Compared to... Panasonic TZ3 and Canon SX100 IS

On its website Sony labels the H3 as 'the 10X zoom camera you can carry anywhere' which is a fairly accurate description. The H3 is amazingly compact considering its zoom range. The number of cameras competing in this market segment is fairly limited. For the purpose of this review we've picked the similarly specified and priced Panasonic DMC-TZ3 and Canon SX100 IS for comparison. They too offer 10x zoom lenses in fairly compact packages (although the Panasonic at a slightly reduced resolution of 7MP, counterbalanced by a considerably more useful zoom range). We've included studio comparisons at each camera's lowest ISO, ISO 400 and ISO 800.

Note: The H3 doesn't have a true manual/custom white balance setting, so the studio shots in this review are as near to 'neutral' as we can get using one of the presets.

Studio scene comparison (DSC-H3 & TZ3 @ ISO 100, SX100 IS @ ISO 80)

  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H3: Program mode, ISO 100, Default Image Parameters, cool white fluorescent white balance, +0.7 EV compensation

  • Panasonic DMC-TZ3: Aperture Priority mode, ISO 100, Default Image Parameters, Manual white balance, +0.33 EV compensation

  • Canon Powershot SX100 IS: Aperture Priority mode, ISO 80, Default Image Parameters, Manual white balance, +0.33 EV compensation
  • Lighting: Daylight simulation, >98% CRI
Sony DSC-H3
Panasonic DMC-TZ3
Canon SX100 IS
ISO 100, 1/125 sec, F4
ISO 100, 1/80 sec, F4.4
ISO 80, 1/60 sec, F4.5
2,001 KB JPEG
3,396 KB JPEG
3,295 KB JPEG

At base ISO there is not an awful lot of difference between the three contenders, and it mostly comes down to in-camera processing (as opposed to any significant difference in the hardware's capabilities). Color and contrast are on similar levels, with the H3 adding marginally more punch to the reds. Sony and Canon also apply a tad more in-camera sharpening to the images than Panasonic. However, none of the test images look over sharpened.

It's worth mentioning that our particular copy of the H3 had a slightly misaligned lens and therefore a soft bottom left corner. Otherwise edge-to-edge and corner-to-corner sharpness is pretty good on all cameras, with the Panasonic offering the best edge to edge consistency (but the least sharpness overall). This is probably owed to the Panasonic's much wider wideangle, which - on a super zoom - makes lens construction a bit of a challenge.

The Sony's output at ISO100 is surprisingly good. The Carl Zeiss branded lens performs well (not taking into account the soft corner of our copy) especially when you consider the H3's 'budget' prizing.