DPInterface Sony Cyber-shot H1 Review
Brad Soo - July 3rd, 2005 (Updated January 4th, 2006)

Sony's first Cyber-shot ultra-zoom digital camera, the Sony Cyber-shot H1, packs some great features such as 12x image-stabilized optical zoom, a large 2.5 inch LCD, unlimited VGA 30 FPS movies, a jog dial and AF-assist beam.

Open up the Box

Dive into that box and you'll find the H1 and:

  • 2 AA NiMH rechargeable batteries
  • Battery charger
  • Shoulder strap
  • Lens cap with strap
  • USB and A/V cables
  • Lens hood
  • Conversion lens adapter
  • User's manual
  • CD-ROM

Storage and Power

The Sony Cyber-shot H1, as you can see, has an excellent set of stuff in its box. The H1 uses Memory Sticks as its storage media but doesn't come with one. Instead, the H1 has 32 MB of internal memory.

Although the H1 comes with 2 rechargeable AA NiMH batteries, you may want to get another 2 or 4 as spares. Battery life is decent on the H1, about 320 shots but puny compared to 550 shots on the Canon S2 IS (But hey, the H1 uses only 2 AA batteries as opposed to 4 on the S2).

I'd suggest getting a 256 MB Memory Stick to start off as the H1 has only 32 MB of internal memory. Get a Memory Stick Pro card instead if you want to take VGA 30 FPS movies, otherwise, you can use normal cards to take VGA movies but at only 16 FPS.

Extras

As a camera with manual controls, the Sony Cyber-shot H1 has several accessories:

  • Wide-angle conversion lens (0.7x)
  • Telephoto conversion lens (1.7x)
  • Close-up conversion lens
  • Various filters
  • External slave flash
  • AC adapter

Camera Tour

Now, let's start off with the 12x optical zoom lens which has a focal length of 36-432 mm and aperture value of F2.8 to F3.7. The Sony H1's lens is optical image-stabilized with Sony's Super SteadyShot image stabilization technology. You can put conversion lenses on the H1 via the conversion lens ring which comes in the box.

The circle to the top-left of the lens is the Sony H1's AF-assist beam which is also the self-timer light. The H1 has a large grip which makes one hand shooting easy. On the grip is the jog dial which is used to alter certain settings of the camera without using the arrow buttons.

The Sony H1's built-in pop-up flash is located above the lens which can pop up automatically and manually. It has a maximum range of 6.8 m, which is very good. Now, let's turn the H1 around and see what's on the back...

The Sony H1's large 2.5 inch LCD is the most noticeable of things on the back. It has 115,000 pixels and brightens a little outdoors and in low light. Thankfully, there's the EVF for clear outdoor viewing but on the other hand, unfortunately, there's not much you can do about low light viewing. The EVF has dioptric correction.

There are two buttons beside the EVF and their functions are: Switching between the LCD and EVF (left) and image stabilization mode (right). The zoom controller controls the zooming of the lens as well as magnifies images/shows thumbnails in playback.

Then there's the 5 way controller which allows you to select and customize camera settings in the LCD menu. When the menu is closed and you're in any one of the shooting modes, the 4 of the 5 buttons act as shortcut buttons:

  • Up - Flash setting
  • Down - Self-timer
  • Left - Quick review
  • Right - Macro

The Sony Cyber-shot H1's mode dial is located at the top. From the little green camera (Automatic) and going clockwise:

  • Automatic - Control image size and quality
  • Programmed auto - Control everything except shutter speed and aperture value
  • Shutter priority - Control everything except aperture value
  • Aperture priority - Control everything except shutter speed
  • Manual - Control everything
  • Scene modes (Twilight, twilight portrait, candle, beach, high-speed shutter, landscape, portrait)
  • Movie - Record VGA 30 FPS movies up to the capacity of the Memory Stick
  • Playback - Review photos you've taken

Other things you'll find on the top of the H1 include: The power button, microphone, focus button, burst button and shutter button.

The only important thing to note on the side of the H1 is its speaker. At the buttom of the Sony Cyber-shot H1, you'll find a tripod mount and battery/card compartment with a "smart door". This smart door has two tiers. Choose to open the first and smaller door to swap Memory Sticks or open the second door (Which opens the first one as well) for batteries, as well as the Memory Stick. The door (Doors more like it) is extremely sturdy and has a tough feeling to it.

Shooting

For the H1's Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization, you can turn it off, set it to continuous (Bring lots of batteries with you!) or shooting only (You probably won't need those extra batteries). The Sony Cyber-shot H1 has a simple battery indicator (As opposed to none on the Canon S2).

In addition to full manual controls, there's also:

  • White balance (Auto, presets)
  • Metering method
  • Bracketing (Exposure, focus)
  • ISO (64, 100, 200, 400)
  • Flash output adjustment
  • Focus point selection

In burst mode, the H1 took 9 photos (Full resolution) at about, according to my tests, 1 FPS. But on the other hand, the H1 can take 16 (1 megapixel) photos in a row at a tremendously fast pace.

Recording

The H1 records VGA sized movies at 30 FPS up to the capacity of the Memory Stick used. You can't zoom when recording, unlike the Canon S2 IS. Movies are recorded in MPEG format, more space saving that the AVI format that the S2 uses.

Movie quality was quite good and audio quality was just okay.

Performance

The Sony Cyber-shot H1 starts up, with the extension of the lens first followed by the turning on of the LCD, in 2 seconds. The H1 takes less than a second to focus, or about a seconds in low light, and you've got to thank the AF-assist beam for this. Going from wide-angle to telephoto in 2.2 seconds, the lens is fairly fast moving

Image Quality

The H1 shows some signs of chromatic aberrations (Color fringing) which is not awfully a lot but more than other cameras in its class. Noise is somewhat of a problem at ISO 200 and not a major issue until ISO 400. Overall, the images produced by the Sony Cyber-shot H1 are sharp, detailed but a little over-processed.

No red-eye is produced by the Sony Cyber-shot H1 in its photos, just some reflection. There is some barrel distortion at wide-angle but almost none at telephoto.

Playback

In playback, the Sony Cyber-shot H1 can playback stills and movies (With sound) as well as perform these functions: Protect image, print marking, direct printing (The H1 is PictBridge enabled), slideshow, resize, trim, rotate and edit movies. You can also zoom up to 5x into still photos taken and take a look around using the 4 arrow buttons. Choose to see no info, basic info or lots of info about your photos. When it comes to histograms, the H1 shows a histogram in both shooting and playback.

Conclusion

The Sony Cyber-shot H1 takes great stills and movies. Its 12x f2.8 - f3.7 lens is slightly slower than those on other ultra-zooms but is still of fairly high-quality. As compensation to not having a rotating LCD found on its closest competitor, the Canon S2 IS, the H1 has a large 2.5 inch LCD (opposed to 1.8 inches on the S2).

There are several things which leave the H1 in the dust when compared to the S2, such as excellent macro mode, stereo sound recording, battery life, advanced movie functions and processing speed (including continuous shooting). Though there are some slight advantages the H1 has over the S2; those advantages being a live histogram, flash range, jog dial and battery indicator.

What's hot:

  • 12x optical zoom with optical image stabilizer
  • Large 2.5 inch LCD
  • Long flash range
  • Full manual controls
  • Below average ISO 200 noise
  • Sharp and detailed photos
  • VGA 30 FPS movie mode
  • Great image quality
  • Rechargeable batteries included

What's not:

  • Low resolution LCD; useless in low-light
  • Slow compared to other ultra-zooms
  • Color fringing above average
  • Overprocessed photos
  • Slow limited continuous shooting

Recommended Accessories

~Extra set of 2 or 4 rechargeable AA NiMH batteries
~1 GB Memory Stick Pro card
~Camera bag
~Conversion lenses

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