Sony was quite late to the megazoom parade with its Cyber-shot DSC-H1, but this follow-up model is more in step with the rest of the marchers. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H2's 12X zoom lens now carries the Carl Zeiss moniker, resolution has been bumped up to 6 megapixels, and sensitivity has been stretched all the way out to ISO 1,000. Casual photographers -- who might not want the hassle of an interchangeable lens -- should find the H2 appealing for its massive zoom range, its pleasing image quality, and its broad array of both automatic and manual exposure controls. But advanced amateurs who need low noise at higher ISOs might want to look elsewhere.
A gently curved, rubber-coated grip dominates the right side, topped by the shutter release; below that sits a jog dial that's used to change settings, such as aperture and shutter speed. Just behind the shutter are two buttons: one to choose between various automatic or manual focus modes and another to toggle through drive modes and exposure bracketing.
The H2 builds on the strengths of its predecessor with a 12X 36mm-to-432mm (35mm equivalent) image-stabilised Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens, a 6-megapixel Super HAD CCD sensor, and a 2-inch LCD in a body that's small enough to fit in a fanny pack, should you be so fashion unconscious as to wear one. Slightly smaller than the littlest dSLRs, such as Pentax's *ist DL, the H2's 408 gram body is logically designed.
For those keeping score, that makes this screen a half inch smaller than the H1's. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H2 is mostly comfortable to use, but I accidentally hit the menu button a number of times during field tests, and the raised dots that add grip for your thumb irritated mine after prolonged use.
With enough scene and auto modes for beginners and enough manual controls for advanced shooters, the H2 should appeal to a wide audience. In addition to automatic, exposure controls include program and full manual, as well as aperture and shutter priority. Shutter speeds range from 1/4 second up to 1/2,000 second in auto mode, one second to 1/2,000 second in program, and 30 seconds to 1/1,000 second in all other modes. Metering choices include multipattern, centre weighted, and spot. Sensitivity covers ISO 80 to ISO 1,000.
An adaptor ring that screws into the lens housing lets you use the included lens hood, as well as accessories, including 0.7X wide-angle, 1.7X telephoto, or close-up lens adaptors; a ring light for macro photography; or any 58mm screw-type filter -- Sony offers both polarising and neutral-density filter kits.
Also atop the camera are the mode dial, the Super Steady Shot image stabilisation button and the power button. Sony recessed these last two, so they're a little difficult to find by touch, though still responsive. In addition, there's a button that switches between the 0.2-inch, 210,000-pixel electronic viewfinder and the two-inch, 85,000-pixel LCD screen and playback mode.
A pair of 2,500mAh rechargeable nickel-metal-hydride AA batteries and a charger ships with the Sony Cyber Shot DSC-H2, and they last a lot longer than any disposable option except lithium. If you want to plug the camera into the wall, Sony offers an optional AC adapter. There's an accessory flash for the H1 but not the H2, so you'll have to rely on this camera's built-in flash, which reaches out to 29 feet with the lens at its widest angle and ISO set to auto.