A tilting screen and large zoom make for a formidable compact camera
Sony’s Cybershot H50, a 9.1-megapixel camera with a 15x ‘superzoom’ lens (equivalent to 31-460mm on a 35mm film camera), offers a step up for those bored with small compact cameras but who want to avoid the learning curve, bulk and price of a digital SLR.
As with Sony's own digital SLR, the A350, the H50 features a tilting rear 3in screen on which shots can be composed or reviewed. The flexibility of the screen is such that it's perfectly possible to shoot very low to the ground or at arm’s length and still be able to frame accurately, though it doesn’t pivot left or right.
Should strong sunlight prove a problem when using the screen, a fixed electronic viewfinder offers a fallback, and the camera's image stabilisation does a grand job of avoiding blurred shots when shooting handheld (without a tripod). We’d have preferred to have a special button for turning on the stabilisation, though, as found on some cameras, rather than having to wade through menus to find it.
Also unusual is a night-shooting mode that uses infrared light to record everything with an eerie green tinge. Build quality is impressive, the controls are given enough space to be operated effectively and the camera is reassuringly weighty at 415g without the supplied battery, which lasts around 300 shots.
With the camera powering up in a couple of seconds, the usual auto and manual features fall readily to hand, including intelligent scene recognition, face detection and Sony’s own Smile Shutter mode, automatically firing when a grinning subject is detected.
There’s a further Easy mode on the shooting dial, which reduces the controls to adjusting the size of pictures and switching the flash on and off. The control pad and scroll wheel at the back are, if anything, a little too responsi ve – it’s easy to overshoot a required setting when scrolling the menus.
This being a Sony camera, there’s the ability to hook it up to a Sony Bravia TV but there’s no high-definition movie shooting mode, just standard quality.
More positively, it has fast, snappily determining focus and exposure, with only a minimal delay between pressing the button and the shot being taken; the picture is then quickly saved to the memory card (not supplied).
The images were a revelation, with plenty of detail and rich colour on offer, although there was a little fringing in between areas of high contrast. Noise was well controlled up to and including the ISO800 level of sensitivity.
It lacks the high-quality Raw shooting mode of the Olympus SP-570UZ, and it might not match an SLR and dedicated lens for sharpness but, at £40 less than the Olympus, the DSC-H50 is a lot of camera for the money.
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Good points Impressive build quality Sharp and colourful images Tilting screen is a boon for creative angle shots A lot of camera for the price Bad Points No HD movie option Noisy results above ISO800 Fiddly control pad and scroll wheel combination Overall With impressively crisp and colourful results, this robust, good value, feature-packed camera trumps its rivals
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