If you think mega zoom cameras are expensive, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H100 will pleasantly surprise you. Going by just the form and design, it easily comes across as an expensive, high-end model. But priced well under Rs 15,000, it falls under the price range of premium ultra compact and travel zoom digital cameras. Let’s find out whether it’s just brawny or actually let’s you shoot like a pro.
A reasonably priced megazoom camera in a DSLR-like form
Design and features
This 16.1 MP shooter resembles an entry-level DSLR thanks to the large lens housing and the bulge for grip. Well, it also feels like one when held. The grip is comfortable because the fingers comfortably curl around the bulge and the textured rubberised finish for both the fingers and thumb lend a sense of confidence while shooting. The bulge for the grip is slightly larger than other megazoom cameras since this camera draws power from four AA batteries. Now, this is an advantage as well as a drawback. You’re all good if you have a charger and spare set of rechargeable batteries—so you can continue shooting with the fully-charged extra set if the existing set runs out of juice. Also, it’s easy to find AA batteries at the nook and corner of any street. However, four AA batteries add around 100 grams to the camera’s weight. At 415 grams with batteries loaded, the H100 is more than twice as heavy as a travel zoom camera. It seems like Sony hasn’t gone in with a li-ion battery pack to bring down the cost. The package includes four AA alkaline batteries (non-rechargeable).
Four AA batteries add 100 grams to the camera's body weight
The H100 isn’t as complicated as it may come across. In fact, the controls are much simpler than what’s found on travel zoom cameras—the control panel resembles one found on entry level point-and-shoot, but the buttons are larger and well-spread, which makes menu navigation and changing settings comfortable. The control panel comprises a 5-way D-pad and buttons for playback, Menu and In-camera Guide/Delete. The D-pad has shortcuts for flash settings, self-timer, smile shutter and display info. This clearly explains this camera isn’t targeted specifically at pros. It’s meant to make taking good photos easy for everyone with the added advantage of a long zoom lens that starts from 25 mm and goes way up to 525 mm, translating to 21x optical zoom. This makes it a breeze to capture larger groups of people and wider area – even wide landscapes – without moving away too far. The lens is mated with optical image stabilisation mechanism to counter handshake and prevent blurry photos, especially at full zoom and in low light. The largest aperture at wide and telephoto ends is f/3.1 and f/5.8 respectively—nothing extraordinary, but it isn’t Achilles Heel in low light.
A simple control panel with large and well-spread buttons
The H100 offers six selectable shooting modes via the mode dial – Scene Selection, Intelligent Auto, Program, Manual, Sweep Panorama and Movie. If you want to simply point and shoot without having to tinker with exposure settings, you can use the Scene Selection or Intelligent Auto mode. The former has 11 presets, which includes Soft Skin, Night Portrait, High Sensitivity (shoots in low-light without flash), Pet and Fireworks. Here, you can only change the image size, EV and Face Detection settings. The Face Detection option in the menu can be set to prioritise faces of children and adults. Then there’s a setting for smile detection sensitivity that can be set to Slight, Normal or Big smile. On activating smile shutter from the D-pad, the camera automatically shoots when it detects the subject smiling. It’s fun and useful for taking self portraits—pose, smile and the camera goes click!
The mode dial offers six shooting modes
The Program and Manual mode are meant for those who want to manually adjust the exposure settings. The Program mode allows adjusting the ISO, white balance and metering. An interesting addition is the set of effect filters, which includes Toy camera, Pop color, Partial color and Soft high-key. The Toy camera filter can be customised to yield green, magenta, blue and sepia hues. The Manual mode should ideally allow the user to tinker with the aperture and shutter speed in addition to all the parameters available in Program mode. Here, the aperture setting is crippled. Instead of allowing to increase or decrease the f-value 1/3-step at time, you can only switch between the smallest and the largest value at the current focal length—for example, f/5.8 and f/16.7 at 525 mm. Thus, you don’t have much control over the depth of field, and it also restricts using aperture and shutter speed in combination for the desired exposure.
The Sweep Panorama mode is a common feature of most Sony Cyber-shot cameras. With this mode you can take up to 360 degree panoramas. You simply have to release the shutter and pan the camera—the camera automatically stitches the frames on-the-fly to yield a single panoramic shot. The H100 can shoot videos at up to 720p and you have the optical zoom to play with while shooting videos. There isn’t a dedicated button for video recording, so you have to switch to the Movie mode and press the shutter release to initiate or stop video recording.
The camera features a 3-inch LCD monitor with a resolution of 460K dots for framing shots and viewing photos. It’s a relief from low-resolution, 230K dots screens found on entry-level cameras. The Playback mode is interesting; pressing the Menu button brings up a menu from which you can touch up photos or start a slideshow with background music. You can rotate, crop and sharpen photos and even get rid of red eye.
The H100 performed fairly well in our indoor and outdoor tests. We noticed that the images were slightly overexposed and lacked contrast when shooting in broad daylight. The EV had to be stepped down to get optimal exposure. Also, even at the lowest ISO, the results were a bit grainy. So you can imagine what you would get in low light with the ISO boosted. The ISO ranges from 80 to 3200, but we recommend not going beyond ISO 400, unless the lighting is too low—use the Program mode with the flash active, tinker with the EV and metering, and you won’t need to go beyond ISO 400.
Shooting is more fun with the Effect Filters enabled, but you cannot use it all the time. It depends on the type of the scene and the subject you’re shooting. However, you can get really good looking results without having to post-process.
Washed out images with poor contrast in broad daylight
Shot using Toy Camera mode with Magenta Hue
The quality of video recording was good. The picture looked nice and the panning was smooth; however, the camera struggled at times to maintain focus, especially while zooming. The image stabilisation works quite well while shooting videos. The videos weren’t too shaky even at full zoom. On the whole, the performance was just above average.
Verdict and price in India
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H100 is priced at Rs 12,990. In this price range, it has one of the highest zoom ratios. That’s it, nothing more—it would have been better if Sony had designed it like the DSC-H90, which is a travel compact that weighs less than half, packs almost the same feature set and uses a li-ion battery. The H100 is nothing but a bloated point-and-shoot with a 21x zoom lens and a crippled manual mode. We say, extend your budget to Rs 16,000 and you will have much better options to choose from such as Fujifilm F660EXR and Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ25.
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