Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H400 review: Affordable mega-zoom camera comes with compromises
By Gavin Stoker
At a Glance
63x optical zoom
Solid and weighty build
Standard manual features alongside fully automatic operation
Video resolution limited to a maximum 1280×720 pixels
Soft image quality
Not a million miles away from the chunky look and feel of Sony’s Cyber-shot DSC-RX10, one of the best bridge cameras in recent memory, the Cyber-shot DSC-H400 could be viewed as the budget version at an affordable $300.
Like the DSC-RX10, the DSC-H400 has a DSLR-like design complete with huge handgrip. The DSC-H400 has a whopper of a lens at the front—an almost ludicrous 63X optical zoom—allied to a 20.1 megapixel top resolution that seems pretty much standard across the Sony range these days.
At its heart is a 1/2.3-inch sized CCD sensor—no larger than a pocket snapshot—as opposed to the CMOS alternative typically found in higher-priced camera and ultimately more favored in term of picture quality.
In practice, when shooting stills the DSC-H400 takes around five seconds to travel from extreme wideangle to maximum telephoto setting. Framing is controlled via a single zoom lever that encircles the raised shutter release button sitting at the front of the handgrip. The lens barrel has a ridged edge to allow for a firm grip when holding the camera in both hands, rather than providing a means to manually extend or retrieve it, as with a DSLR
If you assume that the DSC-H400 is pretty much an “auto everything” camera, it’s true to an extent, but some degree of control is afforded by the creative quartet of program, shutter priority, aperture priority, and manual via the chunky shooting mode wheel. Alternatively, just stick the DSC-H400 on Intelligent Auto (iAuto) mode and fire away, letting the camera conveniently and reliably determine the rest.
For those greedily hoping for a full package despite the budget price, some disappointment comes with the fact that video is 720p rather than the Full HD 1080p; obviously there’s no reason why this should be the case other than a desire by its manufacturer to differentiate the H400’s spec from models higher up its own camera range.
The DSC-H400’s rear LCD doesn’t flip out or rotate; it’s resolutely fixed. On the positive side, the camera does have an eye-level electronic viewfinder, which isn’t always the case with cheaper super zooms. However, the image provided is so small that it’s practically unusable. Again, this seems to be for no reason other than the camera needing to hit a certain pre-ordained price point.
A microphone and pop-up flash are located where a vacant hotshoe for the attachment of accessories might be on a higher priced model. Ultimately, for the money it’s not surprising that the DSC-H400 doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that you might expect if you were spending twice the money.
The DSC-H400’s pictures are well saturated, but detail suffers when shooting towards the telephoto end of the zoom, as well as is ISO is bumped up—images were both painterly-looking, lacking sharpness, and rather noisy—the perils of combining small sensor and a high 20.1 megapixel resolution.
So whilst the H400 isn’t the best bridge camera we have ever comes across, it’s the best for this price at least.
If you’re looking for the power of a big zoom but only have the budget to pay a little more than your average point and shoot, the Cyber-shot DSC-H400 comes highly recommended. Though there is some obvious cost cutting, the compromises with the DSC-H400 feel minimal if you’re quite happy shooting JPEG as opposed to Raw, and 720p video rather than the Full HD. However, if you are able to stretch your budget to a super zoom with a larger sensor such as the Cyber-shot DSC-RX10, the investment is worth it.