Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H1 - Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H1


Sony has a business partnership with the esteemed German lens design company Carl Zeiss, and many of Sony’s cameras bear this distinguished brand name. It is notable by its absence from the lens on the H1, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Carl Zeiss had a hand in its design, because it’s quite a piece of work. It can focus down to 2cm, it has a maximum aperture of F2.8-3.7, which is remarkably fast for such a big zoom, and as we’ll see later it has amazingly good optical performance, far better than most of its competitors.

Despite this monster of a lens, the H1 doesn’t hang about when it comes to performance. It starts up in a very creditable two seconds, and in good light it has a very quick autofocus time, taking around 0.3 seconds to lock on. Low light slows this down somewhat, but thanks to a very good AF illuminator the H1 can focus in complete darkness at a range of a couple of metres. Some reviewers have reported that the autofocus system has problems locking on at maximum zoom range, but I found no such problem.

In continuous shooting mode the H1 can take 13 frames in just under 11 seconds, before it has to pause for 11 seconds to empty the image buffer into the memory card. On the subject of memory cards, the H1 naturally takes Sony Memory Stick. I tested the camera with a standard 128MB purple Memory Stick because that’s all I have at the moment, but it is designed to use the faster and higher capacity Memory Stick Pro, so write times may well be faster with these newer cards.

The H1 is not short of creative features. It offers the full range of manual exposure modes, with manual shutter speeds of 30 seconds to 1/1000th of a second, and apertures from F2.8 to F8.0 available. These settings don’t compete with an SLR, but they’re quite respectable for a semi-pro camera. For the more lazy photographer there are seven scene program modes, as well as a full-auto ‘idiot mode’. Actually, this is a particularly good camera for the attention-challenged. If you switch the camera on with the lens cap in place, rather than trying to extend the lens anyway it flashes up a message on the screen, “Lens cap attached”; the “…you idiot.” is unspoken but implied.