Steve's Digicams

Sony Mavica FD-95

Record & Play Mode Screens


Sony Mavica FD-95

The Shutter Speed Priority record screen display. All the usual icons across the top plus the "AE S" to indicate the shutter priority mode. On the bottom left is the aperture value and shutter speed. Note the arrow icon next to the shutter speed, this indicates the value you can change.

Sony Mavica FD-95

The Aperture Priority recording screen display. As with the shutter speed priority display, there is an arrow next to the value that you can change using the up and down portion of the 4-way jog switch.

Sony Mavica FD-95

The Movie recording screen display. Resolution is indicated as "320" for the 320 x 240 mode or "160" for the 160 x 112 mode. Using the menu you can set the record time for 5, 10 or 15 seconds. You only press the shutter button to start movie recording, it will run for the preset amount of time and then stops automatically and stores the movie file.

Sony Mavica FD-95

Pressing the Spot Meter switch on the side activates the highly accurate spot metering system when you have to work against a brightly backlit subject or want pinpoint exposure control. The "+" in the center of the LCD tells you the exact area where the spot metering is performing its calculations from.

Play Mode Screens

Sony Mavica FD-95

This is a typical Play mode screen with all of the onscreen data enabled.

Sony Mavica FD-95

Selecting the "Index" option from the bottom menu brings up this thumbnail view where you can quickly select any stored image to be viewed full screen.

Sony Mavica FD-95

When you have a picture displayed full screen you can use the zoom lever to go into the magnified playback view. It steps all the way up to 5x magnification and allows you to scroll up and down and left and right through the enlarged picture.

Sony Mavica FD-95

Here is the popup menu for the Play mode using the familiar Sony onscreen display. You navigate through the options with the 4-way jog switch and make selections by pressing it in the center.

Sony Mavica FD-95

File menu options for Disk Tool (format disk), Start or stop the slide show playback, Print Mark is for embedding DPOF information for later printing and Protect is used to keep images from accidentally being deleted.

Sony Mavica FD-95

The Tool menu allows you to make a copy of the diskette or resize the larger 1600x1200 or 1024x768 images down to smaller sizes.

Sony Mavica FD-95

The Play mode Setup menu is the same as the Setup menu in record mode. Options for changing the Video Out signal from NTSC to PAL, the Language between English and Japanese, Set the time and date, change the beep sound or adjust the LCD backlight brightness.

Steve's Conclusion

The Mavica FD95 is a worthy successor to the FD91 and probably the last of the line to use a floppy disk for storage. I can't see any higher resolution cameras able to make do with the limitations of a 1.44MB storage medium. Sony is already using too much compression on the FD95's highest quality 1600x1200 images. The other 2-megapixel camera's lowest quality 1600x1200 images aren't compressed down as small as the FD95's best. There's even a more compressed 1600x1200 "Economy" mode but I don't know what anyone would use it for.

    Before I even finished (6/15/00) writing this conclusion we received the new Sony Mavica MVC-CD1000 that is essentially the same as the FD95 except it uses a 156MB optical CD-Recorder to store the images. The CD1000 uses much less compression and generates 900KB JPEG images and has the ability to record uncompressed TIFF images that are close to 6MB in size.

Seeing as how the FD95 is Memory Stick compatible they should have set it up so that when you use this higher capacity media the camera would give you the option of less compressed and higher quality images. But no, even when using a 64MB Memory stick you still get the same 330KB highly-compressed 1600x1200 images.

(6/16/00)   I finally got the new MSAC-FD2M floppy disk adaptor and was able to test it out in the FD95 and here's what I found. Yes, it does work. The camera immediately recognized the adaptor and the stick and displayed a Memory Stick icon on the LCD screen in place of the normal "diskette" icon (see below.)

Sony Mavica FD-95

We've already recorded 15 hi-res 1600 x 1200 images on this 8MB Memory Stick and are still going. The advantage of increased storage will be welcomed by those tired of carrying a box of floppies around for an all-day shoot.

Images recorded onto Memory Sticks contain the camera exposure information thanks to the standard EXIF header embedded in the JPEG file. Programs like Thumber, PIE, Qimage Pro and others will be able to display the EXIF information when viewing the pictures.

The downside is the time it takes to record images to the sticks is about twice that of a 1.44MB diskette. On average it took about 8 to 14 seconds to record a 1600 x 1200 picture versus about 4 to 6 seconds on a diskette. During the write process the viewfinder is frozen and you can't take another picture until it's finished.

OK, enough of that, on with the review. The FD95 is a great camera with a super telephoto lens, a wonderful battery and a very user-friendly menu system. Many people look at the FD95 or the FD91 or any of the Mavica cameras and say, "That thing is huge!"  Compared to most of the other digicams they are. You just can't fit a 3-1/2" floppy drive into a camera any just has to be that big.   For their size the Mavicas aren't excessively heavy, Sony went out of their way to make them as light as possible.

Size does have its advantage - imagine trying steady a tiny camera that has a 400mm telephoto lens on it.  I'll give you a clue, it would be impossible. One of the most frequent questions I field is, "Why do all of these digicams only have 3x zoom lenses on them?" Mainly because market research shows that most people want a small and easy to carry camera. However there are plenty of us that don't mind toting a larger camera if we can have the power of a super-telephoto lens. With the FD95, the FD91 or the newest CD1000 Mavica you can be a block away from your subject and easily capture it full-frame.

The appeal of these cameras IS the lens. The FD91 was the first camera I used since the Sony DKC-ID1 that had a truly powerful zoom lens. The DKC-ID1 has a 12x optical zoom but it doesn't have any kind of digital stabilization. You need to lock in a very fast shutter speed to avoid blurry pictures when using the extreme end of that 12x lens. The FD91 has a 14x optical zoom lens but it also has Sony's famous SteadyShot stabilization system. Without getting too technical the SteadyShot system uses optical shift technology to move the lens elements around inside the lens to counteract the camera shake. The FD95 and the newer CD1000 also uses the SteadyShot system with their 10x/20x digital lenses.

The FD95 and the CD1000 are the only cameras I have seen that produce a decent picture when in digital zoom mode. Other cameras with digital zoom simply enlarge the central 50% of an image to create the finished image. Unfortunately it ends up looking very pixelly because anyone familiar with digital images knows that you can make an image bigger without it getting "blocky" looking. To be honest I have no idea what Sony is doing to digitally enhance their 10x zoom lens -- all I know is that it works, just look at my sample pictures.

There are disadvantages to long focal length lenses. If you've ever used a pair of 30-power binoculars you probably know what I mean. It isn't easy keeping your subject framed when shooting at 300mm or greater. Any small movement at the camera relates to a much larger movement at the subject and some people can find themselves dizzy trying to use a long telephoto lens.

The FD91, FD95 and CD1000 all have a somewhat slow autofocus system and the viewfinder is frozen as the camera "hunts" for the proper focus. This can be pretty much eliminated if you use the camera in manual focus mode but precludes its use with rapid-moving subjects. If these cameras could autofocus faster then they would be ideal for sports photography but the way they work now you either use the pre-focus, manual method or you use another camera. The focus delay and the write to disk delay will usually be enough to severely impede anyone trying to use them for sporting activities. They are ideal for the bird watcher or anyone shooting slower-moving or static objects though.

The FD91's resolution topped out at 1024 x 768 and wasn't very good in low-light situations. The FD95 has raised the resolution to 1600 x 1200 and seems to be considerably more sensitive in less than favorable lighting. Those that liked the rotating color LCD on the FD91 will be disappointed by the FD95's fixed-mount LCD but the new design just wouldn't permit it. It still has the 2.5-inch color LCD as well as the high-resolution eyelevel color viewfinder. Both displays allow the user to access the camera's menus and change all the settings and of course, using the smaller viewfinder saves your battery power. New on the FD95 and the CD1000 is an autostart feature on the eyelevel viewfinder. There is no control button to turn it on or off, you just put the camera up to your eye and it "senses" this and turns the display on and off automatically.

And speaking of battery power ... Sony's InfoLITHIUM is called the "battery with a brain" and they're not kidding. There's a small chip in the battery that communicates with the camera and calculates the power drain. This information is then relayed to the user in the form of a display on the LCD that tells you exactly how many minutes of runtime is left. No guess work, you always know when the battery will go dead -- and that isn't too often. A fully charged NP-F550 battery pack will power the FD95 for close to two hours!  Dependant on how much you use the big color LCD and the power zoom and the flash unit. The battery charger is also an AC power supply which can be used to run the camera at home when it's plugged into the TV set for playback or record.

Most people will be happy using the FD95 in full automatic mode but for those who like to adjust everything you can press the Program AE button and switch recording modes. To stop fast action you can use the shutter speed priority mode and set it up to 1/500 second. If you need to control the depth of field you can use the aperture priority mode. And there's the pre-programmed modes for Night, Landscape and Portrait shooting situations. All in all it is a very versatile camera.

The bottom line with this or any digital camera is image quality and even though it is an improvement over the FD91, it still isn't equal to other two megapixel cameras. The images are simply compressed too much. Yeah I know, I'm beginning to sound like a broken record about this but ... having had the opportunity to use the new MVC-CD1000 with its lower-compression JPEGs and uncompressed TIFFs has proven me right.  I'm sure the FD95 will be bought and used by many folks who will be perfectly happy with its image quality.

The way I see it if you are going to spend $1000 for the FD95 why not drop a few hundred more and get the CD1000. The image quality is much better and those 15MB CD-R discs beat the heck out of floppies any day.   Just my two cents worth -- happy snapping!

Go to Steve's
FD95 Pictures

DC Resource's Mavica FD95 Review

Imaging-Resource's Mavica FD95 Review

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