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Timing & Performance

Performance is almost identical to the DSC-H1 that preceded it. Although the H2 a little slower than some direct competitors when it comes to many basic camera operations - startup, power off, playback and so on, the H2 never feels slow in use (and we are talking about differences measured in 1/10ths of a second). Where it really matters - focus speed, shutter lag, shot-to-shot times (without flash) and so on - the H2 is near the top of the pack.

Like the H1 before it, the focus system feels like it could be even faster at the long end of the zoom with a firmware tweak, as even in continuous AF mode the focus hunts every time you half-press the shutter. This means that you can be watching the live preview, everything is perfectly focused, and when you half press the shutter the focus moves in and out briefly - but quite dramatically - before settling exactly where it was before you did anything. The only saving grace is that the focus is - in good light - very fast anyway, and the hunting only really occurs at the extreme long end of the zoom; at wider angles the focus feels almost DSLR-like, it is so fast. We did find the focus hunting a little at the long end of the zoom in low light at closer focusing distances, but to be honest this is common to all super zoom cameras (and who uses a 432mm lens indoors at night anyway?)

The only other slightly disappointing results were fairly long shot-to-shot times with flash and the rather pedestrian burst mode.

Timing Notes

All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 2816 x 2112 Fine JPEG image (approx. 2,490 KB per image). The media used for these tests was a 1.0 GB Sony Memory Stick PRO Duo card.

Action Details
Time, secs

Power: Off to Record

  2.1
Power: Off to Play Image displayed 2.3
Power: Record to Off Lens retracted and all activity ceased 2.5
Power: Play to Off When buffer is empty, lens extended 2.5
Power: Play to Off When buffer is empty, lens retracted <0.2
Record Review Image displayed 0.55
Mode: Record to Play   0.6
Mode: Play to Record Lens already extended ~ 0.2
Mode: Play to Record Lens not extended 1.8
Play: Magnify To full magnification (5x) ~ 2.9
Play: Image to Image Time to display each saved image ~ 0.2
Play: Thumbnail view 3 x 3 thumbnails ~ 0.3

Action Details
Time, seconds
Zoom from Wide to Tele 36 to 432 mm (12 x) Hi Speed 1.8
Zoom from Wide to Tele 36 to 432 mm (12 x) Lo Speed 3.7
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Wide angle ~ 0.3
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Telephoto ~ 0.6 *2
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2) LCD live view ~ 0.07
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2) Electronic Viewfinder ~ 0.09 *1
Full-press Lag (0->S2) LCD live view, wide angle ~ 0.55
Off to Shot Taken LCD live view ~ 2.9
Shot to Shot Flash off (autofocus)
~ 1.3
Shot to Shot Flash on (red-eye reduction off) 1.9 *3
Shot to Shot Flash on (red-eye reduction on) 3.1 *3
*1 We now have a more accurate measurement of shutter lag, which has revealed a very slight difference between the viewfinder and the screen. The lag is caused by a very slight lag in the live video preview image (if you shoot without using the screen, the 'true' shutter lag is around 0.06 seconds).
*2 In good light and at normal shooting distances the focus is very fast, but it can take a lot longer to focus in low light at the long end of the zoom (there is lots of hunting), especially on fairly close subjects or in macro mode.
*3 In this test the subject distance is only 3 feet (0.9 m) - the recycle time will increase at greater subject distances, and if the batteries are running low (as long as 8 seconds)

Lag Timing Definitions

Half-press Lag (0->S1)
Many digital camera users prime the AF and AE systems on their camera by half-pressing the shutter release. This is the amount of time between a half-press of the shutter release and the camera indicating an auto focus & auto exposure lock on the LCD monitor / viewfinder (ready to shoot).
 

(Prime AF/AE)
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2)
The amount of time it takes from a full depression of the shutter release button (assuming you have already primed the camera with a half-press) to the image being taken.
 

(Take shot, AF/AE primed)
Full-press Lag (0->S2)
The amount of time it takes from a full depression of the shutter release button (without performing a half-press of the shutter release beforehand) to the image being taken. This is more representative of the use of the camera in a spur of the moment 'point and shoot' situation.
 

(Take shot, AF/AE not primed)

Continuous mode

The tables below show the results of our continuous shooting test, indicating the actual frame rate along with maximum number of frames and how long you would have to wait after taking the maximum number of frames before you could take another shot. Media used for these tests was a 1.0 GB Sony Memory Stick PRO Duo card. Shutter speed was kept above 1/160 sec during these tests.

The H2 has two 'burst' modes; Burst and Multi Burst. Burst mode gives you a reasonable - but hardly class-leading 1.3-ish frames per second, with a pause of around 3 seconds (with the word 'recording' on screen) when the buffer is full (this equates to anything from 7 shots at the highest quality/size setting to around 100 at the lowest). There is no live preview when using burst mode, but there is a brief review image shown for each shot taken. The Multi-burst mode produces a single 1MP file containing a grid of 16 exposures over a period of 1/7.5, 1/15 or 1/30 sec - useful for analyzing your golf swing, but not a lot else.

Image Type
Mode
Avg. frames
per sec
Frames in a burst *1
After
burst
*2
6MP JPEG FINE Continuous 1.5 fps 7 ~ 2.5s pause
6MP JPEG STANDARD Continuous 1.2 fps 12 ~ 2.9s pause
3MP JPEG FINE Continuous 1.2 fps 12 ~ 2.9s pause
3MP JPEG STANDARD Continuous 1.2 fps 21 ~ 3.8s pause
2MP JPEG FINE Continuous 1.3 fps 19 ~ 3.5s pause
0.3MP JPEG FINE Continuous 1.5 fps 100 ~ 10.3s pause

*1 In a single "burst" (finger held down on shutter release).
*2 When the H2's buffer is full the screen displays the word 'recording' and cannot be used until the images in the buffer have been written to the card. This figure is the delay before another picture can be taken.

So nothing to write home about here - the frame rate is lower than most of the H2's main competitors, and the rather lame buffering means that - unlike all its direct competitors - you cannot shoot indefinitely in burst mode. Now, the limitation on the number of frames might not be too important to you (7 shots is usually enough for an action burst), but I personally would like to see a slightly higher maximum frame rate - 1.2-1.5 frames per second doesn't give you much chance to catch the action in a soccer match or track side at a race meeting...

File Write / Display and Sizes

Timings shown below are the time taken for the camera to process and "flush" the image out to the storage card, the timer was started as soon as the shutter release was pressed and stopped when activity indicator went out. This means the timings also include the camera's processing time and as such are more representative of the actual time to "complete the task". The media used for these tests was a 1.0 GB Sony Memory Stick PRO Duo card.

Image Type
Time to store
(secs)

Time to display
(secs)

File size *1
(approx.)
Images on a *2
1.0 GB Card
6MP JPEG FINE ~1.1 ~0.5 2,490 KB 332
6MP JPEG STANDARD ~1.1  ~0.5 1,503 KB 612
3MP JPEG FINE ~1.0  ~0.4 1,332 KB 637
2MP JPEG FINE ~1.0  ~0.3 869 KB 1020
0.3MP JPEG FINE ~0.8  ~0.2 147 KB 6121

*1 All file sizes are an average of three files. As is the case with JPEG it's difficult to predict the size of an image because it will vary a fair amount depending on the content of the image (detail and noise).
*2 Camera estimation.

With write times averaging around 1.1 seconds for a 6MP/Fine image the H2 is by no means the fastest camera in its class (averaging around 1.6 MB/s), but it is quicker than the H1, which may be down to the H1 using the older, full size Memory Stick and the H2 having a newer controller.

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