Sony DSC-S60 Review
The Cyber-Shot DSC-S60 is an affordable point-n-shoot model that offers many features
that are usually only found on more expensive digicams. It boasts a 4-megapixel imager
coupled with a high-quality Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar 3x optical zoom lens. Beginner to
intermediate users will have the ease of a fully "Auto"matic exposure mode plus 7
pre-programmed scene modes when they want to be more creative. Program AE mode
allows more advanced users to change settings for exposure
compensation, focus mode, ISO, white balance, sharpness, saturation, etc. The
Manual mode gives you total control of the aperture and shutter speed values.
I was pleased with the ergonomics of this camera. The controls are well placed and functional, the larger knobs and buttons give it a nice comfortable feel; especially for those of us with big hands. The menu system is logically organized and when using the Program or Manual exposure modes, it allows you to quickly change settings. Menus are displayed on a large high-quality 2.0-inch LCD that works great indoors or outdoors in bright sunlight. There were only a few angles that reflected the sun and made it difficult to use. You can opt to use the zoom-coupled optical viewfinder; just remember that it only displays about 80-85% of the captured image. When shooting in low-light situations, the LCD does not "gain up" to aid in framing your subject. However, the AF-assist lamp does help by momentarily brightening your subject.
The Carl Zeiss 3x optical zoom lens produced tack sharp images throughout its 39 to 117mm (equivalent) range. We noticed only typical amounts of chromatic abbreviation (purple fringing) present around extreme highlights. There was a moderate amount of barrel distortion at full wide angle, but virtually no pincushioning at the telephoto end of the zoom range. For those who need a broader focal range, Sony offers three conversion lenses for the S60. The VCL-DH0730 0.7x Wide angle lens is perfect for stunning landscapes and large group portraits, while the VCL-DH1730 1.7x Telephoto and VCL-DH2630 2.6X Super Telephoto lens will bring distant subjects up close and personal.
Shooting performance was very robust. Power up to first image captured measured just 2 seconds. Shutter lag, the time between depressing the shutter release and capturing an image, averaged less than 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and just 2/10 of a second including autofocus. The shot to shot delay measured a blazing fast 1.1 seconds without the flash and only 1.6 seconds using the flash. The S60 offers two sequential shooting modes (Burst, Multi Burst.) With Burst mode, I was able to capture 4 frames in about 1.7 seconds. It then takes about 3 seconds to clear a full buffer. Using Multi Burst with the interval set at 1/30, I captured 16 frames in 3/10 of a second; these frames are then saved as a single 1-megapixel animated image. When using either of the two continuous capture modes, the LCD flickers between blank and the last image captured making it difficult to follow moving subjects; this is when the optical viefinder comes in handy. Switching from Record to Playback mode takes less than a second and vise versa. Our tests were done using the camera's 32MB internal memory, Large/Fine quality, Program mode, flash off, preview off, and all other settings at default (unless noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
I was very pleased with the image quality of the S60's 4M Fine mode. Outdoors, it captures well exposed images with good color balance. In high/low contrast areas, I saw virtually no noise, even when viewing images at 100%. Our indoor portrait samples showed true skin tones, and the built-in flash does an excellent job of illuminating subjects in small to medium sized rooms. I found its Red Eye reduction flash mode worked very well; check out our Samples page for an example with and without using this mode. The 5 Area Multi-point, contrast detection autofocus system is fast and accurate and thanks to an AF-assist lamp, you can focus on a subject in almost complete darkness. For those times when you're shooting in a large open room or anytime you need more flash power, you can use the optional HVL-FSL1B Slave Flash unit (about $100). It's designed specifically for use with Sony Cyber-Shot models and includes a handy mounting bracket.
The S60 also features a high-quality MPEG VX 640x480 sized movie mode. You can choose either standard (15fps) or fine (30fps) quality as well as a 320x240 mode that's great for posting on the web or sending movies via email. Our movie samples were nice and sharp with very little compression noise. The autofocus system does an excellent job of keeping up with fast moving objects, and wind noise was not an issue due to the good positioning of the built-in microphone. When using the 640x480 Fine mode, it consumes about 1.3 MB per second; and a Memory Stick Pro is required for its faster write times.
The S60 is powered by two AA batteries, which means you can opt to use alkaline or NiMH type cells. Sony states that users should Not use manganese, lithium or NiCd type batteries. The S60 is among many of Sony's new "Stamina" series digicams and they claim you can capture up to 440 shots with the LCD turned on or 590 shots with the LCD turned off (not including use of the flash) when using NiMH rechargeable batteries. We had no problems capturing our sample photos (about 100 shots) and concluding our other tests before our 2500 mAh batteries were exhausted. With the average file size of its 4M Fine images being around 1.7MB, we recommend the purchase of a 256 - 512MB Memory Stick; its 32MB of internal memory only allows you to capture about 17 large/fine images.
Bottom line - the Sony Cyber-shot S60 deserves a gold medal for its speedy performance, above average battery life, great image quality and amazing street price of only $249! With 4-megapixels of resolution, you can create high-quality 8x10-inch or larger prints. We feel it will make a great choice for any business, family or tourist user who is in the market for an affordable digital alternative.
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