Written: Nov 16, 2009 (Updated Nov 16, 2009)
a Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Very fast recycle, no shutter lag, good video, good battery life, great zoom.
Cons:Terrible low-light and flash performance. Anything above ISO80 unacceptably noisy. Annoying to use.
The Bottom Line: I would not recommend this camera at all. I wish I had purchased the Sony SX10 or SX20 instead. Even the Panasonic is a much, much better superzoom.
I bought this camera from Wolf Camera for a song when my local store went out of business. I wish I had waited and gotten the Canon that I really wanted. I'm very disappointed with the DSC-H50. It quite simply takes terrible pictures in anything but ideal conditions. The flash is useless for anything farther away than a few meters. And it's completely useless with the zoom. You have two options: Let the camera up the ISO and get a horribly grainy noisy shot, or lock the ISO to 80 and get an image too dark to be usable.
There's no option for an external flash. No PC cable port or hot shoe, so you're SOL if you need to take photos of moving subjects in dimly lit situations (I take a lot of photos at ballroom dance events). If you're not taking photos of moving subjects and you have a tripod the camera takes really great pictures without the flash. But really any similar camera can do that with longer exposure times.
The camera takes pretty decent photos in bright daylight, with a few exceptions. If you have a relatively close subject and you zoom all the way in, it will take a sharp focused image. But if your subject is far away and you zoom all the way in, the image is often really soft. Not always, but often enough that it needs to be mentioned. Also if If the image is very contrasty there is a LOT of purple fringing, no matter what the zoom is. Plus there is noticable barrel distortion at both ends of the zoom range.
The lens barrel is threaded for the included lens hood, but the lens hood itself has an odd 74mm filter thread, so you have to purchase Sony filters. You can get a step-down ring off of eBay to use normal sized 72mm filters, but it will cause major viginetting at the wide-angle. The lens hood also blocks the majority of your flash, so you're going to have to remove and reinstall it constantly as lighting conditions change.
The infrared night mode is a nice addition, but the pictures it takes are EXTREMELY grainy, and you cannot adjust the ISO or the shutter speed (locked at 1/30th a second). If you have an infrared light you can illuminate your subject and get a nice sharp image with no grain, but those things aren't cheap, and it defeats the purpose of having the infrared mode in the first place.
Another thing, the user interface really stinks. I'm used to the Canon interface, and this camera is severely lacking in usability. On a Canon camera, I can have different ISO settings, different resolutions, different color modes, etc for each of the different modes on the dial. Not so on the Sony DSC-H50. ISO, resolution, color modes, flash, etc are global, if you change them for the Program auto mode, they are also changed in shutter priority, apeture priority, and everything else. This is really annoying, because when I go hiking (for instance) I like to be able to have shutter priority set up for long exposures with vivid color mode and face detection turned off, plus the digital red enhancing filter, so I can take photos of waterfalls. I also like to have apeture priority set up to take portriats of my friends (eg, no filters, face detection on, natural color mode). The ability to switch between modes quickly is a great Canon feature... for the Sony I have to manually navigate annoyingly deep menus to set each feature every time I want to switch modes.
Also, my favorite canon feature, the night portriat mode (subject lit by flash and background filled in from ambient lighting via longer exposure time), is useless on the Sony. Sony has the shutter speed set to a full second! I can use shutter priority of 1/20th a second with the flash, or full manual mode (so I can also open up the apeture) to get a good night portriat, but I shouldn't have to.
Using Program Auto or easy mode at night with the flash on defaults to a relatively slow shutter speed, so you'll have to use shutter priority if you're taking candid photos of moving people indoors or at night. (eg, at a party or something).
Finally, there are the standard Sony gripes. Propriatary memory card, propriatary USB/video out combo cable, and you have to spend more on a proprietary YCbCr cable if you want component (not HDMI) output from the camera. Oh, and it can only play back photos on your TV, it can't play back your recorded videos. And the software that comes with it stinks too. It's bloatware that stays resident and consumes resources like mad.
Now, this camera does do some things well. It has extremely short shutter lag. Shot to shot times without flash are excellent, and once focus is locked there is ZERO delay between when you press the button and when the camera takes the photo. So, if you're taking action shots in good light, this camera does a really good job. Power-on-to-first-shot is very quick as well. The battery life is good, and flash recycle is decent. There are handily placed buttons for changing the metering mode (spot, center-weighted, etc) and shot modes (single, bracket, and continuous) without navigating any menus.
The camera also takes really good video. It's only 640x480, but it's 30fps and extremely smooth. Sound is in stereo, the zoom works while you're recording, and the image stabilization takes all the jitters out even when zoomed way in. And, this is the once place the infrared mode is actually useful. It works very nicely to capture everything that's going on even on the darkest night.
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