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~Resistance is Futile~
I'm a bit of a Luddite when it comes to new technology. I fought the move to digital cameras for many years, refusing to part with my SLRs and their fancy lenses and arguing that digital just wasn't good enough. My first digital camera was a Fuji that I bought to take photos for eBay auctions. It did the job but was heavy on batteries, light on memories and resolution and formed no threat at all to my SLR habit.
Eventually even I had to give in and start to look at digital cameras a bit more seriously. I spent months over buying my first Sony - a DSC P200 which I researched for months, after it was recommended by a German IT-nerd that I met on my travels. I watched the prices coming down until I snapped and spent £275 on the camera, case and a memory stick. Much to my distress, it got stolen from a hotel room so I replaced the lost items spending another £200. After a year or so of constant use, I foolishly put this one in a small handbag and broke the screen with a bunch of keys. Loyal to the make despite the apparent curse on them (and with 3 spare batteries and quite a lot of money invested in memory sticks) I bought a third - on eBay this time for around £100. I'd found the camera I liked and I was loyal despite all the mishaps.
Around this time I started to get a bit peeved that every time we went on holiday I had to take all the photos. I decided it was time my husband shared the camera work so I wanted to buy him a digital camera too. Since I'm away from home more than at home, I thought he shouldn't rely on my camera. By this point the DSC P200 was old hat and Sony had moved to a different shaped camera, larger in profile than my old ones but much thinner and with a far bigger screen. I thought he probably wouldn't use it much so my budget was to spend under £100 on the camera and the DSC-S750 was well within the brief. The main features I wanted were proper rechargeable batteries (of the mobile phone type, not stacks of AA or AAA), at least 7 mega pixels and ideally a Sony because I hate reading instruction books and figured that the menus would be similar to the camera I knew. From memory I think I paid around £80 with a 4GB Memory Stick Pro Duo costing another £15 on top.
~It is better to give than to receive - even better if you get it back again!~
Much to my surprise the new camera, despite its price, turned out to be a lot better than my old friends. After a few months my husband did what all good husbands should and suggested that I take the new one and he'd have my old one instead. He argued I'd get more use out of it and I - despite feeling like a bit of a heel for taking back his gift - happily went along with it. The camera is now my constant companion and goes everywhere with me. It's always in a pocket or tucked away somewhere at the bottom of my handbag, carefully protected in a 65mm Crumpler sleeve. As the old advertising line for American Express used to go 'Don't leave home without it'.
I've had the camera for about 18 months now and despite getting a beautiful DSLR for Christmas (one that's compatible with all my old Minolta lenses) I still have my pocket digital with me at all times.
The DSC-S750 is one of a series of cameras with more or less the same body and I would assume it was probably the cheapest in the range but unless you're determined to burn money, or need some fancier features this entry level Sony should be good enough for most people. In the time I've had it, I've clocked up many thousands of shots and with a lot of them time I can't honestly say it would be obvious to an amateur like me when comparing the pictures from my DSLR that cost 8 times more with those from the compact which camera took which pictures.
~What do you get for your money?~
The camera arrived in a small box with a battery charger unit and a cable that can be plugged directly into the camera (though I don't do that). There was a CD with the Sony software for my PC (which I already had and so didn't use) and a battery. I don't think it came with a memory stick and there may have been other bits and bobs in the box but I've long since thrown the packaging away. Setting everything up was very easy since there's only one slot that slides opens and both the memory stick and the battery go in side by side. You can put the battery in the wrong way round and that'll be obvious as soon as you try to switch it on. The camera does have some limited internal memory but definitely benefits from additional memory. The memory cards only fit in one direction so you can't get that wrong. From memory, I think the camera came with some charge on the battery which was nice - nothing more frustrating than having to wait overnight to charge your camera before you get going. With the battery in and the slot closed up again, just push the slightly fiddle on-off switch on the top and you're ready to go.
The camera measures up at 91 mm wide, 56 mm high and just 27mm thick. The weight is about 140g so it really won't weigh you down. The size of the screen is 50 mm wide and 38 mm high and seemed like a marvel after the tiny screen I was used to on the previous Sonys. It's easily big enough to check what you've managed to capture without squinting although like most displays, in very bright light it can be a bit tricky to see the screen clearly. Point the camera in the right direction and push the big button on the top. That's really all there is to it.
~All the knobs, dials, bells and whistles~
Of course you can shoot everything on automatic if you want to but where's the fun in that? The DSC S750 has a dial that offers a good variety of options to improve your photography if you don't want to just stick it on auto and leave it to do all the work. There's a high sensitivity 'ISO' setting which is good in reduced light and which I use a lot. You don't always want to go round flashing at things and we spend a lot of time in museums and stately homes where flash photography is often banned so this comes in particularly handy. Yes the camera frequently tells me I'm going to get shake but I hold my breath, lean against something solid and just go for it. Next round the dial is the 'Soft Snap' setting which I've never used and don't really understand the purpose of but apparently it means you get a softer background. I use the 'landscape' setting a lot and this is followed by two 'twilight' settings - twilight portrait and twilight. I don't use these either as I tend to prefer the ISO setting. Two environmental options follow - a setting for beach shots that's designed to give very good blues and a setting for snow which I assume boosts the white. Next option is for video recording and finally there's a 'P' setting which offers adjustable settings.
Above the dial you'll find the zoom switch - it's a lozenge shaped button that toggles in the middle with W marked on one end and T on the other. I have no idea what these stand for but T zooms in and W zooms out and the zoom is up to 3 times. Just below the dial is a small button marked MENU and offers several screens of different options including the one I've been looking for ever since I got it (the one that switches the beep off - hoorah!)
Heading down the knobs, buttons and dials, the next is a four-way button that offers display controls, flash, macro and autotimer. I use the macro a lot for close up shots of items we sell on eBay and I use the autotimer mostly to take shots in the dark, for example long exposures of city lights.
Two final buttons at the bottom of the panel are for the display of pictures you've taken and for changing the resolution or deleting shots. I rarely use the delete as my 4 GB memory card is so enormous that I don't need to weed things out to save space. I take most of my pictures on 3 megapixels which is plenty fine enough for 5x7 prints. 5 MP is said to be good enough for A4 prints and the 7 MP should stay sharp at A3 size (but who has an A3 printer? Certainly not me).
Switching the flash on and off and altering the settings is very easy - in fact it's too easy since the flash button is easy to catch with the fleshy part at the base of your thumb and the dial is easily nudged if you don't pay attention. I frequently accidentally hit the flash button and this is a bit of a design fault in my opinion.
One thing I miss on my DSLR but find quite fun on the DSC S750 is the option to make videos. I don't take this too seriously and in effect I use the video to capture music or surroundings in quite low resolution. I have some footage I took of a group of marchers in Iran at a mosque beating their chests and singing the praises of a dead prophet's son (or something similar). I didn't want high resolution (though it is available but heavy on the memory), I just wanted to capture the singing and chanting and the guys beating their chests. I have footage of school children dancing in Bhutan and occasionally snap the cats doing something silly so it's all pretty low brow stuff but sometimes the sound really adds to the experience.
A final option that might come in handy is the tripod screw on the bottom. I've not used this camera with a tripod and I can usually find something solid to prop it on. I have a mini tripod which fits the hole but to date I've never had it with me when I might have needed it.
~Can I rely on it?~
This camera has never (touch wood) let me down. Battery life is excellent although if I'm relying on the compact only I do take a couple of spare batteries for a 2 week trip during which time I can easily shoot 600 -800 pictures on one full battery. In between holidays when it's just sitting in my bag capturing stuff at work or being used to take snaps of hotels and restaurants to support my reviews, it can easily go for 2 months without needing a recharge. To date I've seen no marked deterioration in how long the battery lasts. The camera has never jammed, thrown a hissy fit or got stroppy with me so there's not much more I can really ask for.
~But are the pictures any good?~
I view most of my photos on my computer screen and despite being a 22 inch screen everything is sharp and vibrant. Now that I have a super whizzy photo printer I can print photos and so far I'm happy with the quality but I don't think I'll be doing too much printing as I prefer to view on screen.
I can't give you super-technical analysis of whether my photos are good, whether there's any weird aberrations or colour distortions because I'm just a regular user who doesn't have that sort of insights. For me the most important thing about a camera is that it's there when you need it. Having the fanciest camera in the universe won't help you if it's too heavy or too valuable to have with you at all times. And on that criteria alone, I have to recommend this camera or one of Sony's others in the same series if you can't find this one.
As I mentioned at the top of my last review I have been testing point and shoot cameras and finding out how they really compare to their bigger more illustrious DSLR counterparts. After reviewing the disappointing unit from Olympus I move on to a much better offering from Sony, the Sony Cybershot DSC-S750. When it comes to style, build and technological genius you can never go far wrong with a Sony and they have proved it again with this nifty little camera.
The Sony Cybershot DSC-S750 is a 7.2 mega pixel small camera packed with very useful features most of which perform very well. It works brilliantly on auto mode but then most of the top point and shoot cameras do, it is how they perform on user settings that usually lets them down. Lots of point and shoot cameras are crammed with user settings these days supposedly to give the photographer the ability to adjust the photos to their liking as they could with a professional camera but the sad truth is they tend not to be very good and can leave a budding photographer feeling like it is their fault when really it is the poor equipment.
This Cybershot however will allow you to play about with the settings rather than letting the camera do it for you and will give true reflections on your work because its features are very good for a camera in this range. The thing with this Sony camera is rather than actually adjusting anything in full manual mode there are lots and lots of presets which allow the photographer to chop and change how they shoot images depending on light and the effect required without the photographer having to think too much, so effectively you get your input in the final image with minimum effort which for people trying to get to grips with photography is the ideal way to start.
The camera comes with a macro mode for close up shooting, this can give very nice effect by concentrating on the actual subject being captured and giving it full focus whilst allowing the backgrounds to blur out, there is also Scene modes for shooting in poor light without using a flash and for shooting in bright sunshine without getting sun burst all over your image and they all seem to work very well. Add to this the very good face detection system that this point and shoot has and you are on to a real winner.
The feel and ease of use of a camera are also very important and I found this to be just a little bit fiddly but I find most point and shoots to be like that probably because as a professional I am used to using cameras anything up to four times their size. It was certainly not the worst for small buttons and controls but not the best either, if you have big hands then you may struggle a bit.
Virtually the entire rear of the camera is taken up by the 2.5 inch LCD screen which is why the controls are so small in size. Whilst I do feel the controls could be better I do think the screen is excellent, easily large enough and very bright with great colour creation to allow you to get a great idea of how good your image is before seeing it on the large screen or in print.
Although the buttons and controls are a bit fiddly they are all very easy to get used to and the manual that accompanies the Sony Cybershot DSC-S750 is easy to understand and follow so the overall usage of the camera is very easy and I doubt anyone would find it too challenging.
The battery life is a very important factor in choosing a camera, especially if you are big into day trips or love going out in the countryside and just taking photos to practice which everyone should if they intend to better themselves at photography because the more you take the better you will get it is that simple. The battery in this camera is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery which performed ok under our testing lasting around 3 hours of continuous shooting but if we stopped to look over images we had taken or used the optical zoom a lot then this lowered so I would suggest a spare fully charged battery with you for long days out.
The image quality with this camera was always good but never brilliant, the colour in the pictures was always very vibrant but there was often a purple fringing noticeable when zoomed in but only under zooming so if you intend to print under 10x12 then you will never notice this. I thought that there was a pink tinge to some of the skin tones in images I had taken using the setting for shooting in bright sunshine but they were again mostly noticeable under zoom so all in all I thought that the camera produced very useable images that would only let you down if large prints were required.
So as with most cameras at this level there were pro`s and con`s and they were as follows.
Good face detection setting
A large selection of shooting modes
An excellent LCD screen
Some useful manual controls for setting sharpness, brightness and flash intensity
Quick flash recycle timing
Good shutter response times
A fairly small zoom at only 3x optical
Pinkish skin tones
Poor white balance performance
Poor low light performance
Slow to start up and shut down
As you can see the con`s of this camera are none too severe and I really did enjoy most of what this camera had to offer. There were let downs and the camera did have limitations but that will be the norm with any point and shoot cameras in this type of price range or probably any price range in truth. When compared to the previously reviewed Olympus 1010 this camera outshines the Olympus in almost every department and is also around £50 cheaper with this one being available from as little as £95. The only thing the Olympus had in its favour was its larger 7x zoom but it was only effective to about 5x so even that was nothing to shout about.
So whilst the Sony Cybershot DSC-S750 is a little more basic than the Olympus 1010 at least it can claim that the features it does have do work. There are far more sophisticated point and shoot cameras out there but I would be happy to recommend this particular one to anyone looking to get started in photography and quite happy to start at the beginning. If you already own a point and shoot of any stature and consider yourself to be good at using it then you are probably looking for a more advanced camera than this perhaps even a high zoom or a bridge camera but for beginners this is a good camera that will perform well.
3x optical zoom lens, equivalent to 35-105mm
Additional Smart Zoom
2.5-inch color LCD monitor
Shutter speeds from 1/2,000 to 1 second, depending on mode
Built-in flash with four modes
Memory Stick DUO / DUO PRO memory slot
Custom rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack
Multi-connector for A/V television connection and USB 2.0 connection
Seven preset Scene modes
Burst shooting mode
Face Detection technology
Macro and Self-Timer modes
Adjustable ISO from 100 to 1,250 equivalents, plus an Auto setting
Adjustable white balance with six settings
I suppose I should also briefly mention the cameras ability to shoot video as most if not all point and shoot cameras can. It is fairly basic and will not produce clear video images in anything other than perfect light. The sound is however fairly good although bad wind noise is picked up when outdoors. I am never a big fan of this function anyway, let's let cameras be cameras and video cameras do the videoing!!
Thanks for reading!