The Sony DSC H1 is a five megapixel digital camera with a 12x optical zoom lens. This is Sony's first digital camera with an extended zoom lens. The DSC H1 has a wide range of features including fully manual exposure and is therefore likely to appeal to those who are serious about photography rather than someone who is looking for a simple point and shoot model. A lens of this length will be especially useful for wildlife and sports photography.
The camera comes with image stabilisation to reduce the effect of camera shake. This problem is more noticeable in cameras with a long lens.
107.8 x 18.4 x 91.2m
The DSC H1 produced a very good set of photos. I would not say that one area really stood out from all the others and it is capable of taking great shots both indoors and out.
Starting off with the outdoor shots I was very happy with the photos I took that made full use of the zoom lens. These images were bright and the details were well developed. There is a touch of purple fringing around the edge of white objects. This was particularly noticeable on the edges of the boats. This is a problem that affects all digital cameras with long zoom lenses. The level of purple fringing displayed in shots taken with the DSC H1 is about average when compared to other models.
Other outdoor shots also came out well. Detail was lost from the photos in the darkest areas of the shot. This is a problem for the majority of digital cameras to overcome, but it is an area where I felt this camera could have done a bit better.
The colour test came out well although as with most Sony models the colours are not as vivid as you would find on some Canon and Olympus models.
I was very happy with both the indoor and outdoor portraits. The indoor shot showed no sign of red eye and is very well lit escpecially when taking into account the level of darkness when the picture was taken.
The camera produced a clear macro shot with strong detail. I cannot give the camera top marks in this area as the purple fringing creeps into this shot as well.
The indoor shot in almost complete darkness is one of the best that I have managed to take. Again the flash lights the scene very well and the camera has no problem at all focusing in what are extremely difficult conditions.
Shutter Lag and Recycling Times
Shutter lag is the time it takes to take each picture. A constant criticism of digital cameras is the delay in between clicking the shutter button, the picture being taken and also the camera being ready to take the next picture. From a pure shutter lag view the DSC H1 took a picture and recorded it in 0.19 seconds. This is an extremely fast time.
In terms of recycling times I was able to take five pictures in the space of 4.83 seconds. That works out at a rate of 0.97 seconds per picture. I am not claiming that this is the most scientific tests, but it should give you an indication of the recycling speed of the camera. Again this is a very fast time. My test is carried out indoors under standard conditions and it is possible that you would see better results outside.
The 12x optical zoom lens has a focal length that is the equivalent to 36-432mm in 35mm format. This is supported by a digital zoom of 24x and a smart zoom of 48x. For close up work the macro mode lets you get in as close as 2cm from the subject. A lens adapter is provided by Sony with the DSC H1. This allows you to add conversion lenses as well.
For composing shots and accessing the menu system there is a 2.5" LCD screen. This is large for this type of digital camera. A number of indicators appear on the screen. These include a histogram, battery warning, memory stick remainder and an under or over exposure warning. There is also an electronic viewfinder.
For lowlight conditions there is a pop up flash unit. It has a maximum range of 6.8m. This falls to 5.2m when the zoom lens is fully extended. This is a powerful flash. The flash modes available are Auto, Forced Flash, Slow Synchro and No Flash. Red eye reduction can be set on in the Setup menu. There is a pre flash and an auto focus illuminator to help the camera focus in dark conditions.
There are a full range of exposure modes. You can choose between automatic, manual, aperture priority and shutter priority. These are supported by preset scene modes for Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Portrait, Landscape, Beach, High Speed Shutter and Candle. In manual mode the shutter speed can be set in a range between 30 - 1/1000 seconds. In automatic mode the range is 1/8 - 1/2000 seconds.
You can select manual focusing, but there are also a wide range of auto focusing options. These include single, monitoring and continuous focusing methods.
Other more advanced features include exposure compensation (+/-2.0 EV, 1/3 EV step), white balance (Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent, Flash, One push), metering (Multi Pattern, Centre weighted, Spot) and ISO (Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400). You can also adjust the sharpness, saturation and contrast. There is a burst mode that can take up to nine shots at 0.8 second intervals. Auto exposure bracketing is also available.
You can capture TV quality movies with a resolution of 640x480. The maximum speed is 30 frames per second and movies are only limited in duration by the capacity of the memory card.
Sony supplies all the necessary cables and software to connect the DSC H1 to a television, computer and PictBridge compatible printer.
Ease of Use
I found the DSC H1 fairly straightforward. It has the standard Sony menu system. This is pretty intuitive and you can soon find the setting that you wish to change. The camera is not overladen with buttons and those that there are control the most used functions such as zoom and flash. There is a dial on the top of the camera that lets you select the mode you wish to use (automatic, a scene mode, manual mode, movie mode etc.). There is also a well positioned dial on the front of the camera to alter shutter speed and aperture.
You can pick up a Sony DSC H1 for around £320. This compares to around £350 for a Canon Powershot S2 IS, £265 for a Konica Minolta Dimage Z5 and £345 for a Panasonic DMC F20. This looks to be a very fair price to me.
The DSC H1 has the look and feel of a traditional 35mm SLR camera. It feels good in the hand and you certainly have plenty to get hold of with a grip on the right hand side. The build quality is impressive for this type of camera too. The lens helps to make this camera quite heavy and it weighs 591g. It has dimensions of 107.8 x 18.4 x 91.2mm
Batteries and Memory Cards
Power is supplied by two AA batteries. Full marks to Sony for supplying two rechargeable batteries and a charger with the DSC H1. All you need to do is tuck a couple of spare alkaline batteries in your camera bag for emergencies.
Images are stored on standard Memory Stick or Memory Stick Pro cards. The camera has 32mb of internal memory, so a card is not supplied with the camera. I was able to take 14 shots before the memory was full. Therefore I would suggest picking up a high capacity Memory Stick to go with the camera. Click here to save money on Memory Stick.
Points I like:
Large LCD screen
Ease of use
Fast shutter response
Where it is not so hot:
Slight purple fringing when the zoom is fully extended
The Sony DSC H1 is a worthy addition to the increasing list of extended zoom cameras. It takes very good photos and will give all of its competitors a run for their money. I like the way the camera is set out and in a relatively short time I was up and running with the camera. I am certain that this camera will prove to be a big success.
Sony DSC H1 Front View
Sony DSC H1 Back View
Sony DSC H1 Top View
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