The days of photography being a specialist hobby for enthusiast photographers only are numbered. Now everyone is frenetically taking photographs, as digital makes cameras, printing and viewing images more accessible.
Possibly the next important development in viewing images is HDTV; these large screens are perfect for showing images off. And thanks to Sony’s new Cyber-shot H50, you can now appreciate the higher quality of a 1080p resolution, full HDTV panel on a digital compact camera.
There’s a lot to this 9.1-megapixel superzoom. As well as its 15x zoom range (35mm equivalent of 31-465mm), the H50 offers a three-inch LCD screen, high-quality Carl Zeiss optics, Smile Shutter technology, enhanced Face Detection, Intelligent Scene Recognition and dual anti-blur.
Working through these features, the sizeable screen can can be flipped out from the camera body, which is useful for unusual framing. The Carl Zeiss optics provide improved definition. Intelligent Scene Recognition pretty much does what it says on the tin; it automatically selects settings based on the lighting conditions. And the dual anti-blur helps minimise the result of camera shake when you’re using that long zoom.
For impressive portraits, there are Smile Shutter and Face Detection technologies. Both can recognise facial features in a frame, but there’s a little more to it than that. Face Detection tracks a face as it moves around the frame, ensuring it remains in focus and correctly exposed. Smile Shutter is a bit more sophisticated, as it can identify a smile and capture the shot at the right moment.
The choice of shooting modes is extensive and includes standard scene modes as well as the more traditional program, aperture-priority, shutter-priority and manual.
Protruding on the back is the three-inch screen, which makes the rear of the camera rather unsightly. In fact, it gives the impression that it was an afterthought.
In the camera’s menus are some useful overrides and features including controls for flash output, which is great for fill-in work. There are also colour filters to add digital effects and activation of the D-Range Optimizer that can adjust contrast and exposure in difficult lighting. With the screen flat against the camera back, it can be difficult to operate some of the controls that sit to the side. We found it easier with the screen popped out from the body. Other than that, operation is very easy to pick up, and the various modes are easily selected thanks to a well-thought out layout design.
Unfortunately, at first glance, image quality doesn’t live up to the specification. Colours tended to be oversaturated, with evidence of some flare from the lens. This flare was only really evident when shooting into some difficult lighting, so to be fair, exposure was generally pretty good. Detail was very good, and focus pin sharp across the length of the zoom. We found the Sony Super SteadyShot to be very useful, working extremely well in low lighting.
Despite some minor issues on our test shots, the H50 is still a very impressive camera. It’s not the smallest camera around, but for a 15x optical zoom model, it is actually quite compact.