The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 is an affordable compact camera equipped with a long zoom and many useful features to let you turn your moments into memorable ones.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55: Design
Dressed in the complete black body, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 has a front metallic body, and its sides and back covered with plastic. It is not as sleek and sexy as the Cyber-shot T-series nor as compact as the W-series, but it looks sturdy and serious. Due to the long zoom lens, the body is not ultra compact but would still fit in your trousers pocket unless you wear those tight EMO jeans. The build quality is excellent for its class and it is also a bit hefty at 198g approximately (with battery and memory card).
Controls placement is not much an issue and very easy to get used to. On top of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 is a small power switch flushed with the surface, a shutter-release button with the zoom-ring, and a mode dial. The flash on the front is easy to block with fingers if not careful when it’s fired. The lens barrel covers almost half of its front and its AF-assist lamp on the corner is well-positioned as fingers would hardly find its way there.
The back of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 is dominated by its large 3-inch LCD screen which is bright under sunlight and on its right, there is a circular 4-way directional key with the centre select button and three dedicated shortcuts – playback, menu and delete. A four-way controller changes can change Display settings, activate Smile shutter, changes Self timer and adjust the Flash. One slight issue here is the buttons placement at the back are a bit too cramped and are positioned a bit too far down which makes single handed operation slightly challenging at times. The bottom has a battery cum memory card compartment, a proprietary AV/data cable port and a tripod mount.
We are no strangers to Sony cameras, so we feel right at home using the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55. The icon-driven menu interface with tab-browsing is easy to navigate and each accompanying text for each feature made it easier to use. Even though we have to get to menu first to change commonly used settings like ISO and exposure, the menu is quite intuitive and is easy to get along. Even for first time users, this non-touchscreen interface with its accompanying explanatory-text for each features would not be an issue.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55: Features
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 is a 14.1Mp camera that uses a CCD sensor and is powered by a powerful 10x Sony’s G lens with a focal range of 25mm-250mm in 35mm term. It uses the BIONZ CCD sensor instead of the CMOS sensor found on other Cyber-shot models like Sony WX1 or TX7. Sony uses Optical Steady Shot image stabilization to reduce hand-shake effect on the images while shooting- it is available for while shooting still images and videos. It has a large 3-inch LCD screen and it supports 720p HD video recording. Sony includes its famous Sweep Panorama feature that enables shooting effortless panoramic images just by holding the shutter button and panning the camera either horizontally or vertically.
To make shooting with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 easier, Sony included shooting modes like Intelligent Auto, Easy Mode and eleven scene modes. It also included the usual Face Detection feature with ability to find up to eight faces and there is also a Smile shutter plus Self Portrait Timer.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 has Program Auto to let you adjust ISO, white balance, AF points, light metering and exposure values. Its ISO speed ranges include ISO80/100/200/400/800/1600/3200. There is also Sony’s Dynamic Range Optimisation to bring out more shadow detail. To tinker more with the controls, there is a full manual shooting option that enable shooting with various shutter speeds and two-step aperture that ranges from F3.5 to F5.5. At wide angle, it also has option to shoot at F8 aperture stop. The included exposure bracketing feature which is a useful feature is also rarely seen on a sub 15k camera.
The Sony H55 can also record HD videos (720p) with mono audio and optical zoom and image stabilization are available while recording. Fortunately, Sony now include support SDHC memory card apart from its own proprietary memory stick duo which is a good news.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55: Performance
Tested in the PCWorld.in Labs.
The Sony H55 booted up in 1.8 secods flat which is good and the camera responded quick enough to most operations. The camera could not maintain the same snappy performance while shooting, the delays between each successive shots without flash is slow at 3.9 seconds but much faster than the Olympus Mju 9010 which we reviewed earlier. This gets slower again with flash which is around 4.5 seconds.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 has burst speed rate of 1.9 fps but unlike 10 images captured on the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 or Cybershot WX1, the H55 captured only 4 images in burst mode. Shutter lag with prefocusing measured between 0.1 second to 0.2 second while it measured around .0.3 to 0.4 second without prefocusing, which is good. The overall shooting performance is not great but very much acceptable.
The Sony’s G-lens showed good overall sharpness with minor softness in the corner. Barrel distortion is minimal which is impressive. Purple fringing is visible in high contrast frames which is typical of mainstream cameras. The optical image stabilisation compensates well for the hand shake and comes into play while shooting tele photo (full 10x zoom) or during low-light shooting.
The sample images looked sharp and managed good detail levels. Colours were generally alright with a hint of over saturation , which is very common in Sony Cybershot consumer lineup. But, again the colours weren't at par with the much costlier Panasonic ZR1 which we reviewed some time back. Noise levels are tolerable till ISO400 but anything above that and the images appear soft and smeared due to excessive noise suppression that effects the details in return. The Cybershot H55 did well in our exposure test, dishing out good results in varied lighting conditions.
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