Sony H55 Hands-On Review

Sony H55

The Sony H55 is a 14.1MP point and shoot camera with a 10x optical zoom, which covers an equivalent range of 25-250mm on a 35mm format camera.  It retails for $249 and is a sort-of middle-of-the-road point and shoot.  It’s not quite as high end as the Sony HX5V; however, it’s still a step up from most of Sony’s W-series of Cyber-shot cameras.

Sony H55 Key Features

  • 14.1MP CCD Sensor
  • 3-inch LCD (230k dot resolution)
  • 10x Optical Zoom (25-250mm equiv.)
  • Optical SteadyShot Image Stabilization
  • Sweep Panorama Mode
  • 720p HD Video Capture
  • ISO 80-3200
  • SD Card and Memory Stick Compatibility

The H55 is definitely compact enough to keep on hand; however, it’s not quite as small as the recently introduced TX5 or TX7, both of which feature touchscreen controls in place of buttons and dials.  Still yet, the form factor of the H55 makes it pleasant and easy to hold.  I liked the indentation on the right side, which gives the impression and feel of a grip for your right hand without adding any unnecessary bulk to the camera.

Sony H55

As noted, the Sony H55 offers a mode dial atop the camera for changing your basic shooting modes such as Intelligent Auto, Program, Manual, Sweep Panorama and Video, among others.  It’s really hard to beat a mode dial for dumbing down camera settings and making it easy to find your way around.  Switch over to the Scene mode and you can choose from 11 different modes based on the scene at hand: High Sensitivity, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Soft Snap, Landscape, Beach, Snow, Fireworks, Advanced Sports, Gourmet, and Pet.

Sony H55

The controls on the back of the H55 are rather typical, with a 4-way control button and a set button within.  This 4-way controller also serves as a quick access to settings for timer, flash, display and smile shot.  A menu, display and trash button round out the controls.  It’s certainly not as sexy as the TX5 and TX7 touchscreens; however, it’s a proven/standard design that works well.  The 3-inch LCD on the H55 is perfectly acceptable; however, it doesn’t necessarily stand out from the crowd with its average display resolution of 230,000 dots.

Like a lot of point and shoot cameras nowadays, the H55 captures 720p video at 30p (29.97 fps), which is in addition to a standard VGA capture mode at 640 x 480 (also 29.97 fps).  Oddly absent from the H55 is a direct-record button for your thumb. Instead, you have to change the mode dial over to Video mode and then press the shutter button.  Considering the volume of compact cameras at a variety of price points that have a direct record button, I can’t quite forgive the H55 for this oversight.  Using the shutter button to start and stop video recording is more cumbersome than tapping a button that’s right next to your thumb.

The video looks pretty darn good though. I think the zoom is very smooth with the 720p video and it is easy enough to hold and shoot (even if I do hold a grudge on the direct-record button). Below is a short clip that I shot with the Sony H55 at PMA 2010, which shows a little panning and zoom action from wide to telephoto.

As with all the other Sony Cyber-shots that feature Sweep Panorama, I love it on the H55.  It’s fun feature that puts the ability to create a panoramic image in the hands of those who would not otherwise make one.  The below image is a representative sample of what the Sweep Panorama mode can create.

If you aren’t familiar with how this mode works, you’ll be amazed when you see it for the first time.  It’s as easy as holding the camera up like you would normally take a photo and then “sweeping” the camera from left to right while it captures multiple images through only one shutter press on your part.  The camera processes the image and, boom, you’ve got a panoramic image on your memory card with no aggravating stitching after the fact.

One feature that I glossed over above, but will certainly be a big selling point for this camera is the 10x optical zoom.  This is a big range for such a small camera.  You can see what the range looks like in the below photos shot at the wide angle and telephoto ends of the zoom.

Above is the wide angle shot, and below is the 10x zoom shot.  I’m sure that camera makers will continue to put longer zooms in even smaller bodies; however, this is an impressive feat to see this much zoom in such a small camera.

The above telephoto shot was captured at 1/30s and ISO 400, and is pretty impressive for a point and shoot camera.  I was most impressed by the lack of blur from camera shake, given that this image is the equivalent of 250mm.

Additionally, Sony applies some pretty aggressive noise reduction to the images; however, Sony has been very successful with this in cameras like the WX1 and TX7.  While the H55 definitely shows some noise at ISO 400 and above, most people will be able to live with family album 4 x 6 prints at ISO 800 or 1600, and below.  While you can push the H55 to a maximum setting of ISO 3200 for full resolution images, the image starts looking pretty ugly and should probably be reserved for emergency uses only.


Sony H55

All in all, the H55 looks to be a decent camera for folks not wanting or needing to go all the way up to the HX5V.  The Sony H55 still has some powerful features and a whole lot of resolution to work with at 14.1MP.  The Sweep Panorama mode automatically helps it score points with me, and could certainly be put to good use on many shutterbugs’ scenic vacations or weekend trips to the mountains.

Remember, when you’re buying the Sony H55, you’re buying into a bit of a compromise because you are saving some dough over the HX5V, but you don’t want to drop down to the W-Series of Cyber-shots.  While I may take a closer look at the H55 later on, I think that I’ve seen enough of this camera to recommend it to casual shooters looking for a compact, but powerful, camera that won’t hurt their wallets too bad.

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  1. says

    The specifications say that there is an anti-glare coating on the LCD screen which helps the user to be able to see the screen in direct sunlight. I currently have the Samsung hz15w with the same type of screen specs and the Samsung screen completely washes out with the sun behind you. Can anyone comment on the H55’s screen?

  2. Ben Brar says

    the screen has a nice visibilty in sunlight, say 7/10.But it is afingerprint magnet. overall a nice camera for price range.

  3. Don Scott says

    I’ve got the Sony H-55 and agree, the picture and video quality is good for a compact camera. Just one question. I’ve notice when recording concerts that the sound gets muffled when using the zoom control in video? Then once I stop using the zoom the audio is crisp and clear. What would cause that?? (A friend has the Sony W-350 and has the same problem)

  4. Sandeep says

    I found the specs impressive. So, I saw the product at mall. I got 10 min to check it out.
    I found that the indoor pics, with flash on and auto mode, are very grainy.. I think had zoomed in fully!! On putting the flash off the clarity significantly improved. Does it indicate a poor flash? I did not try closeup shots with flash on.

    Dear Eric Reagan, I am very keen on your final call on this camera and also your comment on what I observed.


  5. sandeep says

    Hi …. i want suggestions from ur side that which camera is good in terms of picture quality ..
    Here some plus point in h55
    1 Wide angle lens compare to H20
    2 compact body and no need for lens cover
    3 sweep panorama mode which is not there in Sony H20
    4 more megapixel but i know it doesnt make that much difference …

    Here again some plus point on H20
    1carl zeiss lens comapre to G lens in Sony h55
    2 Very good reviews on most of the best websites
    3 good manual setting and macro photography

    Now apart from sony i am some how interested in new Panasonic FH20(FS30) .It is also having 8 optical zoom and 14 megapixel .The two thing which some how i dont like about this camera .first is this FH 20 is not having leica lens and no zooming during video …but i can compromise on that if panasonic FH20 produce much better result for outdoor and indoor photography compare to Sony H20 and H55
    Please suggest me which one should i buy . I want only best picture quality for outdoor and indoor photos..

  6. ajay says

    i am planning to buy a point and shoot camera. i am confused which camera should i buy.

    i want to buy one of the
    Sony DSC-WX1
    Sony DSC-W380
    Sony H55
    Canon IXUS 120 IS (PowerShot SD940 IS Digital ELPH)

    i would be taking picture indoor/outdoor/low light/day light/traveling/party etc(Mainly for travel/sightseeing and taking pictures of people.

    i want a camera with

    1) GOOD IMAGE QUALITY (most important for me, 8-8.5)
    2) Low noise (as low as possible)
    3) less/anti blur
    4) Good image stabilization
    5) 4-5x zoom and 10 megapixels is ok to me
    6) Most of the time i would be using Auto mode (i would change scene selection mode)
    7) red eye reduction
    8) i will NOT be shooting sports and/or action photos
    9) some time i would be taking prints of images but not very huge

    Thanks for your time and advise

  7. Belgi says

    I just got H55 two days ago. Haven’t fully explored yet. Day times shot look OK. Low light and night time shots not that good with twilight mode. I haven’t explore M mode. Hopefully it gives better quality photos.
    And I am totally not excited by sweep panorama because my ph omnia HD has it :P

  8. max says

    i have bought the sony h 55 a month ago, and i am totally content.
    it is the best cam i’ve had for 10 years, top quality in- & outdoor
    i’d share it everyone who is interested in a good cam

  9. Ryz says

    @ Don Scott

    The audio will get muffed because the video actually records the sound of zoom lens working, its clearly mentioned in the manual, so if you try it out in a quite room you can actually hear the zoom while playback !

  10. Siddharth says

    Sony H55 amazing pic quality and focusing is awesom! The best feature i like the most is its HD/10x optical zoom which made this Camera of the year-2010.

    The inbuilt mic is not good but its fine and satisfactory,
    If it fits in your budget then do not loose this digiCam!!!

  11. Shebree says

    I bought the H55, and was expecting much more.
    Looking on the screen to take a picture, it’s super grainy.
    And the pictures don’t come out the great. Flash/non-flash..
    There either too dark or too light, or grainy. And I tried many different settings.
    I tried capturing motion shots (my bf jumping his bike) and they all came out blurry. I don’t know if I can set it differently to make it better.

    The video is really good quality, and the zoom is okay when your shooting.

    Overall I dislike the camera, and will be returning it shortly.

  12. Surajit Bhuyan says

    H55 is a poor camera from SONY. the plus point is only the zoom. the photo quality is very poor both indoor and outdoor. large color noise even using flash. i am using for a week now. and thinking to buy some different one soon.
    after all H55 is very poor.

  13. Altaf Badar says

    An excellent camera. I was skeptic about its performance at night, but the pics were good. The only problem is its slow speed, but then it was expected with an aperture range of 3.4-5.5