Conclusion - Pros

  • Excellent resolution, good edge-to-edge detail
  • Great color, good exposure, clean sharp results
  • Accurate and generally fast focus
  • Low shutter lag
  • Superb handling, comprehensive photographic controls
  • Jog dial makes manual / semi-automatic exposure very easy and fast
  • 12x zoom offers excellent 36-432mm range
  • Packed with features
  • Powerful flash
  • Image stabilization
  • Program shift
  • 'Punchy' results straight out of the camera
  • Clean images up to ISO 200
  • Impressively little distortion for such a large lens
  • Enjoyable and easy to use
  • Bright, clear, contrasty screen, can be used in very bright light (though see cons, below)
  • High resolution viewfinder (though see cons, below)
  • Very bright AF illuminator
  • Can zoom during movie mode
  • Excellent battery life from two AA's
  • Optional wide and tele adapters

Conclusion - Cons

  • Some focus hunting at long end of the zoom (especially in low light)
  • Images very slightly soft
  • Image stabilization doesn't seem quite as effective as competition
  • Small viewfinder (high resolution though)
  • Screen smaller and lower resolution than model it replaces
  • Some chromatic aberration and purple fringing
  • Movies are a little over-compressed
  • Occasional problems with blown highlights in bright, contrasty scenes
  • No RAW or TIFF mode
  • Could do with a higher top shutter speed
  • Limited burst mode

Overall conclusion

We praised the H1 - Sony's first foray into this crowded part of the market - as not only a surprisingly mature, well-rounded product, but one offering performance and output that put it very near the top of the tree. The H2 doesn't add a great deal, but it does offer some minor improvements in image quality, a few new features and a little more resolution. It also has a more usable ISO 200 and ISO 400 (and the option, if you really need it, for ISO 800 / 1000) thanks to a slightly better noise reduction system.

The good news is that everything we liked about the H1 is still here; handling is excellent, it's very fast and responsive and the results - even shooting in full auto mode with default settings - excellent. There are few cameras I can wholeheartedly recommend to both novice 'snappers' and experienced photographers, but the H2, like the H1 before it, is that rarest of beasts; a 'compact' camera with handling and control close to a DSLR, yet one that - even in inexperienced hands - can be left in 'idiot-proof' mode and trusted to produce the goods time and time again. Above all, the H2 is fun and easy to use, which means you will find yourself taking a lot more pictures, which has to be a good thing.

Compared to the most obvious competitors - the Canon S3 IS and Panasonic DMC-FZ7 - the Sony H2 scores highly in handling, image quality and ease of use, and only really falls short in a couple of areas; burst mode, focus speed in low light (specifically at the long end of the zoom) and the slightly underwhelming movie mode. Some users will bemoan the lack of a flash hot shoe and Raw mode, but these are still rare on this class of camera. And things like chromatic aberration and focus hunting at the long end of the zoom are common to most competitor models. The smaller screen is a pity, but the H2's screen is surprisingly good, and the flip side of the downgrade is a significant improvement in battery life - and you get a higher resolution viewfinder.

Ultimately the choice when looking at this class of camera is a difficult one, and one that more often than not comes down to handling, personal preference (in terms of the actual output) and how important certain specific features (such as, for example, raw capture) are to you. Of the current crop of 5/6 megapixel super zoom cameras the H2 is still, by a whisker, my personal favorite, and is in many respects a better camera than its high profile competitor, the Canon S3 IS. That it costs a good $100 less than the S3 IS is just the icing on the cake, and will for many I suspect seal the deal.

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Build quality 8.0
Ergonomics & handling 8.5
Features 9.0
Image quality 8.5
Optics 8.0
Performance (speed) 8.0
Value 9.0

Highly recommended

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