Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H20 Review

June 12, 2009 | Zoltan Arva-Toth |

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 10 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 4Mb.

In terms of image quality, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H20 represents a step forward from the H10, which itself produced images of more than respectable quality. We have found the noise behaviour to be better in the ISO 400-800 range, where the camera captured photos that I would not hesitate to print at 18x24cm or bigger. Auto white balance, a weak point of the H10, has been improved and is now much more reliable. There is also a custom white balance option, which was missing from the previous model. And the colours appear to have been tweaked for the better too – specifically, the H20 produces much more natural looking foliage greens than the H10. Finally, the dynamic range of the photos is very good for a small-sensor digicam, especially with the Dynamic Range Optimiser activated.


The available ISO sensitivity settings range from ISO 80 to ISO 3200 (ISO 80 to ISO 800 with the Dynamic Range Optimiser set to DRO Plus), and the quality is surprisingly good up to and including ISO 800. No, it is not DSLR class, but it's still much better than what we've seen from most other small-sensor compacts. At ISO 1600 there is a noticeable drop in quality, and ISO 3200 is best avoided, especially if you are shooting for printed output.

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)


ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)


ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)


ISO 3200 (100% Crop)



Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are just a little soft at the default sharpening setting and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can change the in-camera sharpening level if you don't like the default look.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


Chromatic Aberrations

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H20 handled chromatic aberrations excellently during the review, with purple fringing being much less of a problem than I had expected them to be.

Example 1 (100% Crop)


The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H20 has an excellent macro mode. Maximum magnification is achieved at a subject distance of 2cm, with the lens zoomed in to about 63mm (equivalent). The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.

Macro Shot

100% Crop


The flash settings on the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H10 are Auto, Flash On, Slow Syncro, Flash Off and Red-eye Reduction. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (38mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (38mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (380mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (380mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. The flash caused quite a bit of red-eye and red-eye reduction mode made little difference. There is, however, a second red-eye correction tool available in playback.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

Red-eye Correction

Red-eye Correction (100% Crop)


The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H20's maximum shutter speed is 30 seconds, which is great news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The following photo was taken at a shutter speed of 4 seconds at ISO 80. We have included a 100% crop to show you what the quality is like.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Image Stabilisation

These examples are 100% crops from two photos taken at 1/8th second at the 380mm equivalent setting. As you can see, the Super Steady Shot image stabilisation system can mean the difference between a sharp and a blurred photo when taking hand held shots at shutter speeds that are critically slow for the focal length used.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Image Stabilisation Off (100% Crop)

Image Stabilisation On (100% Crop)

1/8th / 380mm

Dynamic Range Optimizer

DRO is Sony's solution to bring up the shadows in a photo taken in contrasty light without blowing out the highlights. The available settings are Off, Standard – marked as D-R in the menu – and DRO Plus, marked as D-R+. These photographs, taken at identical exposure settings, illustrate the difference.

Off (100% Crop)

D-R (100% Crop)


D-R+ (100% Crop)