Ease of use
For a relatively small camera, a good number of settings can be chosen without resorting to menus. The thumb-operated jog/dial works well, too. Sony menus take some getting used to as you don't need to confirm a setting once you have indicated it on the screen. Somewhat confusing, settings chosen in menus presented in setup mode do require confirmation using the centre button in the nav cluster.
There is no dedicated LCD status screen. Everything is displayed using the rather small 1.5 inch LCD viewscreen monitor and the numerous status indicators are scattered around the screen. The advantages of a dedicated status display is that it is on all the time the camera is powered up, it uses less battery power and usually you can find what you need to check more easily. On the V1 there is simply no room for this, but it must be marked as a disadvantage.
Speed of operation
Power-up and power-down rapidity is not a V1 selling point. Each operation takes the best part of 4 seconds. That may no sound a lot, but it can feel like an age in practice. Single shot to shot time is about one second, which is adequate. There is a 3-shot continuous burst mode setting, which takes three pictures in about 2 seconds, but then ties the camera up for about 10 seconds as the images are written to the memory stick. If you use TIFF mode, for maximum image quality it takes a whopping 43 seconds before control is returned to the user. Our timings were with standard 128MB memory sticks and the transfer times are likely to be swifter using a Pro-class memory stick.
Note the almost unfashionably compact mini-grip on the front right of the V1 body.
There is plenty to hold on to with the V1 even though it is a small camera. Its depth helps here. Controls are generally well-positioned and easy to find, if rather on the light side.
The relative depth the of camera with respect to its narrow width and modest height are betrayed by this underneath view.
In general the V1's AF system does a good job, especially in low light in conjunction with the hologram AF assist system. The AF mechanism is very quiet and reasonably swift to lock on. You can switch between continuous AF and single-shot modes. The latter is set by half depressing the shutter release. There isn't much latitude when doing this and it's all to easy to end up taking a picture when all you wanted was a focus lock.
Besides autofocus, you can switch to manual focus mode, operated by the jog/dial using your thumb. This is accompanied by a distance scale on the viewscreen.
As previously mentioned, the vertical zoom control takes some time to get used to. Zoom speed is about average and there is no accelerated zoom facility. Zooming operates at just one speed. We detected 15 steps throughout the zoom range, which is about what to expect. A step-less zoom is not offered, as far as I know, in any cameras in this category.
Almost the entire quarter of the top plate rises up to reveal the pop-up flash. It's easy to accidentally prevent the flash from popping up because of its position and because the pop-up spring is too weak.
The built in pop-up flash is more than adequate for general purpose indoor snap-shooting. One problem is that the top of the flash unit, when recessed, occupies a large chunk of the top plate of the camera, just where some instinctively rest a finger or two. The spring action of the pop-up unit is weak and I found myself accidentally preventing the flash unit from automatically deploying on several occasions. The fact that there is a dedicated hot shoe is a definite plus.
Flash with red-eye reduction off. Red-eye is clearly visible.
Flash with red-eye reduction on - and it works.
Flash red-eye reduction really works with the V1, which is just as well as if you don't use it you may wish you had! The second picture, above, was also shot with the slow-sync option selected and this is why the background has lightened up - a useful feature to have.
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