This 7MP EVF is reasonably priced and produces high quality images, but its
slow autofocus and response time can be maddening.
Carl Zeiss optics are heralded for their high quality color fidelity and sharpness. Typically a lens used by professional-grade cameras, it's what makes the H5 appealing. The images are sharp and colorful with little in the image area that would be considered an issue caused by the lens. It's nearly flawless and I suspect that a majority of the price paid for an H5 is for the lens.
Scenes vs. Manual
The H5 has six different shooting modes and an additional six scene modes that cover shooting at twilight, at the beach and other situations where the camera may need to compensate for adverse lighting conditions. I was thrilled to see that one of the modes was manual and that Sony incorporated a wheel just below the shutter release that when pressed, switches between aperture and shutter speed and when turned, adjusts whichever of these is selected. It's quick, easy and works very well. Unfortunately, it's not a FULL manual mode, since the camera determines the ISO setting automatically. Another drawback is that the minimum aperture in manual mode is f/8. Sony isn't alone in this shortcoming though, but you have to wonder why a camera maker has manual shutter speeds from 30 seconds to 1/1000th of a second and then stops the aperture at f/8.
By this point, you're probably thinking to yourself that the H5 doesn't really sound like such a bad deal -- and in these areas it's not. My main issue with the camera is that the autofocus is slow and even when it does appear to pop into focus, the camera will often times not shoot the image. I shot many good images with this camera but lost 2-3 times as many simply because the camera refused to shoot the image -- try as I might.
I found the burst rate to be pretty slow for a camera that is supposed to be the high-end version of the consumer line. I shot 11 images in 10 seconds, or 1.1 frames per second. Even the ultraslim T10 had a faster rate than this. Surprisingly, both cameras use an image sensor with identical specs: 2.5" CCD @ 7.2MP. Buffer and shooting speed are really big issues and while I don't expect this camera to have the speed and buffer of a high end DSLR, there should be some increase from the base consumer model to the high-end model. This is supposedly one of the features you'd expect when upgrading to the high-end model.
The menu, like other Sony cameras, seems haphazard and thrown together without much thought about how things should be organized. On certain cameras the menu is so well thought out that it's effortless to navigate and even without any instructions, you can go through these and find exactly what you're looking for. Unfortunately, the Sony H5 doesn't fall into this category and as I said in my earlier review of the T10, this is something that Sony should really consider revamping across its entire non-DLSR digicam line.
Another item that bothered me about the H5 is that it has 30MB of available internal memory (36MB total). That may seem like a lot at first glance, but when you compare it to the T10, which has 56MB internal, and then realize that the 30Megabytes in the H5 will only give you 8 high quality images, it seems a little meager for a camera that's supposed to be in the upper end of the consumer line. Memory has gotten so cheap that there's really no excuse for putting any amount less than 256MB in a camera like this. Make it so that if my Memory Stick should go bad, I can still shoot vacation photos or whatever I'm shooting without interruptions. It should also be possible through good menu architecture to swap back and forth between external and internal memory as without having to tether to a computer. The Sony models are lacking in this area while other camera manufacturers such as Pentax are doing this with their Sound/Image Swap playback function, and why Sony and other manufacturers don't make this easy is baffling.
If missing some shots doesn't bother you, and you want a reasonably priced camera that gives you high quality images for a consumer grade camera, the H5 just may be your choice. But it simply drove me crazy though that such a nicely designed camera would have issues like this. The camera is a real joy to hold and all of the add-ons allow users to have the most of the capabilities of higher end DSLR systems without the huge investment. But the bottom line is: to keep pressing the shutter and have absolutely nothing happen at the decisive moment is a lesson in total aggravation and if I were in the market for this type of camera, this alone would cause me to look elsewhere.
In the Box:
The 7.2 effective Megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-H5 digital camera
Two NiMH rechargeable AA batteries
Lens cap w/retaining strap
Conversion lens adapter
CD-ROM featuring Sony Cyber-shot Viewer
Printed "Read This First" guide and a 120 page camera manual
107.8 x 81.4 x 91.2 mm (4 1/4 x 3 3/16 x 3 5/8 in)
389 g / 406 g without and with the Memory Stick and batteries.