Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 review: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55

Shooting performance is OK leaning toward slow. From off to first shot is a good 1.8 seconds. Shutter lag in bright conditions is a bit long at 0.6 second; it goes up to 0.8 second in dim lighting. Its shot-to-shot time without flash is long at 3.7 seconds. Using the flash extends that time to 4.5 seconds. One of the things it does do quickly for its class is shoot continuously at 1.9 frames per second, though that's only for four shots.

Photo quality from the H55 is generally 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 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. Small prints with little or no cropping are possible if you're not a stickler for sharpness. The camera does have a High Sensitivity mode, an auto mode locked into using ISO 3,200. If you can't use a flash or move to a brighter area or you're trying to get a faster shutter speed, use it. However, don't expect great results.

Sony does a first-rate 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 is also kept well under control. In high-contrast areas where there are no strong borders, such as leaves against a white sky, you will see some. However, it's not readily visible until you're viewing photos at 100 percent. Sharpness is consistent edge to edge.

Color is terrific from the H55. While blues and reds maybe aren't as accurate as other colors, all colors turn out bright and vivid. Plus, they're consistent up to ISO 800; above that things are slightly washed out looking. Exposure and white balance are strong as well.

My expectations for the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 were pretty low given its dearth of features compared to the HX5V. While it doesn't have that model's fast shooting performance, its photo quality is terrific for its class. It could be better above ISO 200, but that's no different from any other compact megazoom at this price. The lens, large LCD, and its ease of use make it an easy recommendation for a basic compact megazoom.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1
Fujifilm FinePix JZ500
Canon PowerShot SX120 IS
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55
Nikon Coolpix S8000

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

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