Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H70
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|
|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|
|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.
The H70 is a simple black (or silver or red or blue) box with a slight cylindrical grip on its right side that gives you a place to rest your fingertips in front and thumb in the back. Its body is compact and lightweight, considering its long zoom and wide-angle lens. Most of the H70's weight seems to come from its lens and battery pack. The lens is a G lens, which Sony only uses in its dSLR cameras, advanced HD camcorders, and a few Cyber-shots. Overall it has a nice design, but it's not quite perfect.
Its controls are fairly easy to master. On its top is the shooting mode dial, shutter release, zoom ring, and a power button. The power button is flush with the body, making it difficult to find without looking. Also, if you're not careful with your finger placement, it's pretty easy to cover the sliver of a flash bulb on the front-right side.
On back is a 3-inch LCD, which, though large, can be difficult to see in full sun--even at its highest brightness setting. To its right are the remaining controls: a Playback button, a directional pad with a select button at its center, a Menu button, and a Delete button. Along with navigating menus, the directional pad turns on the camera's smile- and timer-activated shutter release options, changes flash settings, and changes the brightness of the LCD as well as what information it displays. Unfortunately, the icons for each are just engraved in the pad, making them tough to see in dim lighting.
The single Menu button accesses all settings, except shooting modes handled by the dial on top. Press Menu and a column of shooting-mode-specific settings appears on the left. At the end of the list is a toolbox icon for accessing general settings. What's also nice is that the camera can warn you about adjusting certain settings. For example, if you set the H70 to spot meter light, you won't be able to turn on Face Detection. The H70 tells you onscreen that Face Detection is not available because of Spot metering being selected. Cameras from other vendors generally make you guess what needs to be shut off in order to turn on a blacked-out option.
Sony continues to give you the option of using either Memory Stick Pro Duo cards or SD/SDHC/SDXC cards for storage. Also, the H70 has Eye-Fi wireless SDHC card support that will power off the camera once wireless media uploads are complete and offers the ability to enable and disable the card's Wi-Fi via the camera menu.
There's a single slot for both SD and Memory Stick cards next to the battery located in a compartment in the bottom of the camera. Next to the compartment is a proprietary multifunction port for connecting a USB/AV cable. A component cable version is available for purchase as well.
One last note about features: the camera has both standard optical image stabilization and an Active option that helps to suppress shake while the shooter is moving with the subject, such as running alongside someone playing soccer. It does help, and by help I mean it's worth switching on, but it's not going to make your video rock-steady.
As Panasonic did with its stripped-down compact megazoom, the Lumix ZS8, Sony made the H70 almost too basic for its price. Whether it was done to make upselling to the HX7V easier, I don't know. But with only $70 between them and a whole lot of feature differences including an Exmor R sensor, full HD movie capture, GPS, and a 920K-dot-resolution LCD, the H70 is a tough sell unless you truly only want a basic compact megazoom that takes nice photos. And while it's still around, the HX5V is a better deal, too.
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
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