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I bought this Sony Cybershot camera about 4 years ago, and must say that during that time I have been pretty pleased with its performance. It isn't a flashy camera by any stretch of the imagination, but it has its fair share of features and for the most part does its job well.
The camera's features include different photo modes like black and white, sepia, negative, solarized, and others. These different modes work well, and you can get some cool shots in daylight, however in artificial lighting they generally aren't so good, especially with a flash.
There is also a timer setting on the camera so you can set up and then run round to be in the photo - this is really useful and only takes 2 or 3 pushes of the button to set up so its easy and quick to do.
The camera has both a still and video image capture option. The video footage however is really not great quality. I find that the footage generally looks very blue and is quite grainy. Still, it's enough to get a bit of a reminder about a festival or something like that. You can get much better footage on a lot of mobile phones these days though.
The picture quality I find to be generally excellent. The only slight problem I have is that when taking pictures of things very close up there seems to be a slight fish-eye effect, which means that straight lines in the image can look a bit distorted. Otherwise though it does seem to be quite true to real life colours, and I very rarely get blurring when using the normal photo modes. This is far more of a problem in the other photo modes, but I don't use them too often so it isn't a big problem.
The size of the camera was not too bad at the time I bought it but it's definitely quite big for a camera these days. It still fits reasonably into my handbag, but certainly wouldn't fit in a pocket - it's about 3 or 4cm thick, which is considerably bigger than most these days. Likewise, the screen for playing pictures back is adequate but is much smaller than most on cameras these days - it's about 2cm by 3cm.
There is a 3x zoom on the camera, which does a pretty good job as far as I can see. I've never had a problem with it although you do have to be careful to stand very still when taking photos at full zoom. At 3.2 megapixels it isn't anywhere near some other cameras, but I have never noticed any decrease in photo quality compared to my friends' cameras, and it means that you can fit more photos onto the memory card!
The battery is good and holds charge really well - lasting me at least 3 or 4 days at a time when I'm away on holiday. Taking pictures with the flash does get a bit slow when the battery is running down though.
The camera can be easily connected to laptops with a USB and transferring the images to your computer is easy, as with most digital cameras.
All in all I'm pretty satisfied with this camera, and feel like it has lasted really well. I've never had any problems with it failing to work or taking bad pictures. However, purely because of the slightly bigger size and the smaller screen I would consider replacing it with a newer digital camera sometime soon.
I have looked around for prices but this camera doesn't seem to be available for sale anywhere at the moment - I guess it's out of date! Anyway, you could probably pick it up second hand pretty cheap at some shops - in which case I would recommend it, it's been very reliable for me!
Digital photography is one of the most rapidly expanding areas of electronics today. It is unsurprising that as the technology matures, prices come down. However, in a subject like photography which seems to require so much expertise and understanding just to know how to use your camera to its full potential, picking out an overpriced product from a real bargain is all the more difficult. To help explain why, I would divide digital cameras up into three categories:
'Fun' cameras that are very cheap, and so not much can be expected of them, in terms of image quality especially. Although it took a while for this market to grow to its full potential, now you can go into The Gadget Shop and buy a small digital camera for £20 or under. At this price, I doubt anyone would seriously expect a very good quality of picture; a resolution of around 640x480 is to be expected.
'Professional' cameras. The price range on these babies can rocket into the thousands of pounds, so the only people who would be buying them are people who (a) know what they're talking about or (b) are rich enough for it to make no particular odds if they're ripped off. These have resolutions of upwards of eight mega (million) pixels.
It's the group in-between these two that you have to be wary about buying into. As I said earlier, unless you are familiar with photographic terms, it's very much easier to be muddled between an overpriced 'group one' camera and an under priced 'group two' one. This halfway camp, with a price range of £200-£600, is the group that the Sony DSC-P7 falls into. People buying this sort of camera want good value for money. They don't want (or need) something that can take pictures you could sell to wildlife magazines; what they do want is something in a compact, stylish design that will take high-quality holiday and family snapshots, as well as being capable of handling the occasional more strenuous task.
This camera fits these specifications superbly.
The first thing that you notice is the price. Sony products have a reputation for being expensive, but with this is the knowledge of knowing that you're buying into a large, respected, quality company, with plenty of help for when things go wrong. If you look at other 7 megapixel cameras, you will see that the current price tag of £200 for this is one the expensive side, but by no means exceptionally so; on all accounts, this camera is good value for money.
Framed in a silver body, from the moment you pick the DSC-P7 up you know that it's a quality product. The components are obviously held together tightly in the good-quality screws used and the real metal case, no plastic. The camera has reassuring substance, and has that 'comfortingly heavy' feel to it, I'm sure you know the one I mean. Although it can't compete in size with the tiny gadget like mini-cams, as far as 5+megapixel cameras go, it is quite compact - very easy to carry around and be on your person. As you can see from the picture above, it has a square body on one side that curves around the shape of the lens in a circular fashion on the other. Very stylish. It is ergonomically designed and places itself in your hands in a natural position - left index finger falling on the shutter button, around which is the mode dial. You twist this to choose one of the five modes;
>Setup, in which you establish the basic settings of the camera such as date and time;
>Playback, in which you review all your captured images and movies;
>Movie/Clip Motion Mode/Multi Burst, where you shoot movies etc;
>Scene Mode offers three different pre-set programs by which to take photos; and finally,
>Auto Mode, where the camera automatically sets itself up for your shot, displaying information on the LCD screen.
The camera is constructed in such a manner that, no matter what your hand size is, your left thumb can control all the functions on the back of the camera. Right in the top-left hand corner is the zoom in/out buttons, then there is a five-way keypad which as well as being the means by which you navigate the menus of the camera, acts as shortcuts to various popular functions. Below this are two small circular buttons, the LCD on/off switch and the menu button, which surprisingly will take you straight to the main menu. With the aid of a couple of well-thought out and implemented grip devices, it is entirely possible and easy to control all the camera's functions with just one hand.
On the right side of the camera, which is the squared side, there is a little flap beneath which lie the battery and memory card slots. The Info-Lithium battery, although small in size, is very long lasting, up to about six hours, although if you have the screen on the battery time will be much less. The Memory Stick is Sony's very own media - which essentially means that it is very expensive. You'll want to buy a decent size stick, as the one that comes with is only 128MB, a respectable size but in reality you'll need a much bigger stick - 2GB of storage will cater hundreds of high-resolution snaps. These days you can pick up such a stick for the bargain price of £20, much cheaper than Sony's own brand.
The images that the camera takes are, well, superb - incredibly high quality, much higher than I was expecting even at this price. There are five image sizes that you can take - the largest being 2048 x 1536 pixels, the smallest (VGA) 640x480. Obviously if every picture you take is going to be on the highest quality, you will need to invest in a very large memory stick. However, it is with this that one of the great advantages of digital photography comes to light - where you once in the past only took one picture, afraid of wasting expensive film, now you can take as many as you like, deleting unneeded ones at will, free of charge.
The 5x optical zoom lens is excellent. It provides 2 apertures, f2.8 and f5.6 in wide angle, becoming f5.6 and f10 at the maximum telephoto position. This is combined with shutter speeds that range from 1/2000 to 1/30 second in Auto mode, and down to 2 seconds in the Twilight/Twilight Portrait modes. There are two forms of autofocus as well as the ability to manually focus the image.
As well as standard photographs, the DSC P-7 allows you to make MPEG movies, with no length limit other than the memory. There are three image quality settings on this option. There is also Multi Burst, which allows you to capture a burst of 16 images at changeable intervals. Then there is a unique Sony feature: clip movies can be recorded at the Normal setting, which allows up to 10 frames; or Mobile which consists of 2 frames. Images are recorded in 256 colours and stored in a GIF format that is immediately usable in a web page, or a presentation. There is also the option to record sound with a movie or even still photo. The flash offers now commonplace features such as red eye reduction, and does its job very well. There is a plethora of other features that you would expect to find on a camera of this calibre, so I'm not going to list them here, other than to say that they all work rather well.
The DSC P-7 has the benefit of a superb colour LCD screen that crams in a remarkable amount of detail. This is a selling point of the camera in its own right, and is really helpful to use as both a viewfinder and image review. Using it as a viewfinder usefully liberates you from having to hold the camera to your face, which can be particularly useful in certain instances. The menu interface is also very fluid and easy to get the hang of, but it is worth reading the manual first to avoid accidentally deleting half of your holiday shots, which, believe me, has happened before to great annoyance.
Other than the camera itself, the other aspect to digital photography is the computer software supplied with it. Sony's bundled software is, although definitely adequate, not exceptional - good enough for basic editing but for serious stuff you need to go out and buy something like Photoshop. Alternatively, Google offer a great little image-editing program called Picassa, which is fully capable of the average users needs, a real doss to use and most importantly, free.
Sony supplies Pixela Image Mixer, a software suite, composed of four sections each with its own interface. The program can be used to retrieve images from the camera when connected via USB; organize photos into albums; and do some rudimentary editing to both photos and movies. In addition, decorative frames and text can be added to photos. Installing Pixela isn't required for the installation of the USB driver. The driver is independent on the CD; USB drivers are provided for Windows 98, Windows 98SE, Windows ME, 2000, and XP. It is also fully compliant with Macintosh. With Windows XP the camera is recognized automatically. I'd recommend you to use the power charger while the camera is connected to your computer.
In general, this is a superb digital camera. Although when it first came out it was very (too) expensive, you can now pick one up online for about £200, so this is no longer an issue. It has everything required of the group that it was primarily aimed at, and more besides. I can only find regrets with it if I do some serious nitpicking; no long exposure and no basic priority modes would be the only notable two. However, even without these functions it is a great piece of equipment whose positives far outweigh the negatives. If you are looking for a compact, stylish digital camera that can take good images, or maybe a replacement for your old film camera, then I seriously recommend the Sony DSC P7 to you. It will continue to impress both you and your friends.
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