If one thing's true it's that entry-level, limited zoom compact cameras are in decline. Sony's answer? An affordable, 26x optical zoom model: the Cyber-shot H200.
With an asking price of £200, or $250 in the US, there's plenty of zoom on offer for the cash. The lens has a super-wide 22.3mm equivalent that extends through to a 580mm equivalent. In real-world terms that means you can squeeze loads into the frame in a wider-than-peripheral view, or hit the zoom toggle to snap faraway subjects as if they were a lot closer up.
Under the dim lights of the Sony stand at the Consumer Electronics Show the H200 wasn't the snappiest at its full zoom, but did deliver a respectable "of the price" performance - one that we suspect will be improved under better light.
The DSLR-styled Cyber-shot H200 looks a fair amount like a DSLR. It's got a mode dial with a limited selection of options, including full manual, but no aperture/shutter priority options that we could see.
However there's no viewfinder, so the H200 also takes on a compact-like appearance. You'll need to use the fixed rear 460k-dot LCD screen to compose shots.
Under the hood there's a new 20-megapixel 1/2.3-inch Super HAD CCD sensor. That's a lot of digits and acronyms. HAD stands for the rather unglamorous "hole accumulation diode" which is designed to allow more light to enter each sensor node for a better signal, while CCD is the sensor type (charge-coupled device). Most compacts opt for CMOS sensors these days, so how well such a high-resolution 1/2.3-inch CCD will hold up is anyone's guess. We'll have to wait until we get hold of a final sample before we can take a proper look.
In line with its budget, the H200 uses four AA-batteries to power its way through shots. We're not big fans of the AA-battery brigade, we must confess.
Still, for the cash there's a lot of zoom on offer. A "sensible" superzoom concept if ever we saw one.