Sony DSC-U30 Review

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CyberShot DSC-U30

Steve's Conclusion

The CyberShot DSC-U30 is as an entry level, miniature digicam that begs to go everywhere with you. Although it is almost toy-like in size and appearance, it is a quite capable camera within its limited range of functions. It has no optical or digital zoom but its auto focus range is from four inches (auto-macro) to infinity, and it has several scene modes to assist the beginning photographer capture better quality images under conditions that would otherwise require the exercise of manual controls. The image quality of the CyberShot DSC-U30 is good and will easily compete with larger cameras.

The DSC-U30 is designed for the Point-n-Shoot user that wants to carry a camera without being limited by its size. Its user controls are adequately minimal, well labeled and logical. The Mode slide switch on the top changes between the Still Record, Movie and Playback modes. The camera is an automatic exposure type with no Manual exposure mode but does have manual focus preset capability. From sliding open the lens cover to capturing your first frame is under three seconds and frame to frame capture rate is about 2.5 seconds. Shutter delay from pre-focus to image capture is 3/10 second, or 8/10 second including autofocus time. These times are based on 1632 x 1224 images without the flash on. For flash pictures add three or four seconds. There is a continuous "Burst" drive mode that allows shooting up to five consecutive frames at two frames per second in the 640 x 480 mode only. Playback of images is also robust. The only thing missing is a Video Out feature for viewing on a TV.

Still images can be captured at 1632 x 1224 or 640 x 480 (VGA) resolution and stored in standard JPEG format. Up to 15 seconds of 160 x 112 motion video without audio can be captured per clip in MPEG-1 format. The available scene modes are:

  • Soft Snap scene mode increases the warmer color range, increases brightness and softens focus for more esthetically pleasing portraits.
  • Illumination Snap mode (Backlit/Night mode) fires the flash in red-eye reduction mode and leaves the shutter open long enough to capture background detail while the cross screen filter effect puts a "cross" on each pinpoint light source (camera support recommended).
  • Twilight is for night scenes.
  • Active Outdoor is for sports photos.
  • Vivid Nature mode accentuates the blues and greens of the scenic landscape type photograph.

The Memory Stick or newer Memory Stick Pro is the storage media for this camera, they're available up to 1GB which would handle about 1,851 images at 1632 x 1224 size. The power source is two AAA size batteries that are available everywhere. NiMH batteries are the best choice as they provide more current and are not thrown away after just one use. Sony includes a set and the charger with the camera. We strongly suggest picking up a couple more pairs as the LCD has to be on all the time, there is no optical viewfinder. The LCDs backlight is needed only for low ambient light conditions; outdoors in sunlight, we found the LCD to be very readable with the backlight off. When operating like this, we were very pleased with the drain rate for having only two AAA batteries for power.

A review of this camera would not be complete without a discussion of its 33mm (35mm-equivalent) F2.8 lens. The fixed focal length produces good results for all shots except close-up portraits; its 33mm wide-angle focal length tends to exaggerate the size of closer facial features (the nose!), and can produce caricature-like portraits. This is a characteristic of the use of wide-angle lenses for portraiture, and not a criticism specific to this camera. As a result, we expect that the self-portrait mirror on the lens cover will receive infrequent use.

The CyberShot DSC-U30 delivers sharp and true to life color images. The $199 price (7/2003) is reasonable for a camera with this resolution, size and picture quality. It's a perfect choice for anyone that needs a micro-digicam that can be kept in your pocket or purse (or worn around your neck) and always be ready to grab that special picture. If you like the size and quality of this camera but need a weatherproof body, see our review of the SONY DSC-U60, a camera with similar features and waterproof to a depth of 5 feet for $50 more than the U30.

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