Sony DSC-F707 Review
About a year ago we reviewed the F-505V, the forerunner to the F-707. Sony has doubled its resolution and made significant improvements both internally and externally. The most noticeable attribute of the F-505, F-505V or the F-707 is the massive Carl Zeiss 5x optical zoom lens. Most cameras consist of a lens attached to a body but in the case of these Sony Cyber-shots it's more like a camera body attached to a lens. The lens on the F-707 is physically larger in diameter and faster, it's maximum aperture is f2-2.4 versus the f2.8-3.3 aperture of the F-505's lens. Granted there isn't much difference between f2 and f2.8 but considering it's a physically larger lens this is an impressive achievement. Overall the Carl Zeiss zoom lens is extremely sharp, my only criticism is that it exhibits a good deal of barrel distortion at full wideangle.
The most important addition has to be the eyelevel EVF (electronic viewfinder.) The F-505 and F-505V were somewhat crippled by the lack of an eyelevel viewfinder. They employed a hybrid color LCD that operated well in high ambient light conditions but it required the camera to be held out in front of you. This did not lend itself well to follow action subjects and most of us are simply more comfortable with a camera pressed up to our face. The F-707's EVF is the same as those found on Sony's finest video camcorders. It's a high resolution display with a magnified eyepiece complete with dioptric adjustment and a large, soft rubber eyecup. The EVF can be used exactly like the color LCD, anything that can be displayed on one can also be displayed on the other, simply flip the Finder / LCD switch.
The F-707 has two very unique operational modes; NightFraming and NightShot. NightFraming is by far the more useful of the two modes (in my opinion.) This is a hybrid mode that uses the camera's infrared illuminators to "light" the subject invisibly but making it highly visible in the viewfinder, focuses with the laser hologram and then uses the flash to capture a normal color image. The other EVF cameras (Canon Pro90 IS, Fuji 6900Z, Olympus C-700 / C-2100) are practically useless in the dark, even the cameras with focus assist lamps do nothing to illuminate the subject in the EVF. The NightShot mode is the same as that found on Sony camcorders, the infrared illuminators light the subject and capture the image sans the flash. What you see is a green-tinted subject and the captured image is pretty much the same, except usually more grainy than the way it looks in the viewfinder. Frankly I find very little use for this mode as the range of the IR illuminators is limited and the camera uses maximum ISO to enhance the sensitivity.
Other changes from F-505V; ISO sensitivity is user-settable (100, 200, 400, Auto). The new lens offers 13 aperture settings versus 7 settings and the new diaphram employs a 6- blade iris for true depth of field, the F-505V used only a 2-blade iris. There's 46 shutter speeds (30s to 1/1000) versus only 9 (8s to 1/1000). New is a full manual exposure mode, a 3-frame auto exposure bracketing mode and AE Lock function. The menu system has been substantially improved and simplified and is identical to that of the DSC-S85. The F-707 now features true TTL flash metering and includes a shoe mount and connector for the Sony HVL-F1000 external flash. Camera power is now provided by the medium size "M" series InfoLITHIUM battery with twice the power of the "S" series battery used in the F-505V.
Image noise is combatted by Sony's ClearColor Noise Reduction system in normal shooting and the Slow Shutter Noise Reduction system is employed when long exposure times are used. Motion video recording is enhanced by MPEG EX which allows for capturing movies up to the capacity of the memory card. To capture fast action sequences there's the Burst 3 mode that can capture up to 3 full size, 5-megapixel images very quickly. When shooting in single frame JPEG mode the F-707 requires less than three seconds between shots in Large/Fine mode.
This is an excellent camera that only needs a few improvements to make it a great camera. About half of the people that used the F-707 told me that they found it difficult or "strange" to hold and comfortably operate the zoom control. Personally I don't like its placement either and would prefer it to be on the back next to the 4-way controller. The zoom control switch itself seems to be designed backwards, wideangle is Up and telephoto is Down, opposite of the way you'd expect it to work. The jog dial would be easier to operate if it were located on the front edge of the grip rather than on the top. Aperture priority mode assumes that you aren't using the flash even when it is forced on. Experienced photographers use aperture priority mode to control depth of field so what's needed is a menu option to lock the shutter speed at 1/60 or 1/125 when used with the flash. And that is the end of my short list of things that need to be changed, otherwise I am very satisfied with the F-707's operation, performance and image quality.
There's no doubt that Sony has for all intents and purposes has declared war, a pricing
war to be exact, on its competitors. First it was the 3-megapixel S75 for $699 and then
the 4-megapixel S85 for $799 and now the F-707 for $999. The closest 5-megapixel
competitor is currently the Minolta DiMAGE 7 with an MSRP of
$1299 (recently reduced to $999.) At least for a while it seems that the F-707 will be the only camera in its
resolution class priced under $1000. At the time of this review the F-707's image
quality is the best that we've seen from a consumer priced digicam and is sure to
satisfy even the most demanding of users.
Sony DSC-F707 Flash White Balance "Blues"
10/31/01: From a spokesperson at Sony USA, we have learned that there may be some White Balance inconsistencies with the DSC-F707 when the flash is used. Consumers have identified the problem (some flash shots have a very heavy blue cast to them) and Sony has taken immediate action. Sony has implemented the "Flash White Balance Adjustment" program for its U.S. customers.
Units which may be affected are in the serial number ranges of 1320001 - 1335130 and 1336621 - 1339030, non sequentially. Not all of the cameras in these serial number groups have the problem. If you have a camera in this serial number range and you are not pleased with the White Balance when using the flash, please contact Sony at 1-888-449-SONY. This program will commence as of November 5, 2001. Sony will absorb all shipping charges and the repairs will be done on an expedited basis.
The White Balance Adjustment will not require parts nor disassembly of the DSC-F707,
so the Limited Warranty will not be effected. We did not encounter this problem
with our evaluation unit but we have received a few emails from our readers.
We here at Steve's are pleased with the action that Sony is taking to correct
this problem. Most all of the cameras in the dealer inventories now have been
updated with the newer firmware.
Amphibico Launches Its First Housing for a Digital Still Camera - the Sony DSC-F707
Amphibico, designer and manufacturer of top-of-the-line underwater imaging equipment, announces the introduction of a still camera housing worthy of the Amphibico brand and worthy of inclusion in its world renowned line of underwater video equipment and accessories.
The 707 housing has been created consistent with Amphibico's reputation for designing high quality products and is manufactured from marine grade aluminum with ergonomically positioned camera controls and perfect balance underwater.
Both electronic and mechanical controls will access key camera functions: the zoom (T/W), pre-trigger (image framing) and power on/off will be electronic while the strobe on/off/auto, white balance, metering mode and shutter will be mechanical. The 707 has a wet alarm and, while it is available standard with a flat port, it will accept all of Amphibico's bayonet-mounted lens assemblies.
The rear of the camera provides easy viewing of the 1.8" LCD color monitor. The camera and housing have been positioned for "straight-thru" photography, the choice of professionals for easier and more precise framing of subjects especially moving subjects.
Only Amphibico offers LSD. The 707 will utilize any available strobe but is equipped with LSD, Light Sensor Device, designed by Amphibico's electronics engineers to provide perfect lighting every shot by imitating TTL light monitoring. Or you may simply want to mount one of Amphibico's self-contained-power 10 watt arc lamps. They are always on, offer more than an hour of burn time, have no hot spots and produce a colour temperature of 6500°K.
Suggested Retail price: $995.00 US
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