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Sony H2 Optics

Ranging from a 36-432mm equivalent (12x), the Sony H2's Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar strikes a good balance between wide and telephoto. We'd prefer a little wider, but designing a very long zoom with a wide angle whose image quality doesn't fall apart is difficult.

Power-on time isn't exactly quick, with the lens thinking for a moment before it decides to peek outside the threaded silver metal ring; but once the lens is deployed, the zoom is buttery smooth. It's still a little slow to start, but you can use less or more pressure on the zoom toggle to move slow or fast. Focus acquisition is very quick.

Most powered zooms don't offer very fine control over what percent they move with each press. The Sony H2 seems to offer finer control, though the camera will somewhat randomly decide whether to move a scant or great amount, even when I press it for the briefest of moments. At least it doesn't default to gigantic movements with each press.

Long zooms can yeild blurry images if you don't use a tripod, so the Sony H2 employs the company's Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization technology to reduce that problem. It also allows for shooting in lower light, which means you can actually use that zoom indoors more often. We generally advise against purchasing a 10-12x zoom without some kind of optical image stabilization. The Sony H2's Super SteadyShot is reasonably effective, helping me get quite a few shots I'd have otherwise missed.

Lens

Zoom
An amazing 12x optical zoom range, with excellent performance.

36mm
432mm
2x Digital Zoom

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H2 zooms over the equivalent of a 36-432mm range, outstanding among consumer digital cameras. Results are quite good at wide angle, though some corner softness and coma distortion is present. Sony's Precision Digital Zoom did an excellent job of holding onto detail, which is often greatly compromised with digital enlargement. Though fine details are a little soft with digital zoom, overall results are well above average.

Macro
A tiny macro area with excellent detail and high resolution. Flash exposure was very uneven up close.

Standard Macro Macro with Flash

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H2's macro setting performs well, capturing a very small minimum area of 1.47 x 1.10 inches (37 x 28 millimeters). Detail and resolution are both very good, though there's a fair amount of softening in the corners from the lens. (Most cameras have some softening in the corners in macro mode.) The flash produced a very uneven exposure here, partially blocked by the lens with a strong overexposure in the top of the frame. (Plan on using external lighting for your closest macro shots with the DSC-H2.)

Distortion
Moderate barrel distortion, though very low pincushion.

Barrel distortion at 36mm is 0.8%
Pincushion at 432mm is less than 0.04%

This is the tendency for the lens to bend straight lines outward (like a barrel--usually at wide angle) or inward (like a pincushion--usually at telephoto). The Cyber-shot DSC-H2's 0.8% barrel distortion at wide angle is average among the cameras we've tested, although I personally feel that this level is too high. At the telephoto end, the H2's nearly 0.04% pincushion is very low. (It's really less than a full pixel of pincushion here.)

Chromatic aberration
High, noticeable effect on images at edges.

Wide: high and bright,
top left @ 200%
Wide: quite bright,
top right @ 200%
Tele: high and bright,
top left @200%
Tele: very bright,
top right @200%

Chromatic aberration is rather high at both wide angle and telephoto, showing about 7-8 pixels of very bright coloration on either side of the target lines. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.) The effect is pretty noticeable in several test shots.

Corner Sharpness
Some softening in the left and right corners of the frame, strongest effect in the upper right corner.

Wide: slightly soft in the
upper right corner
Wide: sharper at center
Tele: quite soft in the
upper right corner
Tele: still slightly soft at center

The Sony DSC-H2 produced slightly soft corners in a few shots. At wide angle, corners were only slightly soft, compared to the center of the frame. At telephoto, corners showed stronger blurring, with the strongest effect in the upper right corner.

Viewfinder

Coverage
Good accuracy with both the EVF and LCD monitor.

36mm eq., EVF 432mm eq., EVF
36mm eq., LCD monitor 432mm eq., LCD monitor

The Sony DSC-H2's electronic optical viewfinder (EVF) and LCD monitor produced identical results here (not surprising since they're essentially the same view), with right about 100% accuracy at both zoom settings. Actually, both were slightly loose at telephoto, showing closer to 101% accuracy. Still, good results overall.