Sony DSC-P7 Review

Steve's Digicams

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P7

(This conclusion is almost identical to the DSC-P9 conclusion because these cameras -are- identical except for CCD resolution.)

The Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-P7 is an ultra-compact 3.2-megapixel digicam that delivers good images. 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 DSC-P7 captures still images up to 2048x1536 pixels in JPEG format. If printing 4x6" prints you can select the 2048(3:2) format which is the perfect ratio for non-cropped prints. When you want a smaller image select a size from 1600x1200, 1280x960 or 640x480. There are special modes for Voice, or Email and the Clip Motion mode that captures up to 10 images and then merges them into a small 160x120 or 80x72 animated GIF file. Multi Burst is another specialty mode. It allows 16 - 320x240 frames recorded as parts of a single 1280x960 JPEG at 1/7.5, 1/15, or 1/30 sec. selectable intervals. Great for reviewing your golf swing.

The Sony InfoLITHIUM is undoubtedly the best rechargeable battery system available for high- drain devices like digicams. The DSC-P7 uses the new "C" series 3.6v, 6.75mAh battery pack but still delivers an hour per charge with the LCD on (2.5 hour charge time with depleted battery.) I had my doubts about Memory Stick modules when they first appeared but they are now plentiful and larger in capacity (up to 128MB as of 04/2002) and have been reduced in price to almost the same level as CompactFlash. Memory Sticks are slower at Read/Write operations than CompactFlash but Sony still promises performance improvements with the larger cards coming in the near future.

The DSC-P7's 3x zoom lens has a relatively fast F2.8 maximum aperture at wide angle 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 wide angle and moderate pincushioning at the extreme telephoto position. When you turn off the camera the lens retracts and the built in lens cap closes automatically.

The Program AE modes make it easy for the beginner or experienced photographer to capture that special moment but Program mode does limit the slow shutter speed to 1/30th second. Landscape mode sets the focus to infinity, night scenes use slower shutter speeds (to 2 seconds)and slow-syncro flash to illuminate 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 DSC-P7 has automatic Noise Reduction when the shutter speed is longer than one half a second.

The DSC-P7'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. Movie mode has the updated MPEG and HGX resolution, now with audio, and yields a 320x240 16fps movie whose length is now determined by the storage media's capacity. It streams the data to the card so additional movies can be shot almost instantly. As with most audio capable movie modes, the DSC-P7 can not be zoomed during recording as the microphone would pick up the lens and motor noise.

The Cyber-shot DSC-P7 may be small in size but there's nothing small about the 2048x1536 pictures that it creates. The focus and imaging system have some issues to be remedied in the indoor people pictures with flash category. The problem often seen of very small optics (to fit a small camera) and a higher resolution imager that adequately displays any short comings of the optics. Otherwise. it is accurate even in low light conditions. The overall image quality, sharpness and color balance is on the same level as cameras with its physical size with larger resolution capabilities.

The DSC-P7 is a good choice for anyone that wants a camera that can be easily carried in their pocket or purse and be able to make up to 11x14-inch prints. Its rugged alloy body and built in lens protector means that it will take a a fair amount of abuse and still function properly We feel it will make a great camera for those going on vacation, just be sure to purchase a larger Memory Stick and a second battery. If you want the same features and size but need even more resolution then be sure to check out the 4-megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-P9.

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