Steve's Conclusion

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Steve's SnapShot
Thumbnail image for DSC-H200_Right_jpg.jpg
  • 20.1-Megapixel Imaging Sensor
  • 3.0-Inch, 460,000 dot LCD Screen
  • 26x Optical zoom lens: 22.3-580mm (35mm equivalent)
  • Optical SteadyShot
  • iAuto mode
  • 720p HD video recording
  • 360 Motion Panorama
  • Face Detection
  • Beauty Effects
  • AA type batteries
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC or MS Duo memory card compatible
Pros
  • iAuto shooting mode is accurate and easy in all situations
  • 26x Optical Zoom is incredibly versatile
  • 360 Panorama is easy and fast
  • Optical SteadyShot is very helpful when shooting on the move
  • Nice, Bright 3.0-inch LCD
  • Good Battery Life
  • Very Competitively priced
Cons
  • Poor Still Image and Video Quality
  • No Dedicated video recording button
  • Poor Shooting Performance
  • Mono Audio Microphone
  • Weak Flash Unit
  • Optical SteadyShot is not quite enough at full telephoto
  • No HDMI output for HD movies on an HDTV
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 3.1 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused  = 2/10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = approx. 6/10 to 8/10 of a second
  • Shot to shot delay wo/flash = 1.56 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 2.14 seconds
  • Sequential burst =  0.66fps 
  • Sequential flash burst = Burst is not available with the flash
  • All tests were taken using an SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-1, 8GB SDHC memory card, Program Mode, ISO auto, Flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise.
Bottom Line
The Sony Cyber Shot H200 is one of the most affordable super-zoom digicams on the market. Its huge zoom lens and great feature set are unfortunately held back by its performance and image quality.
Pick This Up If...
You are looking for an easy to use super-zoom camera at a very low price. You will get what you pay for with this camera, as it lacks in quality and performance.
The Sony Cyber Shot H200 is the most affordable of the "H" line, which features all of their high zoom models. The H200 sports a 26x optical zoom lens and a 52x smart zoom capability. Assisting with this large lens is Sony's Optical SteadyShot image stabilization system, because even on a bright day it can be nearly impossible to hold the camera still enough without it. Also featured on the camera is a 20.1-Megapixel imaging sensor, Sweep Panorama and Intelligent Auto shooting modes, 720p HD video capture, and the capability to run on any "AA" type batteries. The combination of these features leaves you with a compact camera with incredible versatility that is easy enough for anyone to use. 

With a dSLR-style body, only much smaller, it is very comfortable to hold and very easy to handle and operate. Having the zoom control for the massive zoom lens coupled around the shutter release allows you to zoom and shoot with just one hand, and no matter what position you are in, you will be able to composite and capture an image. The camera does not have a viewfinder at all, so all of your framing has to be completed using the 3.0-inch, 460-000 dot Clear Photo LCD screen. With its 5 levels of adjustable brightness, you will have no problems seeing it in just about any lighting condition. 

Our outdoor image samples were a little disappointing due to the amount of noise in all of the images. With the images full screen, they look vivid and well exposed, it's not until we look at them at their actual resolution that we see how much noise is present. This noise softens sharp lines and details, making the depth of field look much shallower than it really is. It also makes it much harder to crop your images. Even though the camera uses a 20.1-Megapixel imaging sensor, the noise will become much more apparent once you have cropped the image. 

Sony's 26x optical zoom lens with a 35mm equivalent of 22.3-580mm gives the camera a great deal of versatility, making it great for any shooting situation. Its incredibly wide end is great for capturing vast landscapes or large group shots, while the telephoto end allows you to single out an individual or distant subject that most compact cameras will have no chance at. Sony has also included their Optical SteadyShot image stabilization to assist you in keeping the camera steady and your images sharp. It worked well through most of the zoom range, but at full telephoto, it was still hard to keep the camera steady enough to capture a crisp image.

Shooting indoors gives us a much better look at noise issue using a constant subject. It was very disappointing to see that we could not see the stitching on the flag, even at the lowest ISO settings. While ISO 80 is not too bad, the noise increases very quickly with each setting. Once you get to ISO 400, you will not want to go any higher. The noise level here is unacceptable for ISO 400 and anything higher is just plain unacceptable period. Unfortunately the huge zoom lens does not handle light well enough to keep the ISO settings low enough, and the pop-up flash is not near strong enough for the telephoto end of the lens. 

Shooting portraits with the H200 is very easy, as the camera will quickly pick up any faces that are in the frame. The face detection is also very good at following these faces as long as they stay within the frame and facing the camera. Using the face detection, the camera did an excellent job setting the exposure and focus for the subjects face, giving you the best portrait possible. Unfortunately the weakness of the flash does not provide enough light to keep the ISO settings low enough for a great portrait image. Looking closely at our sample, you can see how the noise takes away the finer details and softens the image.

The H200 also features Sony's Sweep Panorama shooting mode, allowing you press the shutter release and then pan the camera. The camera will capture several images as you pan and then stitch them together for you. The camera does an excellent job with the stitching, not leaving a visible seam between images. The only downfall is very low resolution of the final image, that makes it hard to make out most if the fine details. One of the best parts of this mode is that it does give you the ability to take a shot rotating 360 degrees, so you are guaranteed to capture the entire landscape or surroundings.

Capturing home movies with the H200 is as easy as setting the camera to movie mode and pressing the shutter release. The camera is capable of recording resolutions up to 720p, while the built-in mono microphone will record its audio. The optical zoom is also available while you are recording, however the camera does struggle to keep focused while the zoom is in use. Unfortunately the video quality, even at 720p Fine, looks like it was taken by an old cell phone, not a digital camera or video camera. The sensitive built-in mic will pick up all of the sounds around the camera, including a very light breeze, so be careful where you decide to shoot from. 

Sony chose to run the H200 with "AA" type batteries, giving it a source of power that can be found worldwide. You do not have to worry about keeping a battery charged, but you will have to make sure you have spares, especially if you will be traveling where there are no stores. We still recommend using NiMH rechargeable batteries, as they can be used numerous times saving you money in the long run. We had no problem capturing over 100 images and movies while completing our tests with a set of Rayovac Platinum 2000mAh rechargeable NiMH batteries. 

Bottom Line - The Sony Cyber Shot H200 is a very affordable super-zoom digicam sporting a 26x optical zoom lens and Sony's Optical SteadyShot image stabilization. It also includes a 3.0-inch LCD and Intelligent Auto shooting mode that make it simple enough for anyone to use. The 20.1-Megapixel image sensor leaves us craving a lot more in terms of image quality, as we see way too much noise, even at the lowest ISO settings. With a MSRP of US $249.99, on sale from Sony currently for $199.99 (as of April 30, 2013), this camera is at the bottom of the stack price wise for camera's in its class, just remember what we have said about the poor image quality. 

*While it may have just been our sample model, but we had issues with metering and the camera reading the SDHC memory card that we used for our tests. It also froze and turned off while we were trying to record our video samples. The memory card was freshly formatted by the camera when we started the review. Our metering issue caused us to turn the camera on and off several times during shooting in order to collect the appropriate samples.


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