Sony DSC-P31 Review

Steve's Digicams

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P31

First Look posted 2/20/2002
Full Review posted on 4/24/2002

Click to take a 360° QTVR tour of the P31

Sony's Cyber-shot P-31 camera concentrates on the essentials of good picture-taking: sharp focus and accurate exposure. Technologies like multi-point auto focus, multi-pattern and pre-flash exposure metering, and scene modes work transparently to give amateur photographers the head start they need.

Better Focus and Exposure - Automatically
Sony's newly developed multi-point auto focus is one feature that takes the guesswork away from the picture-taker. It allows the camera to intelligently evaluate three different focus areas and select the best focus setting for the subject instead of the background. This ensures that the star of the photo is always the clearest part of the picture, even if they aren't in the center of the frame.

For greater exposure accuracy, Sony's pre-flash exposure metering calculates exposure with light from the flash itself. When the picture is taken, the flash fires twice; once to illuminate the subject and determine the correct exposure, then a second time to record the image with the best exposure possible.

To provide accurate exposure in uneven lighting, multi-pattern metering divides the scene into a matrix of 49 separate cells, each of which can be metered independently. This feature calculates exposure when highlights and shadows exist outside the center of the frame, like a beach scene with the sun in one corner and a shaded hammock in the other.

Special Lighting Problems Solved
It's difficult for most amateur photographers to take a flash picture that correctly exposes both the subject and the background. So, for example, nighttime pictures of people standing in the middle of New York's Time's Square can lose the exciting backdrop details.

The new Twilight Portrait scene mode, is designed to automatically control exposure and flash in a heavily backlit scene when you want to illuminate your subject with flash and not loose the darker background. To best capture the light and image from the background, it slows the shutter speed for a long exposure AND, to properly illuminate the person in the foreground, it adds the flexibility of a flash.

To make the picture even more clear, Sony has added a mechanism that was previously found only in more expensive, professional-grade cameras, slow shutter noise reduction. It eliminates the "visual noise" that often appears in long exposure time digital camera images as grain, by capturing two successive pictures. The first captures what the photographer sees. The second closes the iris and captures the noise. The camera then subtracts the noise pattern from the picture, resulting in a beautiful low light photograph that is virtually noise-free.

Useful Recording Options
Multi-frame burst mode is a recording option that captures action by taking 16 rapid-fire sequential pictures at any of three selected intervals. Saved as a single digital file, these images can be beneficial in analyzing a golf, tennis or baseball swing.

The P31 also features the new MPEG Movie HQX video mode that allows users to capture nonstop, full-screen, high-resolution MPEG videos to the capacity of the Memory Stick media.

Tools for Added Convenience
In low light situations, advanced LCD auto bright monitoring automatically increases the brightness of an image on the LCD display so photographers can see and frame objects.

For reliable, long-lasting operation, The CyberShot DSC-P31 is supplied with two rechargeable nickel metal hydride AA batteries and a charger.

DSC-P31 features include:

  • 1/2.7" (6.64mm) Sony Super HAD 2.0 Megapixel Effective;
  • Still Image: 1600 x 1200, 1600x1072 (3:2), 1280 x 960, 640 x 480, 320x240
  • MPEG Movie: 320 x 240 HQX, 320 x 240, 160 x 112;
  • Scene Selection (3 modes: Twilight / Twilight Portrait / Landscape);
  • New Focusing System with 3 Area Multi-point AF;
  • New Noise Reduction: Auto at 1/2 second or longer shutter speeds;
  • 12bit A/D Conversion - allows a wider dynamic range from highlight to shadow;
  • Adjustable Flash with Red Eye Reduction;
  • 1.6" TFT color (61,000 pixels) LCD Screen with Auto Brightness;
  • Fast USB download to computer;
  • 2 x AA NiMH rechargeable batteries (1750mAH included with BC-CS1 charger).
  • Sony Memory Stick media, 8MB included.

The DSC-P31 camera will be available at the end of March, 2002 for about $220.

Physical Views

Sony DSC-P31

Sony DSC-P31

Sony DSC-P31Sony DSC-P31

Sony DSC-P31

Sony DSC-P31

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DSC-P31 Specifications

CCD Imager 1/2.7" (6.64mm) Sony Super HAD
2.0 Megapixel Effective
Lens Sony 5mm (33mm equivalent) F2.8
Filter thread: none
Digital Zoom 3x stepless
Aperture Control Automatic: f/2.8 ~ 8.0
Shutter Control Automatic: 2 seconds to 1/1000 second
Exposure Compensation "+" or "-" 2 Stops(EV) in 1/3 EV increments
Exposure Control Program AE (Automatic)

Scene Selection (3 modes: Twilight /
Twilight Portrait / Landscape)
ISO Sensitivity Auto (100-400) or fixed 100, 200, 400
Recording Mode(s) Still image: JPEG, Email (adds 320x240)

Movie Mode: MPEG HGX: 320x240 - full screen playback- 16fps - length determined by media capacity - No Audio

Clip Motion Mode: Animated GIF (160x120 or 80x72)

Multi Burst: 16 - 320x240 frames recorded as parts of a single 1280x960 JPEG at 1/7.5, 1/15, 1/30 sec. selectable intervals

Image Resolutions Still:
1600 x 1200
1600x1072 (3:2)
1280 x 960
640 x 480

320 x 240 HQX
320 x 240
160 x 112

DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) Print Reserve, All print reservation, Date/time; Trimming
Noise Reduction Auto at 1/2 second or longer shutter speeds
Image Effects Sepia
Black and White
Negative Art
Viewfinder Optical real-image viewfinder
LCD 1.6" TFT color (61,000 pixels) for viewing or reviewing
Focusing System 3 Area Multi-point AF: Automatic w/ indication as to "Wide" or "Center-Weighted"

Manual Focus: 5 Step Preset
Focusing Ranges Standard AF: 3-15/16" (10cm) to Infinity

Preset Manual Focus: 10cm(3.9"), .5m, 3m, 7m, or Infinity

AF Assist Illuminator Selectable: ON / OFF
Exposure Metering Multi-Pattern or Spot
White Balance System Automatic
Flash Built-in Flash
Flash Modes Auto Flash
Red-eye Reduction
Fill-in (forced on)
Flash Off
Flash Working Range When ISO is set to Auto: 1.3 to 12.5 Feet (0.4 to 3.8m)
Removable Media Card Memory Stick (4, 8, 16, 32, 64, and 128 MB)
8 MB card included
Selftimer/Remote 12-second delay
Outer Connectors USB (Auto-Connect), Video, DC input
Auto-connect USB Compatible with Windows 98 rev2/ME/2000 Pro/XP - MacOS 8.6-9.01/OSX
Image Playback Index display 9 frame, up to 5X enlargement, Slide-show
Operating Environment Operation: 32° F - 104°F (0°C - 40°C)
Storage: -4° F to 140°F (-20°C to 60°C)
Power Supply 2 x AA NiMH rechargeable (1750mAH are included with BC-CS1 charger)

2 x AA alkaline batteries or

optional AC-LS1 AC adapter
Date/Time Calendar Simultaneous recording into image date
Size 4-3/16" (W) x 2-5/16" (H) x 1-9/16" (D)
(106mm x 58mm x 39.5mm)
Weight 8.5 oz. / 231 g (with batteries, Memory Stick)

NOTE: These Specifications are as represented by the manufacturer.

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