By Ian Burley
21st August - 2001
Sony today unveiled five interesting new cameras. Two are still cameras and three are digital video movie cameras featuring still image capabilities. Top of the billing is the new Cyber-Shot DSC-707, a 5 megapixel replacement for the distinctive DSC-505. More of this in a second.
But first of all, some information about the successor to Sony’s best-selling Cyber-Shot DSC-P1, called the P5. This 3.2MP model is smaller and lighter than its predecessor and will sell for under £600 when it starts to ship in the UK during October.
Key features include:
One noticeable irritation in the specification the inclusion of a mere 8MB memory stick card. We regard this to be a bit mean even in a 2MP camera these days, let alone a 3MP camera. We can’t help but feel this is a ploy to get owners to buy more memory stick upgrades.
Minor grumbles aside, the DSC-P5 is a key product for Sony as the 3 megapixel market is expected to provide most of the volume in UK sales over the next year. Its price and specification look great. We hope to bring a full review to you soon.
Meanwhile, the DSC-707 has, unlike the P5, grown in both size and weight (710g). New and old are pictured to the right. The 707 features the same 2/3 inch Sony 5 megapixel Super HAD CCD borrowed by Minolta earlier this year for its Dimage 7. Maximum native picture resolution is 2560x1920 pixels, or 4.9MP. That equates to a 6x8 inch picture sized at 300ppi. The imaging electronics are now sensitive to 14-bit colour. Shutter speeds range from 30 seconds to 1/1,000 second. ISO settings include 100, 200 and 400. A full range of manual options and scene selection settings are available.
The familiar long lens mated to a hinged body is retained, but in response to critics of the original 505, Sony has incorporated an electronic eyepiece finder to supplement the 1.8 inch 123,000 pixel LCD view screen. The LCD view screen, itself, is new and it can now be switched between reflective and transmissive modes so it can be used in either bright sunlight or relative darkness. To supplement this, Sony has borrowed the NightShot feature from its camcorder range to provide an infra-red night vision mode.
Another major new feature is a holographic low light focus sensing system that uses harmless low power laser light. This extends the range of the autofocus system, is more accurate and can better discriminate between the subject to be focussed on and other objects in the field of view. Another low light feature is a noise exposure subtraction mode similar to that recently introduced in the new Olympus Camedia C-4040Z.
That enormous lens Carl Zeiss-branded lens justifies its size by boasting a 5x optical zooming range equivalent to 38-190mm in 35mm camera speak. Digital zoom mode increases this to 10x. Its maximum aperture ranges between f/2.0 and f/2.4.
Other goodies include an MPEG video movie clip mode and extended movie recording mode and an M-series lithium battery that has a 3 hour life between charges or 3,000 continuous pictures.
Not so welcome is the inclusion of a measly 16MB memory stick card that we suspect will only be good for 4-5 full resolution images at good quality compression setting.
The DSC-707 will ship in the UK during October and the price is expected to be a whisker under £1,000.
Sony’s digital imaging product manager in the UK, Adam Williams (pictured at the launch held at Lord’s cricket ground, London), commented: “This camera sits on the cutting edge of digital image technology evolution and provides the photography enthusiast with a digital camera of power and quality that they have never encountered before.” Big claims, but aired with a confident voice.
The P5 and 707 represent a concerted effort by Sony to seize both the high-end prosumer customer and the mid-range mass market customer. The competition will be losing a fair amount of sleep over these newcomers.