Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H3 'superzoom' camera
Is it a compact? Is it a DSLR? No, it's a 'superzoom'
Review Some people want a camera that’s small enough to fit in a pocket, but they also want the features of a SLR. In other words, they want the impossible. Or do they? Enter the 'superzoom', which in the days of film would have been described as a 'bridge camera'.
Sony's DSC-H3: bigger than a compact, but still fits in your pocket
As you’d expect, superzooms offer a much longer optical zoom than those found on a standard compact. Whereas most compacts have a paltry 3x zoom - boosted by an often unusable digital zoom - superzooms typically offer around 10x-18x optical zooms. But do they fill a gap or merely offer too many compromises?
Sony’s DSC-H3 certainly looks and feels the part. It’s a chunky model that feels reassuringly solid in the hands – this is a camera designed at the school of hard knocks. Of course, it’s not the smallest of cameras and next to some of today’s ultra-thin compacts seems positively obese – it measures 106 x 68.5 x 47.5mm and weighs 264g – but it’s certainly fine for carrying around in your coat pocket.
At the top of the DSC-H3 is a small power button, large shutter button and a dial for selecting the various modes, including camera, manual control, and scene settings. On top too is the pop-up flash cover.
Standard control layout
Moving to the back, we find a 2.5in LCD screen comprising 115,000 pixels; a tiny playback button; zoom rocker control positioned so that your right thumb naturally rests on it; a dial for selecting macro, ISO, flash, display mode and self-timer; and two buttons for selecting the menu. Yes, that’s right, two menu buttons.
The first, called Home, is described as a “gateway to all camera functions” and offers a set of sub-menus for shooting, viewing images, printing, memory management and manual control. The Menu button gives access to various shooting settings, such as image size, ISO and flash level.
Missing 2 important teatures
I got myself an Olympus C-300 (aka D-500) from Cash Converters (£30 well spent), and there were only 3 problems with it. Apart from it being a bit too small to hold comfortably and steadily in my ham fists (a problem which this Sony seems to address) the two great lacks were a manual focussing ring and a shoe for a flash. Without these essentials it just doesn't cut it as a tool for taking photographs, rather than snapshots.
Remember the FD-91?
Now that was a cool camera... http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/FD91/FD91A.HTM
Nice optical zoom (14x!), nothing of that digital zoom stuff.
Still using it sometimes, to just see 'what's going on over there'. Always makes me smile, the ka-chunk of the floppy drive :-)
So in a way, Sony comes full circle, it seems...
Re: Viewfinder again
Yep, I've got a TZ3. Nice, but the lack of viewfinder is indeed annoying and makes shooting steadily harder, so think well before getting a camera without one. And it's also very noisy at ISO 400 equiv. already. If I have to shoot in darker conditions with it, I underexpose at "ISO 100" and do layer additions later. I only bought it to have a camera I can take with me everyday in my backpack without much concern, and for that it is quite good and cheap -- no carrying my K10D around all the time for sure. It even fits in the jeans back pocket (hard to sit down, though...).
Usually I go for the Olympus equivalents to this, my SP-560 has an 18X wide angle zoom (27-486MM equiv) - and with a $30 adapter supports a couple of telephoto lenses.
Because they've just released a new version it's about the same price as this one too.
Still the Sony seems a decent buy, $300 is pretty good and their image stabilisation is a touch better than Olympus. You can't use a tripod every time you want to grab a quick photo, so it is a decent feature.
"The lack of an optical or LCD viewfinder is a non starter for me."
Agree entirely. The Panasonic TZ3, which would otherwise be on my shortlist, is a desirable competitor in all respects, with a wonderful 28-280mm zoom, but no viewfinder, no sale. Sorry.