Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H70 review: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H70

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The Good The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H70 has a compact, lightweight design and good features and photo quality for the money.

The Bad The DSC-H70's 16-megapixel photo resolution doesn't improve photo quality from its 14-megapixel predecessor, and its shooting performance is slow.

The Bottom Line The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H70 is a very good basic compact megazoom, if not the best value.

7.0 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 6
  • Image quality 8

The 16-megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-H70 is the least expensive of Sony's 2011 compact megazooms and offers little more than a resolution bump from the camera it's replacing, 2010's 14-megapixel DSC-H55. The extra resolution doesn't make the photos any better and they aren't any more usable for enlargements or cropping. However, they aren't necessarily any worse, either; the H55 produced very nice photos, particularly at and below ISO 100, and so does the H70.

Also carried over from the H55 is its slow shooting performance, which could potentially make the H70 frustrating to use, especially if you're shooting moving subjects. Otherwise, the camera is pretty good, thanks to a large LCD, a high-quality lens, and a decent number of shooting options, all at a reasonable price. On the other hand, it might not be the best value because the Sony DSC-HX7V has much more to offer for an extra $70.

Key specs Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H70
Price (MSRP) $229.99
Dimensions (WHD) 4.1x2.3x1.1 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 7.1 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3-inch LCD, 230K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 10x, f3.5-5.5, 25-250mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/MPEG-4 (MP4)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,608x3,456 pixels/ 1,280x720 at 30fps
Image stabilization type Optical and digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life Lithium ion rechargeable, 200 shots
Battery charged in camera No; external charger supplied
Storage media Memory Stick Pro Duo; SD/SDHC/SDXC cards
Bundled software Picture Motion Browser 5.5, PMB Portable 5.0 (Windows), PMB Portable 1.1 (Mac), Music Transfer

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 1,600 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 3,200 isn't good for much beyond Web use at small sizes, and even that's questionable.

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 are viewed at full size. However, there is some pulling toward the center from the corners at the wide end as well as edge and corner softness. Whether you can see these things is really dependent on your subject and, again, how large you're viewing your photos.

Color is excellent from the H70. While blues and reds maybe aren't as accurate as other colors, they are bright and vivid. Plus, they're consistent up to ISO 800; above that, things look slightly washed out. Exposure and white balance are strong as well.

The H70's movie mode is simple, offering resolutions up to 720p HD with a mono mic for audio and use of the optical zoom while recording. Video quality is on par with a basic HD pocket video camera; it's good enough for Web use and nondiscriminating TV viewing. Panning the camera will cause noticeable judder. That's typical of the video from most compact cameras, though.

General shooting options Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H70
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600, 3,200
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent white, Fluorescent natural white, Fluorescent day white, Incandescent, Flash, Custom
Recording modes Easy, Intelligent Auto, Program, Manual, Sweep Panorama, Scene, Movie
Focus modes Multi AF, Center AF, Spot AF, Face Detection (Adult, Child)
Macro 1.9 inches (Wide); 3.3 feet (Tele)
Metering modes Multi, Center, Spot
Color effects None
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) 3 shots

Despite having a full manual shooting mode, the H70 is really geared for automatic shooting. The Intelligent Auto scene recognition mode turns out reliable results without any adjustments, but there are still a couple of options available, like exposure and setting face detection priorities. An Easy mode takes away all options except for image size (large or small) and enlarges onscreen text.

There are 11 scene-shooting options, including Beach, Snow, Twilight, Pet, and High Sensitivity for low-light shooting without a flash. The camera also 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, viewing on a TV from a proper distance, or very small prints.

For those who want a little more control, Program Auto lets you adjust ISO, white balance, autofocus points, light metering, and exposure values, as well as control the amount of Sony's Dynamic Range Optimization used for rescuing shadow detail. There is a full manual option for control over aperture and shutter speed. It's limited to two aperture settings each at the wide and telephoto ends (using a neutral density filter); f3.5 and f8 for wide and f5.5 and f13 for telephoto. There are a few more sets of stops available through the zoom range: f4-9, f4.5-10, and f5-11. Shutter speeds are adjustable from 1/1,600 to 30 seconds. It'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. Also worth mentioning is that the H70 has exposure bracketing that will take three photos, one at the exposure you select and then two more at plus and minus 0.3EV, 0.7EV, or 1.0EV. It doesn't do this terribly fast, though, so you may want to use a tripod and only with still subjects.

Shooting performance is generally slow. From off to first shot takes approximately 2.2 seconds. Shutter lag in bright conditions is livable at 0.5 second; it goes up to 0.7 second in dim lighting. Shot-to-shot time without flash is long at 4.1 seconds. Using the flash extends that time to 4.8 seconds. Lastly, the DSC-H70 can shoot continuously at 1.7 frames per second, though that's only for three shots. 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.

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