Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H50 Digital Camera
Wednesday, June 11, 2008; 7:19 PM
Sony's newCyber-shot DSC-H50has some outstanding features. But it also has a few kinks that may or may not hang you up, depending on how picky you are about certain functions.
Any list of the DSC-H50's strengths begins with its Carl Zeiss 15X zoom lens. In 35mm terms, that's a whopping 465mm when the DSC-H50 is zoomed in as tight as it can be, and 15X is an impressive telephoto capability, given the size and weight of the camera (16 ounces). Shooting on the street, the lens opened up a world of subjects that otherwise would have been too distant for me to capture. I used the telephoto constantly, often shooting from the hip using the tilting LCD display (another great feature) to remain incognito. Sony's Super SteadyShot image stabilization kept most of the photos surprisingly sharp, even when I had the lens cranked to 15X on a cloudy day.
The H50's manual capabilities include aperture priority, shutter speed priority, and a fully manual mode, as well as bracketing modes for exposure, color, and white balance. You can even choose the amount of noise reduction applied to your photos in-camera. Two features I found particularly handy were the adjustable flash and the dedicated light-metering button. Notching the flash intensity down made for warmly lit indoor photos sans the blown-out-face problem so typical of on-camera flashes. And the metering button, located directly behind the shutter release, made switching between full-scene, center, and spot metering a cinch.
The DSC-H50 has plenty of other virtues, too: In our lab tests it scored   as well as   or better than its competitors in image quality, especially sharpness. In burst mode, the camera shoots 1.6 fps (frames per second), faster than the cameras we compared it with. The H50's mode dial is user friendly, making the manual functions and 12 scene modes easy to access. With a macro range of 1 cm, the camera takes superb close-ups. And the video (640   by 480 resolution at 30 fps) is excellent for its class. Finally, there's the smile sensor. Whether it's ultimately useful or not, setting the camera on a tripod and having the shutter trigger when everyone smiles is definitely great for laughs.
But the DSC-H50 has some shortcomings. The LCD produces a somewhat jumpy image when panning, which I found irksome. Battery life is less than ideal: Our lab tests yielded 291 shots on a charge; in the field, it was noticeably short. While most of the camera's dials and buttons are logically placed, they can prove somewhat clumsy to use. The shutter button's sensitivity meant I often released the shutter when attempting to focus (though I eventually adjusted to this). Although the DSC-H50 has some advanced focusing capabilities (including child- and adult-priority face detection), I often found the camera wouldn't lock into focus when I wanted, causing me to lose the shot. And I was unhappy with the startup speed.
Overall, I did like the DSC-H50, especially the 15X lens and the tilting LCD. Eliminate the glitches (or ignore them), and you have a fierce little camera   for   a   reasonable price (about $350 at the time of writing).