Timing & Performance

Overall the H3's responsiveness and speed of operation is in line with other cameras in its class. The Sony's speed doesn't blow you away but it is generally snappy enough. There are however a couple of issues that are worth commenting on. In low light the focus slows down significantly and quite often only locks onto a subject after various attempts. In low light there is definitely a danger of missing that precious moment.

The menus and particularly the image review (browsing and zooming) can sometimes feel slightly sluggish too. This is not a major problem but can occasionally be frustrating if you want to quickly check the focus or sharpness on a series of images. We'd happily trade a pretty (and rather longwinded) menu system for a responsive, intuitive one any day.

All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 3264 x 2448 JPEG image (approx. 2,400 KB per image). The media used for these tests was a 1.0 GB Sony Memory Stick DUO PRO card.

Action Details
Time, secs
Power: Off to Record   2.1
Power: Off to Play Image displayed (lens doesn't extend) 1.7
Power: Record to Off All activity ceased 2.8
Power: Play to Off When buffer is empty 2.8
Record Review Image displayed 0.6
Mode: Play to Record   1.8
Play: Magnify To full magnification (5x) 4.5
Play: Image to Image Time to display each saved image 0.6
Play: Thumbnail view 3 x 3 thumbnails 1.2
Play: Thumbnail view 4 x 4 thumbnails 1.9
Zoom from Wide to Tele 38 to 380 mm (10 x) 2.3
Half-press Lag (Focus time) Wide angle, Multi AF *1 ~0.6 -1.3*2
Half-press Lag (Focus time) Telephoto, Multi AF *1 ~1.1 - 1.3 *2
Pre-focus Lag (S1>S2) LCD live view ~0.1
Full-press Lag (0->S2) LCD live view, wide angle ~0.6
Off to Shot Taken LCD live view ~2.9
Shot to Shot Flash off 1.6
Shot to Shot Flash on ( red eye reduction off) 2.5*3
Shot to Shot Flash on ( red eye reduction on) 3.9*3
*1 Focus speed is fractionally faster if you use center AF rather than Multi AF, though only if your subject is in the center of the frame!
*2 Focus speed varies greatly according to the amount of light in the scene and the focus distance. In good light outdoors focus is pretty speedy but indoors in low light it can get painfully slow.
*3 Flash recycle times vary according to subject distance and battery condition (if the subject is more than a few feet away this figure will get longer).

Continuous drive mode

The H3 has a single continuous shooting mode that we measured to be around 2 frames per second (at 8MP setting) for the first 20 frames, after which it dropped to around 1.2 fps for approximately another 60 frames. After that there is a break of approximately 5.7 seconds during which data is written to the card. Once this is finished the cycle can start again. This constitutes an average result for this type of camera.

File writing / playback performance

Playback on the H3 isn't bad at around half a second per frame. We could not measure write times because of the lack of a read/write activity indicator on the H3.

Battery life

According to Sony the H3's battery life is rated at up to 330 shots using the CIPA standard, but we found that in normal use you'd have to be very lucky to reach this number. 200 is probably a more realistic estimate. This is still acceptable, and you can extend battery life by turning off continuous image stabilization.