H50 short test

Started May 7, 2008 | Discussions thread
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Joel
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H50 short test
May 7, 2008

I dropped into my local Sony store today and reeled off a few images to see what the H50 was about. I have shot similar images from the door of this shop for many years so I have a lot of comparisons I can make with other models I have tested there.

I mainly use the R1 and was thinking that maybe the IQ of the H50 might just be tolerable at the long end to fill in that part of the range that the R1 lacks.

The handling is quite nice, mainly because it's so small and light. Perhaps too light given the zoom range - it's not easy to hold still. I liked the grip and the tilting screen is excellent for framing and reviewing. It's an attractive thing too.

It took about 10 minutes to work out how to access all the settings and the H50 revealed the Jekyll and Hyde character of its interface - on P it's all happy, smiley stuff with access to nothing (and no hint that it exists) to A when everything suddenly becomes properly serious.

The interface logic is a little opaque until you get the concept then it's fine. Less successful is the cluster of controls that consists of the four-way + centre button and surrounding adjustment ring. On my P200 the five buttons are a delight and I never miss-hit but the H50 buttons are more sunken and the ring means you cannot find an edge so the whole thing becomes fiddly and annoying. The ring really is too tiny even for my small hands and while I might get used to it, I don't think I would ever really like it.

The zoom rocker and the response to it from the lens is OK but the 2-speed sliding version on my 505s is a much better solution.

Other controls were fine if slightly too recessed to activate without more conscious effort.

I set everything to minus, including the NR, ISO to 80 or 100 and shot with the smallest apertures I could reasonably use to give the camera the best chance of pleasing me, then banged away, concocting as many torture tests as I could find on this sunny day.

Looking at the images, I was happier than I expected to be in that CA and PF were no worse - and perhaps better - than most small sensor cams I have used. In other words, these are issues that you can probably easily control while you steer the camera into its sweet spot and not something to worry unduly about.

The lens is clearly a fine performer with good edge-to-edge detail and only mild pincushion distortion at the wide end. I felt it's best results were in the medium to long tele range.

Colour is natural (Real setting) and dynamic range is reasonable but the Achilles heel is the noise in the shadows, where it can get pretty hairy to the point of posterising the image. Otherwise it's not bad at all but the only way I could use the H50 would be to bracket every shot and image stack in something like PhotoAcute to get the noise down and expand the dynamic range - this is how I use my 828 now. Where the noise is bad it has a blocky, brittle texture that is not very pleasant.

I experimented with Neat Image and one can contain it but the detail in the shadows is already compromised and any tonal subtlety is gone. This camera would have been much better with a 6-7MP sensor. My P200 can yield smoother, cleaner and more subtle images than the H50 but of course it has only a fraction of the zoom range or facilities.

Still, I felt the H50 was a pretty good little camera and the images ranged from average to very good for its class. It handled my torture tests very well, better than I thought it would, and as long as ones expectations are not too high it would make a fine companion for most picture taking duties.

Joel.

 Joel's gear list:Joel's gear list
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F505V Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F828 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1 Sony RX100 Sony a6000
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