Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H3 review: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H3

Sony says that the H3 can output images and video to an HDTV if you buy the optional VMC-HD1 component video cable for about $40. However, since it's not included with the camera and Sony didn't send us one with the review sample, I can't verify this, though I don't really doubt them. This is a nice option, but I'd rather have seen an HDMI output on the camera instead of being forced to buy Sony's cable. Either way, viewing images on HD has always been a better experience for me than using the regular standard-definition outputs found on most compact cameras.

Except for a slow flash recycle time, the DSC-H3 performed well in our lab tests. The camera took 1.8 seconds to start up and capture its first JPEG, no doubt slowed a bit by the fact that the lens has to extend before you can shoot. It took 1.3 seconds between JPEGs with the flash disabled, jumping to 2.6 seconds between shots with the flash turned on. Shutter lag measured an impressive 0.4 second in our high-contrast test and 1 second in our low-contrast test, which mimic bright and dim shooting conditions, respectively. In burst mode, we were able to get an average of two frames per second, regardless of image size.

Image quality from the H3 can be quite nice if you stick with ISOs 100 and 200, though that niceness is marred a bit by the lens' noticeable distortion, as well as some purple fringing on high-contrast edges toward the edges of images. I saw more noise than I would've liked at ISO 400. While images are still very usable and much of the noise is minimized during printing, there is a noticeable falloff in shadow detail and fine detail at ISO 400. Stepping up to ISO 800, noise increases only slightly, but there's more of a falloff in shadow and fine detail. At ISO 1,600 noise becomes heavy and most shadow and fine detail is lost. The top sensitivity setting of ISO 3,200 yields extremely noisy images with completely blocked up shadows and fine details. For example, text which was crisp and clear at ISO 200 and below, becomes completely illegible at ISO 3,200. I suggest staying below ISO 1,600 when shooting with the H3 and sticking with ISO 100 or ISO 200 whenever possible.

If you want a long zoom lens in a camera that's smaller, if not lighter, than most superzooms, Sony's DSC-H3 is a decent choice. Since this is a new category, it's hard to draw comparisons, but when Canon's Powershot SX100 hits the market in October, we should be able to get a better idea of how this Sony compares with the competition.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Time to first shot  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H3
1.3 
1.8 
1 
0.4 
Canon PowerShot S5 IS
1.6 
1.3 
0.8 
0.5 
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8
1.8 
2.7 
1.3 
0.6 

Typical continuous-shooting speed (frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H3
2 

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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H3 (Silver)

Part Number: DSCH3S
Low Price: $699.00 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Optical Zoom 10 x
  • Optical Sensor Type Super HAD CCD
  • Sensor Resolution 8.1 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical (Super Steady Shot)
  • Optical Sensor Size 1/2.5"
  • Lens 38 - 380mm F/3.5