Sony DSC-H2 Review
Sony H2 Operation
Operating the Sony DSC-H2 in any of its automatic modes is straightforward, with only two additional controls when you enter Aperture, Shutter, or Manual modes. The Mode dial on top of the camera controls the main operating modes, with options for Auto, Program, Aperture, Shutter, Manual, High Sensitivity, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Beach, High-speed shutter, Landscape, Portrait, and Movie modes. A button visible from both the rear and top panel accesses Playback mode. In all image capture modes, the DSC-H2 provides an onscreen LCD menu (activated by the Menu button), with a variety of options for adjusting image quality or adding special effects. An optional Function Guide displays short help information if desired. The four arrows of the arrow pad are used to scroll through menu options, while the button in the center of the pad functions as the OK button to confirm selections. When in shooting mode, the arrows adjust flash, macro, and self-timer, and exposure compensation modes. In Aperture, Shutter, or Manual modes, turning the Jog Dial on the front of the grip allows you to select between shutter, aperture, and EV adjustments, and pressing the dial in makes the selection so you can adjust it with the dial. When in Manual mode, information on the LCD to the right of these values tells you by how many EV units it thinks your exposure is off, up to plus or minus 2EV.
An Image Resolution button calls up the available resolution settings, removing this item from the main menu system, thereby making it much quicker to access when needed. The Zoom control in the top right corner of the back panel adjusts both optical and digital zoom (when the latter is activated through the Setup menu). Overall, I was impressed by Sony's judicious use of space, especially with the large number of external controls provided, the extremely large LCD, and the relatively short learning curve that the H2's user interface entails. Along with Sony's other recent cameras, the H2 has one of the cleanest user interfaces I've seen, and will present few challenges to even the most novice user.
Record Mode Display
In record mode, the LCD monitor displays the subject with a fair amount of information, indicating approximate battery life remaining (graphically), flash mode, focus mode (macro or normal), autofocus mode setting, any currently-selected exposure compensation setting, ISO setting, the current size/quality setting, and number of images that can be stored on the remaining Memory Stick space at the current size/quality. It also warns when Super SteadyShot is off. Half-pressing the Shutter button causes the camera to display the shutter speed and aperture setting it has chosen for the current lighting conditions. Pressing the Display button once adds a small "live" histogram display to the information, pressing it again removes most of the information overlay, and pressing it a third time restores the default display. Pressing the Finder/LCD button right of the EVF switches between the LCD and EVF.
Playback Mode Display
In Playback mode, the default image display shows the most recently captured image, with a modest information overlay present. Pressing the display button once adds the exposure information and a small histogram to the overlay, pressing it again removes the information overlay entirely, and pressing it a third time returns to the default view. Pressing the wide-angle side of the zoom lever takes you to a display showing images on the Memory Stick in groups of nine small thumbnails. (You can navigate a yellow outline cursor over these thumbnails by using the four arrow keys. Pressing the telephoto side of the zoom lever will bring the currently-selected image up full-screen.) Pressing the telephoto side of the zoom lever when viewing an image full-size on the LCD screen will zoom in on the image, in 17 variable-sized increments up to a maximum magnification of 5x.
Sony H2 Modes and Menus
Scene Modes: Marked on the Mode dial with a series of black icons representing each mode's function, these modes are for capturing images in specific situations. Seven "scenes" are available, including High Sensitivity, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Beach, High-speed shutter, Landscape, and Portrait. High Sensitivity mode raises the camera's ISO setting to 1,000, while enabling a noise reduction setting to reduce the effect of image noise. Both Twilight modes capture images in low light, although the Twilight Portrait mode automatically enables the Red-Eye Reduction flash mode, combining it with a slower shutter speed to let ambient lighting brighten the background as well. Because the camera employs a slower shutter speed in both Twilight modes, a tripod is highly recommended to prevent blurring from camera movement. Beach mode optimizes the camera for bright situations and prevents color loss from overexposure. High Speed Shutter mode biases the shutter speed to better capture action. Landscape mode sets the focus at infinity and uses a smaller lens aperture to capture sharp details both near and far away. Portrait mode biases exposure toward wider apertures for sharp subjects isolated against a blurred background.
Manual Mode: This mode provides total control over the exposure, as you're able to select both aperture and shutter speed independently of each other. Apertures range from f/2.8 to f/8 (depending on the zoom position), and the camera is capable of shutter speeds from 30 seconds to 1/2,000.
Aperture Priority Mode: Marked with an "A," this mode gives user control of aperture from f/2.8 to f/8 using the Jog Dial, while the camera selects the shutter speed.
Shutter Priority Mode: Marked with an "S," this mode allows the user to control the shutter speed, from 30 seconds to 1/2,000 second.
Program Mode: This mode is marked on the Mode dial with a black camera icon and a "P." In this mode, the camera selects shutter speed and aperture, while you control all other exposure variables.
Automatic Mode: Indicated on the Mode dial with a green camera icon, this mode puts the camera in control over the exposure and everything except Macro, Image Size and Quality, Zoom, Flash, and the Self-Timer.
Playback Mode: Playback mode is noted on the Mode dial with the traditional Playback symbol (a triangle enclosed within a black rectangle outline). In this mode, you can scroll through captured images, delete them, write-protect them, and set them up for printing on PictBridge-compatible printers. You can also copy, resize, and rotate images.
Movie Mode: A filmstrip icon marks this mode on the Mode dial. In Movie mode, you can record moving images and sound, for as long as the Memory Stick or internal memory has space. Resolution and quality choices are 640 x 480 Fine (30fps), 640 x 480 Normal (17fps), or 160 x 112 (8fps). While recording, a timer appears in the LCD monitor to let you know how many minutes and/or seconds are remaining on the Memory Stick, and how long you've been recording, so you'll have some idea of how much time you have left. Recording in 640 x 480 Fine (30fps) mode is only available with a Memory Stick Duo Pro card.
The H2 offers a Multi Burst mode separate from the movie mode and selected in the menu in Auto, Program, Shutter, Aperture, Manual, and Scene modes, which captures an extremely rapid 16-frame burst of images, at a selectable rate of 7.5, 15, or 30 frames per second. Multi Burst shots are played back as a slow-motion animation on the camera, but appear as a single large file with 16 sub-images in it when viewed on a computer. (This would be a fun way to catch someone crossing a finish line during a race, or to analyze golf and tennis swings.) A Burst mode is also available, and captures a rapid series of images for as long as the Shutter button is held down. Frame rates and the maximum number of images depends on the image quality and resolution settings, as well as the amount of available memory space.
Record Menu: Available in all Record modes but Auto by pressing the Menu button, the Record menu offers the following options (some options are not available in all modes):
- Color Mode: Adjusts the saturation and brightness of color, with a couple of special effects options. Choices include Normal (default), Vivid, Natural, Sepia, and Black & White.
- Metering Mode: Chooses between Multi-Metering, Center-Weighted, and Spot modes. Spot metering reads the exposure from the very center of the frame (identified by a cross hair target on the monitor). Spot metering is handy for backlit subjects, or any time the subject and background have very different brightness levels. Center-Weighted also reads from the center of the frame, but from a larger area than Spot. Multi-Metering mode reads the entire frame to determine exposure.
- White Balance: Adjusts the overall color balance of the image, to suit the light source. Options are Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent, Flash, One-Push, and Set One-Push. The last item takes a reading from whatever the camera is viewing when selected and saves it as the setting for "One-Push." (Use it with a white or neutral gray object to set the white balance for your current light source.)
- ISO: (Not available in Scene modes.) Adjusts the camera's light sensitivity. Options are Auto, or 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1,000 ISO equivalents.
- P.Quality: Sets image compression/picture quality to either Standard or Fine.
- Bracket Step (BRK): Sets exposure step size when Bracketing mode is in use. Options are +/- 0.3, 0.7, or 1.0 EV. Bracketing is handy as a way to quickly get three different exposures, for times when you're not sure what the best exposure might be.
- Interval: When Multi Burst mode is selected, sets the interval between shots, with choices of 1/30, 1/15, and 1/7.5 second.
- Flash level: Sets flash power to Normal, or adjusts the intensity to +/- 2 EV.
- Contrast: Alters the level of contrast in images with plus, normal, and minus settings.
- Sharpness: Controls the overall image sharpness or softness with plus, normal, and minus settings.
- Setup: Takes you to the Setup Menu.
- Folder: Selects the folder for recording and playing back images.
- Protect: Write-protects the current image (or removes protection), preventing it from being deleted or manipulated in any way except with card formatting.
- DPOF: Marks the current image for printing on a DPOF-compatible printer. Also removes the print mark.
- Print: Prints images if the camera is connected to a PictBridge-compatible printer. Options are All images in the folder, DPOF-marked images, a selected image, or the current image.
- Slide: Plays back images in an automatic slide show. You can set the time interval, whether or not the sequence of images repeats, and choose between different folders on the Memory Stick or in the internal memory, if multiple folders exist.
- Resize: Resizes the image to 6M (2,816 x 2,112); 3M (2,048 x 1,536); 2M (1,632 x 1,224); or VGA (640 x 480 pixels). (When an image is resized, the original image is left in place, and a new copy is made at the selected size.)
- Rotate: Rotates the image 90 degrees clockwise or counterclockwise.
- Divide: Allows you to trim material from the beginning or end of a recorded movie, or to extract an interesting bit of action from the middle of a longer clip.
- Setup: Takes you to the setup menu.
- Trimming (only available during playback zoom): This option lets you crop an image and save the cropped section as a separate file.
Setup Mode: This mode allows you to change a variety of camera settings, and is accessible through each of the camera menus.
- Camera 1:
- AF Mode: Sets the focus mode to Single, Monitor, or Continuous. Monitor continuously adjusts the focus until you half-press the shutter button. Continuous does the same, but continues to adjust focus after the shutter button has been half-pressed and held.
- Digital Zoom: Switches between the Smart Zoom and Precision Zoom, or turns digital enlargement off. Smart Zoom restricts the digital zoom range to that which can be achieved without interpolating the image data. No Smart Zoom is available at the full six-megapixel resolution, progressively more is available as you reduce the image size. Precision Zoom interpolates the image as needed to fill the currently selected pixel dimensions with the subject.
- Function Guide: Enables or disables an onscreen function guide that appears on the LCD display, offering short help text for the operation at hand.
- Red Eye Reduction: Enables or disables the Red Eye Reduction flash mode, affecting both Auto and Forced flash modes.
- AF Illuminator: Sets the AF Assist light Auto or off. If set to Auto, the light automatically illuminates in dark shooting conditions to help the camera focus.
- Auto Review: Immediately plays captured image onscreen for two seconds.
- Camera 2:
- Expanded Focus: Zooms the view on the LCD screen by 2x when focusing in Manual Focus mode.
- Flash Sync: Sets the flash sync to the front or rear curtain. Front curtain sync fires the flash at the beginning of the exposure, while rear curtain sync fires at the end.201
- Steady Shot: Selects between Shooting and Continuous SteadyShot modes. Shooting mode activates SteadyShot only when shutter is pressed. Continuous mode leaves the SteadyShot active at all times, which results in increased battery consumption, but may make it easier to see what's going on in the viewfinder at long telephoto settings.
- Conversion Lens: Must be set according to the accessory lens that is attached to the camera, to permit the camera to focus properly with the conversion lenses in place. Choices are Close-up, Tele, Wide, or Off.
- Internal Memory Tool (no screenshot, appears only when no Memory Stick is present):
- Format: Formats the internal memory, erasing all files (even protected ones).
- Memory Stick Tool:
- Format: Formats the Memory Stick, erasing all files (even protected ones).
- Create REC Folder: Creates a new folder for recording images.
- Change REC Folder: Changes the folder that images are recorded to.
- Copy: Copies images from the internal memory to a Memory Stick.
- Setup 1:
- EVF Backlight: Adjusts the electronic viewfinder's brightness setting, offering Bright and Normal.
- Beep: Controls the camera's beep sounds, turning them on or off. A Shutter option enables only the shutter noise.
- Language: Selects the language for the LCD menu display.
- Initialize: Resets the camera to its default settings.
- Setup 2:
- File Number: Chooses between Series (continuing the shot number indefinitely, between cards or between memory format operations) or Reset, which resets the frame number by folder or whenever the Memory Stick or internal memory is reformatted.
- USB Connect: Sets the USB connection type to PictBridge, PTP, Mass Storage, or Auto.
- Video Out: Sets the timing of the video output signal to either NTSC or PAL.
- Clock Set: Sets the camera's internal clock and calendar.
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.