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Sony Cybershot DSC-F55E review
(by Mike Slocombe, Internet Magazine, June, 1999)
For web designers keen to add their own pictures, movies and sound files to their sites, the new Sony Cybershot DSC-F55E could be the answer to their prayers.
Not only is it capable of producing very high quality stills (2.1 million pixels), but it has the added bonus of being able to record short MPEG video and sound files that are perfect for uploading to the web or mailing out as email attachments.
Thankfully, the camera is a fraction of the size of the earlier pocket-ripping Mavica range, thanks partly to Sony's new, non-proprietary memory storage device, the diminutive Memory Stick.
A 16 meg Stick allows you to store up to 40 JPEG images at the camera's highest resolution (1600 x 1200 pixels at 24 bit) or record a ten and a half minute 160x112 pixel MPEG movie (two and a half minutes at 320x240).
The camera has a nifty rotating lens/flash housing which comes in handy for those tricky camera angles and dodgy self portraits. Unfortunately, there is no optical viewfinder provided, but the innovative 2" x 1" LCD screen works well in most conditions.
This combines transmissive and reflective technology and, in the right conditions, can operate without the backlight to save battery life, claimed at a mighty 1,000 shots for one charge.
The Cyber-shot comes with an excellent Carl Zeiss lens, which produced some of the sharpest pictures I've seen from any digital camera and worked well under a host of demanding conditions.
Colour rendition and detail reproduction was spot on, although the lack of a proper optical zoom was disappointing, as was the bodged-up recharger which forces you to remove the battery every time.
The intuitive on-screen menu and straightforward navigation controls made the Sony a breeze to use, with enough advanced features to make it more than a 'point and shoot' affair, although experienced photographers may find their options somewhat limited compared to more expensive rivals like the Nikon Coolpix 950.
Capturing movies was simplicity itself; set the record time or just keep your finger on the button and go! The clips can be reviewed on the camera (there's a small loudspeaker on board) before being saved out as MPEG files for uploading to the web or converting to alternative web streaming formats.
Transferring files to your computer wasn't so easy: using the supplied serial port connector takes an eternity and there's no USB option or floppy disk adapter for the Memory Stick. Users in a hurry may have to consider forking out extra for the pricey PC Card adapter or PC Card/parallel port adapter
For web authors this could prove an irresistible package: with just one small camera it's possible to record and review high resolution photographs, web-quality MPEG movies and voice memos, transfer them to your desktop using the excellent bundled Picture Gear software, and have them up on the Net in minutes.
Heck, even I couldn't resist - I went straight out and bought one!
Rating (out of five): FOUR STARS
Pros: size, superb image quality, MPEG/sound recording, battery life, good software
Cons: no floppy disk adapter, stingy 4 meg bundled Memory Stick
(note: this camera is now discontinued, although you can pick up occasional reconditioned models).
» See examples of photos taken with this camera in the photo gallery.
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