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Sony DSC-H3 Digital Camera Review

Sony DSC-H3 Digital Camera Review - Matt Grayson takes a look at the Sony DSC H3. It's a bridge camera, but only just.

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Sony DSC-H3 in Compact Cameras

Despite its name, the H3 has no bearing on the über-camera from medium format gurus, Hasselblad. It is in fact a clipped version of the H7 giving the same 8Mp resolution with a slightly smaller 10x optical zoom and creative control.

Sony DSC H3 Sony DSC-H3 Specification

  • Sensor: CCD - 8.1Mp
  • Image Size: 3264 x 2448 Pixels
  • Lens: 38-380mm f/3.5-4.4 (10x Zoom)
  • Focus: Multi-Point,Auto,Face Detection
  • Exposure: Program AE/AP/SP/M
  • Metering: Multi Pattern/Centre Weighted/Spot
  • Monitor: 2.5in TFT LCD
  • Movie Mode: Yes
  • Storage: 31Mb internal, MS DUO, MS DUO Pro
  • Batteries: Li-ion Battery
  • Video Output: Yes - HD 1080
  • Size/Weight: 106x69x48 mm - 264g
  • Transfer: USB 2.0

Your £209 will give you an 8Mp sensor, 10x optical zoom and manual overriding features. Comparable models are the Fujifilm S8000fd at £215, also with 8Mp an eye watering 18x optical zoom and manual overriding features and the Panasonic FZ8 also at £215 with a lower 7Mp resolution, 12x optical zoom and manual overrides. Neither the Fuji, nor the Panasonic's symbiosis with Leica can match Sony's Carl Zeiss lens for quality.

Sony DSC-H3 Modes and features
Situated at the lower end of the Prosumer family, the H3 is, nevertheless, a bridge camera. The large zoom, chunky grip, and manual features for creative control tell us that. But exactly how creative can you get?

Sony DSC H3 The lens is a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar which, whilst being the "standard" (if Zeiss have such a classification) of the lenses, is still a very good quality lens.

The top of the camera has the pop up flash located directly above the lens, the Power button, Shutter release and Mode dial. The dial has the quick access options for Auto, Program, Manual, Video, Scene modes, Landscape, Night scene, Sports, Soft snap for giving a soft background and High ISO sensitivity.

Moving onto the back of the camera and I am surprised to see a 2.5in screen from the company that recently gave us a 3.5in one on the T200. Next to that is the zoom rocker, Menu, Home and navigation buttons with the Playback button located above.

For those of you who have read the other Sony reviews, you will know that they have split the Menu into two parts, Home and Menu. The Home button breaks down the options into five convenient, bite size pieces.

The first one is for Shooting and simply takes you back to the screen to take pictures with. The next tab is for Playback followed by Print options, Memory card and Set up. The Playback tab gives three options of looking at single images, looking at a contact sheet of your pictures or a slideshow. Music can be imported to the camera to aid the slideshow.

The Print tool gives access to pint direct options and the Music tool for downloading music to the camera.

The Memory tab has only one option of the memory tool and only four options in that folder which are Format, Change Recording folder, Create recording folder and Copy.

Finally, the Set up tab allows adjustments to the main settings and is broken down into four further areas which are Main settings, Shooting settings, Clock and Language settings.

The Main settings has six options spread over two pages whilst the Shooting settings also has six settings spread over two pages, but allocates them as five on the first page and one on the second, whereas the Main tab has two pages of three. Certainly an unusual way of going about things.

The Clock Sony DSC H3 and Language tabs have one option each which makes me wonder why Sony can't put the Clock and language options in the Main settings section to bulk that one out and rid the Home page of two options that are pretty unnecessary.

The Menu brings all the options up to the left side of the screen whilst still showing the image in the background. It is the section of the camera for making immediate changes to the camera settings, such as resolution, Image quality, Colour modes, ISO ratings, Exposure compensation, Metering, Focus set, White balance, Flash compensation, Red-eye reduction options, Contrast, Sharpness, Image stabiliser and Set up access which takes you into the Home menu.

Sony DSC-H3 Build and handling
A small, compact size for a bridge camera, the Sony DSC H3 is well built and feels solid. It is ergonomic with all buttons falling comfortably within reach of the fingers or thumb.

The zoom is responsive and the lens barrel has minimal shake in it. The battery door is a long, slim affair made entirely of plastic and has a tendency to bend.

My main problem with the camera is the buttons and how responsive they are. That is to say not very. They need firm, focused pushes to make sure the option you want has been selected. It's as though the camera is lazy.

Everything else is satisfying enough in build quality from the metal tripod bush to the Carl Zeiss lens.

Sony DSC H3 Sony DSC-H3 Flash options
Auto, On, Slow sync and off are the flash options available. The Slow sync will choose a long exposure to brighten up dark backgrounds, just be careful to use a tripod and the Red-eye reduction modes are altered in the Menu.

The distance of the flash is something Sony are shouting about on this camera. They say it has a range of 14m which is superb, but there is a catch. The 14m flash range only works at ISO3200 and at the flash's widest range.

This means that the high ISO rating lets more light in to help the flash, but does that mean its really a 14m distance? Well, without using the high ISO rating, the flash has a maximum distance of 7m at wide angle and 5.6m at telephoto, so its not a true 14m, but the response is still very good.

Sony DSC-H3 Performance
The shutter lag test gave an average response of 0.04 seconds which is a good result. And better than some other models in a higher classification.

The burst mode managed 19 shots at full resolution in 10 seconds, although it did need an extra second to download the last image. This suggests a shooting speed of around 2fps which is very good.

The Landscape image is a balanced exposure with very minimal fringing. Only a smattering of green on the roof and a thin line of purple on the white bars. Some cloud detail has been retained which is an improvement on other makes and models.

Our colourtest chart has recorded a boost in Red and Blue, but not so much in Yellow. The skin tone is unaffected and the tones are balanced.

Sony DSC H3
The colourtest chart shows boosting in Red and Blue. The tones are nicely balanced and the earthy colours have turned out nice.

Sony DSC H3
The macro facility gets in to 2cm, but has blown the right side of the image which was only daylight.
Sony DSC H3
The vivid colour mode boosts all the colours making this game of cards saturated. The effect is pleasing.
Sony DSC H3
The natural colour mode desaturates slightly to give more pastel-like colours. ePHOTOzine does not condone gambling.
Sony DSC H3
The Program mode with flash
to warm it up. Gives Becky a
healthy glow, but
has over
exposed on the cheek.
Sony DSC H3
The Sony H3 doesn't have a
dedicated Portrait mode, but
uses a Soft snap mode to blur
out backgrounds.

Sony DSC H3
A balanced exposure with a bonus
of some sky actually showing.
Minimal fringing and good detail
on the winch.


Sony DSC-H3 Noise test
It's not until ISO800 that the image starts to degrade in the noise test and the degradation is only minimal then, just some sharpening of noise in the low key area.

ISO1600 has developed the decay so it is in patches across the image and the detail of the petals is noticeably lower. ISO3200 shows severe noise in all areas with softening of the petals and lack of detail.

Sony DSC H3
The ISO100 test.
Sony DSC H3
The ISO200 test.
Sony DSC H3
The ISO400 test.
Sony DSC H3
The ISO800 test.
Sony DSC H3
The ISO1600 test.
Sony DSC H3
The ISO3200 test.

Sony DSC-H3 Verdict
Luckily, the Sony DSC H3 is not marketed as pro spec as this would disappoint you. The lens, image stabiliser and build quality make the camera more appealing. The menu is too slow and seems incomplete. The dividing of the Menu hasn't grown on me like I thought it might and simply serves to annoy me.

However, if you are in the market to branch out from compacts and see what this photography lark is all about, the camera will serve you well.

Sony DSC-H3 Plus points
Great lens
Good build
2cm Macro feature

Sony DSC-H3 Minus points
Not a good noise result
Divided menu





The Sony DSC-H3 costs around £209 and is available from the ePHOTOzine shop here.



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