Sony DSC-P5 Review
The Sony DSC-P5 is an ultra-compact 3-megapixel digicam that delivers excellent images. We said the same thing about the P1 last year and this year the P5 is a good 25% smaller than the palm-sized P1. It has the ability to record still images as well as movie clips with sound and features a number of exposure options even though it is basically an automated point-n-shoot camera. The P5 can capture still images in 2048x1536 size in uncompressed TIFF or JPEG format and when you want a smaller image select a size from 1600x1200, 1280x960 or 640x480. There are special modes for Text, Voice, Email and the Clip Motion mode that captures up to 10 images and then merges them into a small 160x120 animated GIF file.
The Sony InfoLITHIUM is undoubtedly the best rechargeable battery system available for high-drain devices like digicams. The P5 uses the new and smaller "C" series 3.6v battery pack but still delivers an hour per charge with the LCD on. I had my doubts about the Memory Stick modules when they first appeared but they are now plentiful, larger in capacity and have been reduced in price. Memory Sticks are slower at R/W operations than CF but Sony promises performance improvements with the larger cards coming in the near future.
The P5 is equipped with a 3x zoom lens with a fast F2.8 maximum aperture which makes it a better than average performer in low-light situations. If you need to shoot closeups of small objects the macro mode will let you get down to about 4 inches from your subject. The lens exhibits the usual amount of optical distortion as most in its class, there's mild barrel distortion in full wideangle and moderate pincushioning at the extreme telephoto position. When you turn off the camera the lens retracts and the builtin lens cap closes automatically.
The Program AE modes make it easy for the beginner or experienced photographer to capture that special moment. Landscape mode sets the focus to infinity, night scenes use slower shutter speeds and slow-syncro flash to iluminate foreground objects. There is no direct control of the shutter speed or aperture but by selecting the Twilight or Twilight+ modes you can capture some amazing low light or night shots.
The P5's performance is fairly impressive. The shot to shot time is about 3-4 seconds even at the largest image size and highest quality JPEG setting. Add about another one to two seconds if using the flash. Capturing a 9.5MB uncompressed TIFF image requires about 25 seconds and a JPEG image is also created with the same file number. Fifteen second 5.5MB 320x240HQ motion-JPEG clips are processed and stored in under 12 seconds.
The Sony DSC-P5 is one of the most impressive of the "ultra compact" digicams we have reviewed to date. It may be small in size but there's nothing small about the 2048x1536 pictures that it creates. The focus system is highly accurate even in low light conditions and the white balance system works flawlessly even in mixed-light environments. The overall image quality, sharpness and color balance is on the same level as cameras three times its physical size.
The P5 is an excellent choice for anyone that wants a camera that can be easily carried in their pocket or purse. It's rugged alloy body and builtin lens protector means that it will take a licking and keep on clicking!
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