Sony DSC-P10 Review

By Movable Type Admin

Steve's Digicams

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P10

The Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-P10 is an ultra-compact 5.0-megapixel digicam that delivers good images. It has the ability to record still images as well as movie clips with sound and features a number of exposure options even though it is basically an automated point-n-shoot camera. The DSC-P10 captures still images up to 2592x1944 pixels in JPEG format. If printing 4x6" prints you can select the 4.5M(3:2) format which is the perfect ratio for non-cropped prints. When you want a smaller image select a size from 2048X1536, 1632X1224, 1280x960 or 640x480. There are special modes for Voice, or Email and the Clip Motion mode that captures up to 10 images and then merges them into a small 160x120 or 80x72 animated GIF file. Multi Burst is another specialty mode. It allows 16 - 320x240 frames recorded as parts of a single 1280x960 JPEG at 1/7.5, 1/15, or 1/30 sec. selectable intervals. Great for reviewing your golf swing.

The Sony InfoLITHIUM is one of the best rechargeable battery systems available for high- drain devices like digicams. The DSC-P10 uses the new "C" series 3.6v, 780mAh battery pack and delivers a recording time of 90 minutes (180 photos) per charge with the LCD on (2.5 hour charge time with depleted battery.)  As for storage, Memory Stick modules are now plentiful and available in larger capacities (up to 1 GB as of 05/2003) and have been reduced in price to almost the same level as CompactFlash. Memory Sticks are slower at Read/Write operations than CompactFlash but Sony promises performance improvements with the new Memory Stick Pro cards.

The DSC-P10's 3x zoom lens has a relatively fast F2.8 maximum aperture at wide angle which makes it a better than average performer in low-light situations. At full zoom, the variable aperture stops down to F5.2. If you need to shoot closeups of small objects the macro mode will let you get down to about 4 inches from your subject. The lens exhibits the usual amount of optical distortion as most in its class, there's mild barrel distortion in full wide angle and moderate pincushioning at the extreme telephoto position. When you turn off the camera the lens retracts and the built in lens cap closes automatically.

The Program AE modes make it easy for the beginner or experienced photographer to capture that special moment but Program mode does limit the slow shutter speed to 1/30th second. Landscape mode sets the focus to infinity, night scenes use slower shutter speeds (to 2 seconds)and slow-syncro flash to illuminate foreground objects. There is no direct control of the shutter speed or aperture but by selecting the Twilight or Twilight+ modes you can capture low light or night shots. In addition, you can select the High-speed shutter Scene mode to capture moving subjects, but the camera may increase ISO without warning and introduce unwanted graininess or noise. The DSC-P10 applies automatic Noise Reduction to the image when the shutter speed is longer than one half a second.

The DSC-P10's performance is fairly impressive. Shutter lag, the time delay between depressing the shutter and the photo being captured, was measured at .2 to .3 seconds when pre-focused. In Burst 3 mode, we were able to fire off 3 shots in 1.2 seconds when the camera was pre-focused. The shot to shot time in Normal shutter mode is about 1 to 2 seconds even at the largest image size and highest quality JPEG setting. Add about another one to two seconds if using the flash.

The built-in flash deals nicely with most indoor shooting situations. Although limited in range, it will provide enough light for head-and-shoulders portraits at the zoom's telephoto end, and for group shots at wide-angle. The flash is vertically offset from the lens, and will cast a noticeable shadow of the subject onto the background. An AF illuminator provides fill light to assist the cameras autofocus in the low ambient light conditions when flash is ordinarily used. The flash also has an automatic Daylight synchro function which provides fill-flash for back lit subjects.

Movie mode has the updated MPEG and VX resolution, now with audio, and yields a 640x480 16fps movie whose length is now determined by the storage media's capacity. It streams the data to the card so additional movies can be shot almost instantly. As with most audio capable movie modes, the DSC-P10 can not be zoomed during recording as the microphone would pick up the lens and motor noise.

The DSC-P10's small size belies it's high-resolution 2592x1944 5-Megapixel images. The overall image quality, sharpness and color balance is on the same level as cameras of much greater physical size. The DSC-P10 is a good choice for anyone that wants a camera that can be easily carried in their pocket or purse and be able to make 8x10-inch prints. While it creates photographs capable of being printed larger, most users will appreciate the P10 for the ability to produce high-quality 8X10 prints from images that have been cropped for artistic or technical purposes. Its rugged alloy body and built in lens protector means that it will take a fare amount of abuse and still function properly  We feel it will make a great camera for those going on vacation, just be sure to purchase a larger Memory Stick(s) and a second battery. If you want the same size and features but are not in need of such great resolution, then be sure to check out the new 3.2-megapixel DSC-P8, reviewed earlier this year.

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