Sony DSC-H5 Review

 
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Sony DSC-H5 Optics

Ranging from a 36-432mm equivalent (12x), the Sony H5's Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar provides just enough wide angle to capture most of a room while reaching easily across a baseball field from the stands.

Power-on time is not fast but the zoom is responsive and controllable as it steps through its focal lengths. The zoom toggle responds to pressure, moving faster the harder you press. Focus is very quick.

It can be impossible to compose an image at long focal lengths and the resulting shots can be blurry without the help of either a tripod or image stabilization. Sony gave the H5 the company's Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization technology for rock steady images (taken even in high wind). It also allows for shooting in lower light, which means you can hand hold shutter speeds as low as 1/4 second. Long zooms without any image stabilization are less expensive but there should be a law against them.

Lens

Zoom
A generous 12x optical zoom range, with excellent performance. Digital zoom is also well done.

36mm
432mm
2x Digital Zoom

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H5 optical zoom covers the equivalent of a 36-432mm range, outstanding among consumer digital cameras. Results were quite good at wide angle, though some corner softness and coma distortion was present. Sony's Precision Digital Zoom did much better than average at holding onto detail, which is often greatly compromised with digital enlargement. Though fine details were soft with digital zoom, overall results were better than we'd normally expect.

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-H5's macro setting performed well, capturing a very small minimum area of 1.45 x 1.09 inches (37 x 28 millimeters). Detail and resolution were 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-H5.)

Distortion
Moderate barrel distortion, though very low pincushion.

Barrel distortion at 36mm is 0.85%
Pincushion at 432mm is less than 0.00%

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-H5's 0.85% barrel distortion at wide angle is about average among the cameras we've tested, although still uncomfortably high. At the telephoto end, the H5's distortion was unmeasurable, less than a full pixel.

Chromatic aberration
High, very noticeable effect on images at edges, not uncommon among long zooms.

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 of our test shots.

Corner Sharpness
Some softening in the corners of the frame.

Wide: A little soft in the
corners (upper right)
Wide: sharper at center
Tele: soft in the
corners (upper right)
Tele: still slightly soft at center

The Sony DSC-H5 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.

Viewfinder

Coverage
Good accuracy with both the EVF and LCD monitor.

36mm eq., EVF 432mm eq., EVF

The Sony DSC-H5'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. Good results overall.

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H5 Photo Gallery.

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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.

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