Sony DSC-P150 Review
By Movable Type Admin
Holding the "top of the line" spot of Sony's ultra-compact "P" series (as of
9/2004), the Sony CyberShot DSC-P150 compliments the 5-megapixel P100, and combines a Carl Zeiss 3x optical zoom lens with a
high-resolution 7.2-megapixel imager, and has exposure options for any experience
level. When the Mode Dial is positioned at Auto, it offers point-n-shoot
simplicity, while allowing you to explore your creative urges with its 7 pre-programmed
scene modes. It also offers a wide variety of image sizes to choose
from. You can select finished still image sizes from 3072x2304, 2592x1944, or
2048x1536 for large prints, all the way down to 1600x1200 or 640x480 for e-mail
or use on web pages. The 3072x2048(3:2) mode is configured in a 3:2 aspect ratio
that is optimized for printing 4x6-inch prints, without having to crop your
images. With PictBridge technology, you can direct-print to any PictBridge
compatible printer, without the use of a computer.
Ergonomics were great. Controls are well-placed and functional, and the menu system is logically organized. I found one-handed shooting a breeze and its responsive shutter lag lets you just "mash" the shutter without having to always use the "half-press" technique. Its large 1.8" color LCD is great for framing or reviewing your images. Sony uses a high quality non-glare surface on the LCD which allows it to be more useable in the bright sunlight. This is a great asset when framing and composing your images or deciding whether to keep or delete an image. When shooting indoors, at first it is hard to frame your subject because the LCD does not "gain up" in a dimly lit room. After a half-press of the shutter release, the Focus-assist lamp fires and the LCD then brightens up the subject.
Shooting performance was quite impressive. The P150 is ready to go from pressing the power button in under 1 second. From power-up to first image captured measured an extremely quick 1.5 seconds. Shutter lag (the delay from pressing the shutter button until a picture is actually captured) was a fast 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and only 3/10 of a second including autofocus. In Program AE mode the shot to shot delay was approx. 1.6 seconds without the flash and 2.0 seconds with the flash. There are two Burst modes, Burst and Multi Burst. Burst mode captures a maximum number of images depending on the Size/Quality settings. In 7MP/Fine mode, it captured 5 images in approx. 3.8 seconds. It then takes about 5-6 seconds for the camera to process a full buffer. Shooting in Multi Burst mode, with the interval set at 1/30, captured 16 images in 4/10 of a second. When using Multi Burst mode, the image size is locked at 1MP and all 16 images a recorded within a single animated frame. Switching from record mode to playback or vise versa takes less than a second. All of our test were done using a Lexar 256MB Memory Stick Pro card, with the image size/quality set at 7M/Fine mode, Program AE mode, preview off, the flash off, ISO 100, with all other settings at default (unless noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera setting, media, etc.
The P150 offers three recording size choices for Movie mode. You can use the 640x480 "VX" Fine mode (30fps) for high-quality movies that can be displayed on your television or choose 640x480 Standard (16fps) to conserve space on your memory card. When using the "VX" Fine mode, a Memory Stick Pro Card is required. There is also a 160x112 mode (8fps) that is great for sending clips via email to friends and family who couldn't be at the reunion, wedding, etc. Overall it captures good-quality movies. The autofocus does a good job of keeping up while panning and there is very little compression noise, but then again a 10 sec. movie is around 14MB.
I was pleased with the overall image quality in 7M/Fine mode. Outdoors it performs well. Our samples are both well exposed and richly saturated. I saw very little noise in low contrast areas, and almost no CA (Chromatic Aberration) in high contrast areas. It also does a very good job of exposing the sky. Cloud detail was beautiful. Its Carl Zeiss lens produced sharp results throughout its 38 - 114mm (35mm equivalent) range, with moderate barrel distortion at wide-angle and slight pin cushioning at full telephoto. It zoom mechanism is smooth and quiet throughout its 3x range. The camera's "Auto" white balance setting works great for all types of outdoor shooting as well as most indoor flash shots. However when shooting available light shots of our M&M man in mixed lighting, images seemed a bit too warm. Indoors it also produces good overall results. The flash has an average range, which is sufficient for most indoor situations. Its red-eye reduction mode provided very little red eye in our flash portrait samples. The P150 is equipped with a focus-assist lamp which it uses automatically when needed; as a result its low light autofocus performance is exceptional. Closeup macro shots with the flash were excellent as the camera "throttles down" the flash for nearly perfect exposures every time.
Bottom line - the CyberShot DSC-P150 is a definite winner. Its 7.2-megapixel imager and Carl Zeiss 3x optical zoom produced sharp and colorful images. And there's plenty of resolution to create photo-quality 13x19-inch or larger prints. If you're one who is looking for a high-end compact point-n-shoot, with excellent image quality, robust performance, and a reasonable price tag ($499), then the Sony P-150 might just be the camera for you!
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