When someone gives me a camera, I shoot it if I can. Most of the time people give me old film cameras, but once in a great while the gift is digital. When my mom’s neighbor moved away last year he gave her a bunch of stuff, including this Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55. Mom didn’t have any use for it, so she gave it to me.
Sony introduced this camera in 2010. It’s a “good features for the money” camera, neither top nor bottom of the line. It features a 1/2.3-inch CCD sensor that delivers 14.1 megapixels. Its 25-150mm (35mm equivalent) f/3.5-5.5 Sony lens starts wide and zooms deep. It saves images as JPEG only (no RAW option), with maximum resolution of 4,320×3,240 pixels. It saves video files as MPEG-4, 1,280×720 at 29.97 frames per second. It offers both optical and digital image stabilization. Its LCD screen is 3 inches diagonal. Its proprietary battery is good for only about 310 photos.
The DSC-H55 sold for about $250 when new. At 4.1×2.3×1.1 inches and just 7.1 ounces, it’s very small and light. I slipped it into my back jeans pocket and forgot it was there.
This camera offers some modes, including a panorama mode where you pan the camera and it stitches the image together. I didn’t play with any of that stuff so I can’t comment on it.
If compact digital cameras appeal to you, also check out my reviews of the Canon PowerShot S80 (here), the Canon PowerShot S95 (here), and the Kodak EasyShare C613 (here). I’ve also reviewed the Sony FD Mavica MDC-FD87 (here), an early digital camera that stored images on floppy disks! My first digital camera was the Kodak EasyShare Z730 (here).
I took this DSC-H55 out on a couple spring outings. I discovered right away that mine has a common fault: the LCD blanks out sometimes, turning entirely white. Since there’s no optical viewfinder, unless the screen works you can’t frame a shot. I found that pressing the buttons on the camera’s back often brought on this condition, so I used them as little as possible.
I found two ways to temporarily relieve this condition: press into the bottom right corner of the LCD, or repeatedly tap hard on the camera front between the Sony and Cyber-shot logos, until the display resets. Neither solution is great for the camera’s long-term health. But since it makes no sense to pay to repair a 2010 digital camera I did it anyway.
Having to keep reactivating the screen was frustrating, but otherwise this camera performed well. Margaret and I made a sunset walk on a trail in a large Indianapolis park near us and the DSC-H55 delivered pleasing photos.
Margaret was looking to practice her skill at shooting directly into the setting sun, so I did too. The lens flared, but I find the effect to be pleasing.
The camera overexposes light colors that reflect light. I was able to tone it down in Photoshop on my wife’s jacket, above, but not on the frame of the soccer goal below.
I did only a little low-light work with the DSC-H55, but I found that it tended to flatten colors that my Pentax K10D or my Canon PowerShot S95 would have captured well.
On gray days and when the sun is blocked, colors lose their punch in the DSC-H55. This is a sunny-day camera.
But in good light, the DSC-H55 returns accurate color. I like that. I haven’t used a ton of digital cameras in my day but among those I’ve tried I find accurate color hard to come by.
This flower is a perfect example of the DSC-H55’s color accuracy. It perfectly captured the nuanced orange-purple gradient in this flower’s petals.
I also liked how the DSC-H55 could focus very close without me having to put the camera into macro mode. It’s common for digital cameras to switch to macro automatically now, but it wasn’t in 2010.
The DSC-H55’s lens and sensor do a great job of capturing detail. Upper-tier Sony point-and-shoots boast Carl Zeiss lenses; my wife’s Sony RX100 has one and it’s wonderful. But this Sony lens holds its own.
I am impressed with the camera’s depth of zoom, and its ability to get a sharp, shake-free image when zoomed to the max. I shot this early bird with its worm at maximum zoom from my front porch about 50 feet away.
I wished I could click in exact focal lengths as I zoomed, as I can on my Canon PowerShot S95. But I realize that most people use zoom to replace moving closer to the subject. I gave myself over to shooting the camera that way.
My one serious gripe with this camera is that the LCD reflects badly, washing out the display. In bright light, the LCD showed only my reflection, rendering me unable to compose. This is a dealbreaker.
See more from this camera in my Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 gallery.
I’m sorry to say that I’m dropping this camera into the trash. Its white-screen problem made it more frustrating than rewarding to use. Also, its battery is nearing the end of its life as I got maybe 50 shots on a full charge. That one-two punch spells this camera’s doom.
But this is a pleasant little shooter, an easy companion for everyday photography. Except for its overly reflective LCD, it would have been a great choice in its day — capable for a good price.
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