Sony DSC-U60 Review

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CyberShot DSC-U60

Steve's Conclusion

The CyberShot DSC-U60 is an entry level, weatherproof, miniature digicam that begs to go everywhere with you, even swimming! Although its waterproof body 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-U60 is good and will easily compete with cameras larger in both size and price.

The DSC-U60 is designed for the active Point-n-Shoot user that wants to carry a camera without being limited by its size or the weather. Sony claims that the DSC-U60 is waterproof to a depth of five feet, adequate for watersports such as swimming, waterskiing and snorkelling. You won't take this camera scuba diving, but virtually any other outdoor activity is within the range of conditions it can handle. Its small size and one-handed operation enhance its sport-appeal. Be careful, however, when you take it into the water; the U60 is not buoyant and will sink to the bottom if you release it.

Its user controls are adequately minimal, well labeled, logical, and accessible while under water. The Mode switch on the back 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 pressing the Power button to capturing your first frame is under three seconds and frame to frame capture rate is about two 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, difficult to provide inside the waterproof housing of this tiny camera..

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:

  • Underwater scene mode helps to counteract the blue hue of the water.
  • Soft Snap scene mode increases the warmer color range, increases brightness and softens focus for more esthetically pleasing portraits.
  • Twilight is for night scenes.
  • 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.)
  • 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. However, you'll find that the wide field of view is good for underwater shooting.

The CyberShot DSC-U60 delivers sharp and true to life color images. The $249 price (7/2003) is reasonable for a camera with this resolution, size, picture quality, sport-appeal, and ability to be used underwater. It's a perfect choice for anyone that needs a micro-digicam that can be kept in your pocket or purse and always be ready to grab that special picture regardless of the weather. If you like the size and quality of this camera but don't need a weatherproof body, see our review of the SONY DSC-U30, a camera with similar features for $50 less than the U60.

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