Frankenstein's body with a beautiful mind
- Fantastic zoom and image quality, screen can be tilted, remote control
- Bulky, complicated interface
If you can put up with the difficult user interface and the not-so-sleek body, the DSC-H50 from Sony is an extremely competent and feature-packed camera.
Price$ 599.00 (AUD)
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Sony’s DSC-H50 is a camera with a wealth of useful features, accessories and quirks. The price you pay for this, however, is a somewhat bulky body and a convoluted user interface. For advanced users who aren’t bothered by this complexity the DSC-H50 offers some very solid competition to other advanced compacts like Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-FZ28.
Like other advanced compacts it’s not a particularly pleasing sight to behold. A brushed black lens cover, a mottled black body colour and a rubberised black plastic grip combine to make the DSC-H50 a rather Frankensteinian device. This impression is enhanced by the brushed aluminium lugs on each side of the camera’s body designed to hold a neck-strap.
In terms of specifications the DSC-H50 keeps up with its peers, but doesn’t overtake them in any area. At 9.1 megapixels it’s slightly short of class-leaders like the Lumix DMC-FZ28 and Fujifilm’s FinePix S100FS, although its 15x optical zoom lens is on par with other units.
The camera’s 3in LCD screen has the fantastic novelty of tilting up and out from the camera’s body, allowing for perfect viewing of the screen at almost any angle. Also built-in is an electronic viewfinder; the two viewing modes can be switched with a dedicated button. We found both the screens to be decently sharp and more than acceptable for a consumer-level camera. We would have liked to see an optical viewfinder to help with manual focusing, however.
The camera’s control scheme mimics an SLR, with a mode dial and various menu buttons and scroll wheels. The menu navigation is even more complicated than some professional cameras we’ve used due to the number of options available. This camera sits in the difficult middle-ground between consumer and professional cameras, where users are offered a gamut of manual controls and scene settings in addition to simple point-and-shoot options. The result is a multi-tiered menu system that will certainly confuse newcomers. We found the lack of a dedicated delete button somewhat frustrating as well.
Start-up for the camera is somewhat slow at slightly over three seconds, but once ready the camera is able to acquire focus at wide angles in around 0.4 seconds. This stayed consistent at high zoom levels but naturally the camera suffered in low-light conditions, where it required up to 3 seconds to adequately focus.
The camera’s lens is able to produce some good quality images. Focal length for the unit is 31-465mm, making it not so fantastic for wide-angle party shots but perfectly suited to outdoor scenarios.
We measured shot-to-shot speed at around 2.0 seconds in automatic mode with the flash on; five successive photos took around 12.5 seconds. Shutter lag is a minimal 0.05 seconds consistently. In burst mode, the camera shoots around 1.7 frames per second — not significantly worse or better than competitors.
The camera’s noise performance was good without being spectacular. For shots from ISO 80 to 400 there was no noise evident, but like other non-SLR cameras there’s an increasing loss of detail at ISO 800 up to ISO 3200.
Image quality was quite impressive. At low zoom levels sharpness is spectacular for a consumer-oriented camera, thanks to the large lens size. At high zoom levels there’s a slight drop in sharpness levels at the corners of a photo and small evidence purple fringing. This is only evident when pixel-peeping, however, and won’t annoy the vast majority of users.
Overall the camera’s colour balance was good, with accurate representation of green and blue. Reds were slightly oversaturated but this can be remedied by several colour modes and a custom white balance setting. The DSC-H50 also has fully manual shooting modes and plenty of assisted and film-simulation modes for creative photographers.
If you can handle the complicated menu structure, the DSC-H50 is decently priced for the range of features it offers. Suited to photo hobbyists and enthusiasts, it produces great quality images and is versatile enough for most situations.
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