Check out an examination of photo quality from the Cyber-shot DSC-H70, Sony's 2011 budget-friendly compact megazoom.
Photo quality from the H70 is very good to excellent for its class, but like most compact cameras it still stumbles at higher ISOs. Photos at ISO 80 and 100 are sharp with very good fine detail and low noise. At ISO 200 subjects soften some, losing a touch of sharpness and fine detail. At ISO 400, images get noticeably softer and there's an increase in noise in darker areas of images. However, this is really only visible when they're viewed at 100 percent. If you're printing at and below 5x7 inches and not doing heavy cropping, the results are very good. Photos at ISO 800 and 1600 look painterly from noise reduction, so subjects will appear soft and smeary. Smaller prints with little or no cropping are possible, but not much else. ISO 3200 isn't good for much beyond Web use at small sizes and even that's questionable.
Like most point-and-shoots, the H70 takes soft photos that benefit from some sharpening with photo-editing software. If you don't want to mess with software, the camera has an unsharp mask option in playback for sharpening your shots. The top photo here is the original and the bottom is with the unsharp mask applied. (It looks like Sony may have applied its Dynamic Range Optimization as well.) The sharpening definitely helps bring out the fine details in the flower's petals; however, at larger sizes you will see more noise.
The H70's Macro mode can focus as close as 2 inches from a subject and the photos can be very good. The inset shot, for example, withstood a heavy crop and still looked good printed. You won't be able to do that with every photo from the H70, but the capability is there.
I wouldn't recommend the H70 for regularly shooting kids, pets, and sports because it's just too slow. That's not to say that you won't get the occasional action shot, especially if you take advantage of the camera's three-shot burst. Unfortunately the screen goes black while it's firing so you won't know if you caught what you wanted till after it's done saving. Also, as is common for point-and-shoots, focus and exposure are set with the first shot, which means there's a chance that the second and third shots won't be in focus.
The H70 does have a Manual mode, but it is very limited. Shutter speeds can be set from 30 seconds to 1/1,600 second. Only two apertures each are available at the wide and telephoto ends (using a neutral density filter); f3.5 or f8 and f5.5 or f13, respectively. That's more than you get on most point-and-shoots, so I'm not complaining; just don't buy this expecting a lot of control.
Color is excellent from the H70. While blues and reds may not be as accurate as other colors, they are bright and vivid. Plus, they're consistent up to ISO 800; above that things get slightly washed out and muddy-looking. Exposure and white balance are good as well, though highlights tend to blow out.
Sony does an excellent job of controlling barrel distortion at the wide end of the lens and pincushion distortion at the telephoto end. I saw little to no evidence of either in my test shots. Fringing around high-contrast subjects was minimal, too and only really visible when photos were viewed at full size. However, there is some pulling toward the center from the corners at the wide end (see the top photo in the next slide for an example) as well as edge and corner softness.
The camera has a version of Sony's Sweep Panorama feature that allows you to quickly and easily take panoramic shots horizontally or vertically. Though fun, the results are just on par with a screen capture from a video clip. Consider them for Web use only, for viewing on a TV from a proper distance, or for very small prints.
Sony includes two levels of its Dynamic Range Optimization (DRO) feature, which helps bring out details that would otherwise be lost in shadows. On the left DRO is off and on the right it's on at its highest setting.