Timing & Performance

Although it's a little slower than some direct competitors when it comes to many basic camera operations - startup, power off, playback and so on, the H1 rarely feels slow in use. And where it really matters - focus speed, shutter lag, shot-to-shot times (without flash) and so on - the H1 is near the top of the pack, only really beaten by the Panasonic FZ5 at the long end of the zoom.

In fact Sony really needs to look at its focus algorithms for longer zooms, 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. Monitor AF mode, which is supposed to speed up focus, is slightly better - meaning that maybe 2 times out of 10 the focus system doesn't do its little dance before locking, but it is far from perfect. 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.

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 2592 x 1944 Fine JPEG image (approx. 2,140 KB per image). The media used for these tests was a 512 MB Sony Memory Stick PRO card.

Action Details
Time, secs

Power: Off to Record

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   1.6 *1
Mode: Play to Record Lens already extended 1.6 *1
Mode: Play to Record Lens not extended 1.8 *1
Play: Magnify To full magnification (5x) ~ 3.0
Play: Image to Image Time to display each saved image ~ 0.2
Play: Thumbnail view 3 x 3 thumbnails ~ 0.25 *2

Action Details
Time, seconds
Zoom from Wide to Tele 36 to 432 mm (12 x) 1.8
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Wide angle ~ 0.2
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Telephoto ~ 0.6
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2) LCD live view ~ 0.1
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2) Electronic Viewfinder ~ 0.1
Full-press Lag (0->S2) LCD live view, wide angle ~ 0.6
Off to Shot Taken LCD live view ~ 2.7
Shot to Shot Flash off (autofocus)
Shot to Shot Flash off (manual focus)
Shot to Shot Flash on (red-eye reduction off) 2.3
Shot to Shot Flash on (red-eye reduction on) 3.4
*1 The H1 moves from record to play and back in less than half a second - this figure includes around 1.2 seconds of 'mode change animation' during which time the camera cannot be used.
*2 Time to change from 3x3 to 4x4 thumbnails: ~ 0.3 secs.

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 512 MB Sony Memory Stick PRO card. Shutter speed was kept above 1/160 sec during these tests.

The H1 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 5 seconds (with the word 'recording' on screen) when the buffer is full (this equates to anything from 9 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
Avg. frames
per sec
Frames in a burst *1
5MP JPEG FINE Continuous 1.3 fps 9 ~ 4.6s pause
5MP JPEG STANDARD Continuous 1.3 fps 16 ~ 5.6s pause
3MP JPEG FINE Continuous 1.2 fps 13 ~ 5.1s pause
3MP JPEG STANDARD Continuous 1.2 fps 24 ~ 5.9s pause
1MP JPEG FINE Continuous 1.4 fps 32 ~ 6.2s pause

*1 In a single "burst" (finger held down on shutter release).
*2 When the H1'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 H1'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 (9 shots is usually enough for an action burst), but I personally would like to see a slightly higher maximum frame rate - 1.3 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 512 MB Sony Memory Stick PRO card.

Image Type
Time to store

Time to display

File size *1
Images on a *2
512MB Card
5MP JPEG FINE ~1.3 ~0.2 2,140 KB 194
5MP JPEG STANDARD ~1.0  ~0.2 1,230 KB 365
3MP JPEG FINE ~1.1  ~0.2 1,320 KB 311
3MP JPEG STANDARD ~0.9 ~0.2 795 KB 554
1MP JPEG FINE ~0.8  ~0.2 590 KB 748

*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 1.3 seconds for a 5MP/Fine image the H1 is by no means the fastest camera in its class (averaging around 1.6 MB/s), and certainly won't put any strain on a fast card (though Sony does state that burst mode/movie mode may not be possible without the use of faster PRO cards).