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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H5

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H5 Bridge Camera

    TechHive Rating

    A large LCD, 12X zoom and anti-shake are attractive, though images lacked sharpness and distortion was noticeable.

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H5 squeezes a 12X zoom lens into a body that's light and compact by advanced camera standards. It also brings Sony's line of superzoom digital cameras up-to-date by adding more megapixels, higher ISO settings, and a bigger LCD to the similar-looking DSC-H1 <http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,122336-page,1/article.html>.

Priced at $500 (as of August 25, 2006), the DSC-H5 shoots 7.1-megapixel images at up to ISO 1000. The camera's Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization helps produce sharp pictures at long zooms and in low light. If that's not powerful enough for you, you can buy a $150 VCL-DH1758 telephoto converter to pump up the magnification beyond 20X. Sony also offers the VCL-DH0758 wide-angle converter for $150 and the VCL-M3358 close-up macro lens for $70.

The DSC-H5 has a roomy 3-inch LCD across its back. Despite the LCD's bright, sharp 230,000-pixel resolution, I found it difficult to frame my shots accurately in bright sunlight due to glare. Switching to the electronic viewfinder didn't help much. Though an electronic viewfinder frames images more accurately than does a digital SLR's optical viewfinder, I felt like I was trying to compose pictures on a tiny, flickering TV screen.

The large LCD left the designers little leeway for positioning the controls on the back. As I put the camera through its paces, I kept hitting the menu and display buttons by mistake because they're too close to the thumb rest. To focus, you hold the shutter release down halfway after framing your shot, but I found it too easy to push all the way down prematurely--luckily this is the digital age and I wasn't wasting film. The sensitive zoom controls make it hard to frame a moving subject precisely. Otherwise, the controls and menus are easy to use, and the rubberized handgrip is comfortable to hold.

The large, smoothly operating dial above the handgrip gives you access to seven scene modes, one of which is a high-sensitivity mode for shooting in low light without flash. Advanced photographers will appreciate the shutter-priority, aperture-priority, and full-manual modes, too. For even finer control, you can tweak the contrast, sharpness, and color settings, and switch to manual focus. The camera offers auto-exposure bracketing and a custom white-balance setting as well, but you don't get an exposure lock button.

Compared to its DSC-H1 predecessor, the DSC-H5 produced better image quality, earning an overall rating of Very Good in our image quality tests. The DSC-H5's flash portrait shot showed accurate colors. On the other hand, we noticed a lack of sharpness and various distortion problems, which were borne out in my informal testing. I often saw colored fringes along strongly contrasting edges, especially away from the center of the picture. In bright sunlight, I found it helpful to switch to one of the manual modes, adjust the exposure compensation downward a stop, and set the color adjustment to "natural." My best photos were portraits and architectural shots taken with a long zoom, but I fared less well with moving subjects because of the small viewfinder and the shutter lag.

In our battery tests, the H5 lasted 340 shots on one charge. Though impressive for a camera that relies on two nickel metal hydride AA batteries, the number was below average among currently tested advanced cameras. The separate charger that accompanies the camera can charge AAA batteries, too. Sony doesn't bundle a Memory Stick Duo media card in the box, but you can store up to eight shots at the camera's highest resolution in its 30MB of built-in memory.

Paul Jasper

This story, "Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H5" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • TechHive Rating

    A large LCD, 12X zoom and anti-shake are attractive, though images lacked sharpness and distortion was noticeable.

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