of a blue sky. The softness of the images could be attributed to the camera's Super SteadyShot technology, which can be disabled from its menu.

Focusing wasn't a problem for the lens in low-light situations, and we hit most of our focus points correctly during our tests. The camera has built-in face recognition, so it can detect faces and focus on them automatically. This worked perfectly for up to three people in our test shots, as three little boxes showed up on the screen, but we're unsure how it will handle 100 guests in a well-lit wedding reception hall, for example.

Those of you with big-screen TVs who just want to view your photos without doing any cropping on a PC will get good value out of the camera's 1080 resolution setting, which can be set from the image size menu. This will capture photos at 1920x1080 pixels and therefore display them perfectly on your full HD TV.

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