Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H3

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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H3
  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H3
  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H3
  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H3

Pros

  • 10x zoom, slim build, lots of features, nice colour balance, fast

Cons

  • Noisy shots above ISO 200, pictures a touch soft

Bottom Line

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H3 is a great ultra-zoom camera. Its compact build makes it ideal for travellers and it has a boatload of features along with capturing some fairly good shots.

Would you buy this?

As companies move away from megapixels as the defining feature of their cameras, things such as optical image stabilisation, face detect and larger zooms begin to take centre stage. Sony's latest advanced camera, the Cyber-shot DSC-H3 is a prime example of this. Packing a 10x optical zoom into a relatively compact body it is a great option for those that want a larger lens that still slips into their pocket, although you sacrifice an optical viewfinder to get it.

The H3 carries an 8.1-megapixel sensor and captures some fine photographs. They won't blow you away, but for small- and medium-sized prints they do the job. We tested using our Imatest software as well as a series of subjective shots.

In Imatest's sharpness test, the H3 scored 1519, which is a solid but not outstanding performance for a sensor of this resolution. Our shots looked good although a touch soft at times and should be suitable for most print sizes.

There was some fairly noticeable haloing in high contrast areas towards the edges of the shots which detracted a little from their crispness. Imatest corroborated this, giving a score of 0.164 per cent, which is quite a bit higher than normal.

Image noise was good at low ISO sensitivities, with the H3 achieving a result of 0.53 per cent at ISO 100. However once you hit ISO 400, there is a sharp increase in the quantity of noise, particularly colourful chroma noise, which is obvious on small print sizes.

Meanwhile colours were nicely rendered. Surprisingly they weren't too strongly saturated like you find on most other consumer cameras, which gives a soft, natural feel to the shots. Some users who are used to incredibly vivid reds and blues from previous compact cameras may find the shots a little dull, but we liked the colour balance produced by the H3. Imatest gave it a strong score of 6.91 for colour.

In most of our speed tests the H3 also impressed. It exhibited a lightning quick 0.05-second shutter lag and just 1.2 seconds between shots. Power up time was also quick at just over 1.5 seconds. The burst mode was slightly less impressive, operating at 2.2 frames per second, but that is still adequate for many uses.

One of the big draw cards of this model is its feature set, which contains basically every feature you could ask for. There is dual-image stabilisation, both optical- and sensor-based to help combat handshake when using the impressive 10x zoom lens. A face detect focus mode is also included which is great for shots of family and friends. ISO sensitivities extend from 100 to 3200, you can shoot in automatic, program or manual mode, or use one of the eight scene modes. There are even less popular features such as contrast and sharpness controls and a bracketing mode. Another function worth noting is the 1920x1080 resolution still images, which are designed to display perfectly on a 1080p compatible TV. While we don't see it being too widely used, it is a nice example of the way companies are converging different types of products.

The other nifty thing about this model is the design. Most ultra-zoom cameras are fairly hefty, but by removing the viewfinder and keeping the controls fairly minimal, Sony has managed to keep the H3 down to a manageable size. It is still larger than a standard compact camera, but considering the features and lens we were impressed by how slim it is.

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