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Saturday, March 14, 2009

SuperZoom Sony DSC H50 digital camera review

Writing this review of my Sony DSC H50 digital camera after 9 months of purchase and loads of photographs. Before deciding to review this camera for a moment I thought this product might have become obsolete and there may not be a point in reviewing it. But after having a look at Sony India website I noticed that DSC H50 is still the top-end digicam they have on offer and current price quoted on the site is actually 2000 Rs more than what I paid in June 2008. (upward revision of cost might be due to weak rupee-not sure). So it still makes sense to review this camera and here we go…
Features and specifications are readily available in Sony website, so I won’t repeat them unless necessary.

What I like in this camera:
Zoom Zoom Zoom…
On every outing where we camp overnight and there’s a moon in the sky, I take a full close up photo of the moon (see image) and show it to other trekkers/campers around. Trust me, without fail it gets “Wow!” from everyone who sees it. In VGA Mode, 15x optical Zoom + 81x digital zoom (31-465mm in 35mm equivalent) can take me this close to moon (Wondering why ISRO spent crores on Chandrayaan! Little more zoom and they can see everything from here itself-Lol!) There is a general opinion that Digital Zoom is unreliable and useless-but this camera proves it wrong, its digital zoom is very precise. Ordinary digicams with 3x optical zoom and SLRs with 18-55mm lens fail pathetically when it comes to clicking far away objects and my H50 leaves them miles behind.- Sing with me.. Zara Zoom Zooom Zara Zooom Zoom …

Note: the downside of higher zoom in digicam is reduced resolution. Higher the zoom I need, lower will be the resolution I’ll have to settle for. The moon photo you saw above was taken in VGA mode and is just good enough to see on computer or use in a web page but no good if you want to enlarge or take print. The Zoom at 9.1 MP is very little increases if you settle for 5M or 3M.

In Summary: Sony’s top end DSC H50 digital still camera has lots of key features- 15x optical +81x digital zoom, tilt able large LCD, Upto 9 mega pixels, excellent image clarity, full manual controls and more, but has some inherent disadvantages such as inadequate battery, expensive accessories and bulkiness. Costs 3 times a decent entry level digicam and half that of a decent entry level SLR. Its reasonably close to SLRs (in terms of quality and controls and looks) and is a good choice for those wanting something much better than ordinary PAS cameras but not comfortable spending heavily on SLRs and their lenses
Clarity of images
Again, excellent. Very happy. Refer to albums at the end for photos taken with Sony DSCH50.

Features: Just too many. 9.1 mega pixels is just too much for ordinary photographs. Each photo clicked at 9MP weighs more than 3MB. Since I don’t have to send my photos for high resolution printing, clicking each photo at 3MB becomes a headache, as storing and uploading hundreds of photos at that size demands lots of resources. Hence I use 9MP only for extremely important photos and use 5MP or 3MP mode for most of the regular photos, which results in excellent photos within a size of manageable 1-2MB. Face detection, smiley shutter, image stabilization and host of other features, including full manual controls to set aperture and shutterspeed take this camera very close to a professional one. But still it is not a replacement for professional cameras. LCD Can be tilted upwards. (but not sideward like some Cannon models wherein you can photograph yourself with ease). Buttons and controls are well positioned and soon one will get comfortable with them.

How good it is for the video?
Digicams are no match for handycams for recording video. But DSC-H50 is good enough for taking quick video clips, though I’ve not recorded much videos of late.



So far I didn’t feel the need for tripod. Image Stabilization is good enough and it is possible to manage without a tripod. No technical issues since its purchase.

I zeroed in on DSC H50 due to following reasons:

  • I wanted something better than ordinary digicams. The 3x Zoom in my earlier Olympus FE170 wasn’t adequate.
  • I don’t earn from my photos, so too much of investment without any returns didn’t appear sensible
  • I didn’t want to spend 30-40k on a decent entry level SLR and lenses. Even if I had chosen to spend that much, the risk associated with it (of possible theft/damage/loss) was too much.
  • I didn’t want to carry around a big bag exclusively for the camera and its lenses
  • I was impressed by the built in zoom of 31-465mm


(Just to give a comparison-A Nikkor AF-S 70-300mm lens costs 26k and weighs full 2Kgs (source:jjmehta.com)-In exchange for not having to spend so much money and carry the load all around, all I compromise in DSC h50 is image resolution, whenever I want higher zoom-works fine for me, but if you work for newspaper or such organizations that need high resolution images DSCH50 may not be ideal for you)

My other options while I was considering this camera was a Fujifilm model with 18x zoom (S8000fd), which was cheaper by 3k. I decided to go with Sony, expecting better quality, service and durability. Till date I don’t have reasons to regret my purchase and am happy with the camera. But if you’re considering buying Sony DSC H50, then do these: 1 Ensure that your requirements/expectations from the camera meet that of mine (listed above), 2 Read some of the downsides listed below, 3: There’re some new models in the market from Nikon (Coolpix P90) and Olympus (SP 560UZ) offering up to 24x optical zooms-you might want to give them some serious considerations (I’ve not checked them in person, but specs say digital zoom is very less, hence total zoom could be less. Also some of them come with an adapter so that additional lens can be attached. Not possible in Sony)

Bracket feature is also nice.

Downside/Limitations of DSC H50
Very poor battery life
A device like H50 with heavy motors (to move the lens), large LCD and flash needs lots of energy. The standard Sony battery that comes with it will last just half a day/300 photos under normal circumstances. By turning off the sounds, auto review, by using viewfinder instead of LCD, by switching off whenever possible etc one can extend the life for a day for my kind of usage (Keeping the camera ready all the time, all through the day and clicking anything that looks remotely/possibly interesting).

After buying a camera for 20k, last thing one would want is to miss out few possible photos for want of battery. So I had to spend another 2.5k and buy an additional battery before my Binsar trip, with which now I am able to manage a 2 day outing with ease without the fear of running out of battery power.

Bulkiness
I shouldn't be complaining on this one-we can't have a professional camera coming in pocket size-atleast for near future. Sony DSC H50 has the size of a normal SLR and weighs about half a kilo. So it doesn’t have the convenience of “carry in your pocket” size digicams. Takes enough space in your bag and needs to protection from impact, water etc.

Its sheer size and similarity with that of a professional SLR camera also gets some unwanted attention at times. Last July while in Mussoorie, we went into a shop on Mall Road. Few shop owners gathered around me asking which newspaper I work for… I said none and they weren’t willing to believe I am an ordinary tourist. I had to survive their over enthusiastic description of products available in their shop before they let me go… There was a product called Dolphin Massager and the shopkeeper massaged all over my back using it for free and all I had to do was take few photos of his products (from different angles for added effect-else how will I look professional?)

At times I also get a "what's so funny happening here? why is he moving around with such a big camera?" look from others.



Also, anyone who sees this camera first asks: “is it an SLR?” I say ‘NO’ and usually suffix a note ‘but it is very close’. But the other person’s interest in the camera is lost the moment he hears ‘NO’.


Wide Angle is not Wide enough


Can’t match a SLR
It is very close but can’t match a SLR. I couldn’t take some of the candid shots others have taken in their SLRs. (I’ll take some blame on myself instead of blaming the Camera-May be some of them were Photoshop after effects and maybe I am yet to master all controls my camera has on offer. Despite best manual settings I could adopt to, there were instances when I lost an image due to motion blurr or reduced clarity/focus or loss of subject by the time camera did its calculations)


Can’t take SD cards
Needs Sony’s proprietary memory card, Memory Stick Pro Duo. Compatible Up to 2GB Max. 1GB Card comes free with the pack. Pouch is not included. With little negotiation you might be able to get a free upgrade to 2GB card or a pouch or get 3% standard discount. As you know Sony’s accessories are fairly expensive compared to others.


No provision to attach Flash Gun
Besides giving extra powerful flash, a flashgun helps photographer decide where to direct the light-on the subject or the background etc, by tilting the angle of flash.
Also no adapters available to affic additional lenses.
Conclusion
DSC H50 is about 3 times more expensive than an entry level Digital Still Camera, hence some financial judgment is required before spending so much. If you’re travelling a lot and need a good camera which is a right compromise between sleek, cheap, light but not so good digicams and expensive, heavy & bulky SLRs with their lenses, DSC H50 is a right choice.


Jan 2011 Updates: I dropped it once and its display unit is damaged. Have given to service now, expected damage: 4k...

Some set of Photos taken using Sony DSC H50
YercaudWayanad, KeralaJavadhu
Olympus FE 170 review * Laptop review: Dell vs HP vs Sony vs rest (103 comments) *Panasonic DMC FT3 review * 

21 comments :

Ravs said...

Hey Shrinidhi nice pics. Meanwhile, can you recommend or review any prospective laptops? Not the higher end but with the latest config.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Hi Ravs

Thanks. A comparison of various laptop brands available in this post, though it's not latest. for latest configuration may be you can check Dell or HP websites

Ruchi said...

I am thinking of buying a camera, this model looks nice to me.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

ok... Have a good time with your camera... its a good buy overall...

Rajesh Kumar said...

I have DSC H50 as well and am extremely happy with hit. It is a paisa wasool camera if you love outdoor photography.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Rajesh,

I remember you asking me if it is worth buying this camera. Good to see another happy customer.

Nishant said...

try visiting http://www.flickr.com/photos/nishant_works
for images captured by Sony H50

aru... said...

hi,
this is aru, can u advice if i can use this fpr macro photography, i m much interested in capturing insects , butterflies....

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Yes, it is good enough for macros, once you understand which settings to use for which scene. (sometime I won't get good macro shot in auto mode-by the time I change to Aperture Priority or some other appropriate mode I would have lost the subject- that is one disadvantage, which will be there in all cameras

Anonymous said...

dude....does it hav focus ring ??

Shrinidhi Hande said...

No it doesn't have one. Its not an SLR and doesn't have detachable lens

Anonymous said...

hi actually wanna know if external lens can b attached to h5o sony model as im a photography student need more wider view n took d cam a bit earlier so

Shrinidhi Hande said...

To the anon above, Well, it does have a focus ring. I was mistaken.Sorry.

Don't think external lens can be attached.

Rajesh Dharwal said...

I liked your review.

Check few more photoz taken with H50:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/simplyrd/

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Rajesh, your photos are nice

Rajesh Dharwal said...

Thanks to you also.

Coz I have been using this camera and was not known to the fact that I can use 81x at VGA.

Have a great writing.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

you're welcome. Now that you know the secret, you can shooting distant objects... Let try if we can spot that water on moon... what say?

Rajesh Dharwal said...

LOL, ya sure.

Rohit Tripathi said...

want to buy a camera and running all around the web to know which one to buy, I can pay up to 30 thousand but dont know the ABCD of photography and big time confused ki what i need exactly in a camera, Srinidhi please advise for something, I'll be clicking more and more outdoor pics some night shots and just want clear pics nothing else for example you can see pics at chai ki dukan, www.chaikidukaan.com/ I need taht typ of clarity and dont have any idea which camera to buy :( please advise something

Abhishek said...

Hi Shrinidhi,
I bought this camera 2 years back and since then i m clicking nice snaps (at least i can say that :))
The problem that i always faced is that I do not get the liberty to focus on the things which are lil behind something like bush as I dnt have cntrl over focusing it on these kind of objects..which is the real fun in SLRs as I understand...I searched for the option of attaching external lens over this using Adapters but havnt got any concrete anser as of now...any pointer would be appreciated :)

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Rohit Tripathi,

Sorry for responding after about an year...

Anyway I believe we've discussed this over chat.

Which one did you buy?

Buying expensive camera doesn't guarantee great photography. I'd suggest invest in learning photographic skills first.

Abhishek,
Even I faced that issue, but am able to manage to some extent by either moving closer or getting unwanted object out of the way or fiddling with settings or by lens movement. Not a perfect solution though and when short of time, it is difficult

I dropped it on rock in Coorg in October 2010 and LCD is gone since then. Have given it for repair now and awaiting estimate...