Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H200 Review
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The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H200 is an affordable super-zoom camera, offering a 26x, 24-633mm zoom lens, 20.1 megapixel Super HAD CCD sensor, 720p HD video recording with stereo sound and HDMI output, and 3D Sweep Panoramas. Other key features of the Sony H200 include a 3 inch LCD screen, ISO range of 80-6400, Optical SteadyShot with Active Mode which cuts camera-shake while you're shooting handheld HD video, Intelligent Auto Plus, Superior Auto, Program and full Manual shooting modes, a range of Picture Effects, support for both Memory Stick PRO Duo and Secure Digital cards and compatibility with AA batteries.. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H200 is available in black for £179 / $249.
Ease of Use
Sony’s new Cyber-shot DSC-H200 takes its design cues from an entry-level DSLR or bridge camera, rather than a smaller travel-zoom. It’s a camera to be worn around the neck, slung over a shoulder - with strap provided for both purposes - or tucked in a suitable bag. The handgrip is large enough to squeeze three fingers comfortably around, and when loaded with four standard AA batteries and an SD or Memory Stick Pro Duo card, it weighs 530g, which helps to provide a steadier hold when shooting towards the telephoto end of the zoom. To further help prevent blurred shots in such circumstances and in low light, Sony has also provided optical ‘SteadyShot’ image stabilization.
The build and finish is of good quality, with the all-black matt finish to the body and various DSLR-like dials and controls on initial inspection lending it an impression of being a ‘serious’ enthusiasts’ model. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H200's relatively compact size also means that locating the right control is never a stretch for forefinger or thumb. Most of the features you want to access are literally at your fingertip, which of course makes for speedier overall operation. Overall dimensions are 122.9x83.2x87.2mm.
The front of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H200 is dominated by the Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar lens, here boasting a maximum aperture of f/3.1 and a focal range the equivalent of a ultra-wide angle 24mm to 633mm in 35mm film terms - suggesting serious ‘poke’ at the telephoto end and real suitability for those paparazzi style candid portraits at full zoom, as well as of course landscapes and group portraits at the wider end. The lens also offers the advantage of built-in anti shake, essential on this style of camera. We also get an AF assist/self time lamp porthole top left of the lens when viewing the camera front on.
The top plate of the camera extends the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H200’s sophisticated look and feel, with a chunky stereo microphone sitting just behind the otherwise hidden pop-up flash. To the right of this, when looking down at the camera as you grip it in both hands, is the narrow lozenge shaped on/off button, with an embedded lamp that glows green when the camera is switched on, or orange if the battery is low and the unit is being recharged. Incidentally we don’t get a separate mains charger here. We get a mains lead, adapter and plug instead, meaning that the lithium ion pack is charged in-camera. When your battery is down, so is the camera therefore.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H200 takes roughly two seconds to power up, lens extending a little beyond its protective housing to arrive at maximum wideangle setting while the image on the rear LCD pops into life. While slower than an actual DSLR, that’s respectable for this class of bridge camera, or super-zoom.
The camera is commendably swift to determine focus and exposure, with the AF point/s highlighted in green on screen almost the instant your finger presses down on the shutter release button and finds the half-way point. Press down fully to take the shot and a full resolution 20 megapixel JPEG is committed to removable media card in just over three seconds. Face detection/selection and tracking focus are also offered here as standard features, activated or de-activated via a press of the unmarked button at the centre of the Sony’s backplate command pad.
Keep a forefinger on the zoom lever that encircles the shutter release button and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H200 powers through its 26x optical zoom range from wide angle to telephoto in about five seconds. Continue holding down the lever and it will continue zooming digitally to a 52x equivalent setting. If this option is taken the camera deploys the fantastically named Pixel Super Resolution technology that automatically enhances imagery to avoid the usual blocky appearance of conventional digital zooms.
Next to the power button is a raised, ridged-edged shooting mode button with an action that is just stiff enough to prevent the user accidentally slipping from one setting to the next in the thick of it. There are 6 options on this dial. We get the creative options of program and manual mode settings (but sadly no shutter priority or aperture priority modes) plus Sony’s now ubiquitous Sweep Panorama function, whereby the user pans through an arc as directed by the on-screen arrows - the resulting elongated shot automatically stitched together in camera. It’s both very effective and very easy to use.
Also on the dial is a dedicated High Definition video mode for up to 1280x720 pixels clips at 30 frames per second progressive capture. Rather strangely for an entry-level camera, there's no dedicated video record button on the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H200, instead relying on choosing the Video mode on the dial and then pressing the shutter button to begin recording. A press of menu when in video mode summons up a variety of options for adjusting the video resolution and frame rate, and also switch from intelligent auto video recording to applying picture effects, as we more usually can with stills photography. There’s also the ability to set exposure compensation and white balance. Another bonus is that full use of the optical zoom is provided in movie mode, as is automatic focus adjustment if you alter framing or swap subjects mid sequence.
Scene modes are up next and there are 11 user selectable options on the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H200, covering everything from the usual portraits to shooting landscapes by night and even handheld; pet, beach, snow and fireworks mode round out the more usual suspects. Rounding off the shooting mode options is the scene and subject recognizing and thereby automatically adjusting Intelligent Auto mode.
With the shutter release button and the zoom lever that encircles it comfortably sloping forward at the top of the handgrip, that’s it for the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H200’s minimalist top plate.
The rear of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H200 is dominated by the 3-inch, 460k dot resolution LCD screen. In terms of controls the back of the camera looks slightly sparse mainly due to the small dimensions of the actual buttons, though in fact most of the essentials are here. A dedicated playback button sits to the right of the LCD screen, alongside the textured thumb-grip.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
Beneath is the Menu button, a press of which summons a toolbar. This appears ranged to the left hand side of the screen. It’s here that we have access to most of the camera’s shooting and setup options - surprisingly missing a function reset button but otherwise offering all the regulars - and the in-camera help guide, even though a dedicated button marked with a question mark is additionally provided for such a purpose.
A familiar four-way control pad at the bottom right of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H200’s backplate features options for controlling the rear display, flash settings (with red eye reduction turned on or off via the menu screens), self timer (two or 10 seconds) plus turning on the Smile Shutter. Completing the rear of the is a dual Help/Delete button.
On either flank of the camera is a lug for attaching the provided shoulder strap, while on the left hand flank there is a flip-open door protecting the camera’s AV Out / USB port. Incidentally battery life of the four AA cells inserted in the base of the handgrip is around 350 shots, although that obviously depends on the quality of the AA batteries that you use. Finally a metal screw thread is located dead centre of the camera's base plate.