When we reviewed the Sony H3 earlier this year someone in the office rather unkindly commented, it looked like one of those water squirting joke cameras. Apart from the bigger screen the H10's shapes and dimensions are exactly identical to the H3's but this time around we've got the black version (our copy of the H3 was silver) which makes the H10 look much more like a 'real' camera. Admittedly this is more of a psychological effect, the H10 is still an all plastic camera with a build quality that is not particularly impressive. The black version definitely has slightly more appeal though.
It might be made of plastic but the design actually works quite well in your hands. The camera is amazingly compact (and fairly lightweight) for its zoom range, but never feels unstable. And of course if you want a long zoom range in a pocketable package the H10 is one of only a handful of alternatives, and all are 'built to a price'.
For a camera with the H10's feature-set the external controls are pretty basic. The ubiquitous four-way controller, the menu and Sony's unique 'Home' buttons and the zoom controller are located to the right of the screen. The top plate of the camera accommodates the power-button, mode dial and shutter button.
The H10 is essentially a long zoom 'point and shoot' camera, and that is reflected in its user interface. A number of important photographic settings such as ISO or exposure compensation don't get their dedicated button and can only be accessed via the slightly longwinded menu.
Control and menus
Despite a relatively large number of settings (no 'A' or 'S' modes though) the H10 is essentially a 'point and shoot' camera and that is reflected in the menus. As long as you don't use them too much, i.e. let the camera work in its 'Auto' mode, you're ok. Once you start trying to adapt settings yourself things can get a little longwinded. The interface structure can sometimes appear a little counter-intuitive and you might have to click and scroll through the menus before you find what you are looking for.
|As usual you can choose the amount of information displayed on-screen. Shown here is the most detailed view, with lots of shooting information ranged around the screen, plus a live histogram. There is also an optional 'grid' overlay.||Half-press the shutter release and the camera will lock focus and exposure. The H10has three main AF area options (center, spot and - as shown here - multi). Alternatively you can set the focus to a number of pre-defined distances.|
|A 'virtual mode dial' appears when you turn the real mode dial. This is useful if you don't want to take your eye off the screen.||Pressing the menu button in record mode brings up a scrolling menu covering a large number of photographic settings including image size, AE-compensation, ISO, white balance etc. The menu has quite a few extra options in 'P' mode (including AE bracketing).|
|In playback mode you can choose the level of information displayed, from none to full shooting information and histogram (as shown here).||You can zoom into the image up to 5x magnification using the zoom rocker.|
|Pressing the wide button on the zoom rocker lets you display 4x3 or 5x4 thumbnails.||The playback menu has a couple of pages of scrolling menus including the usual delete, protect, slide show and print order options.|
|Pressing the 'Home' button - no matter where you are in the menus or what you are doing with the camera - brings up the camera's 'home' page. This is supposed to be a simple way to access the most common functions - and change some less common settings. Unfortunately Sony still has not made this customizable.||The camera's various settings and options are spread over six pages of menus split into four sections. The 'Main Settings' pages cover basic camera settings including video output (and HDTV format).|
|There are then two pages of 'Shooting Settings' - covering things such as display and AF options, and so on.||The last two menus are used to set the date and time and to change the language.|