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Sony Cybershot DSC-F55DX review
(by Mike Slocombe, August 2002)
Rarer than the proverbial hen's teeth, this little known Sony camera (only released in Japan) is an absolute gem.
Almost identical in appearance to the earlier point'n'shoot Cybershot DSC-F55E camera, this updated version adds some essential features for advanced photographers while retaining its predecessors sleek, compact lines.
The DSC-F55DX offers a similar feature set to the Sony DSC-S70 camera, but comes in a much smaller package and - crucially - has the fabulous twisting lens, moveable through 180º.
If you've never used swivelling lens before, you'll soon grow to appreciate the flexibility it can bring to your photography - sneaky candid shots are much easier to grab, you don't have to bend over backwards to grab pictures of building tops, you can hold the camera above crowds and, of course, you can take pervy self portaits!
Like the Sony DSC-F55E, the camera comes with a fine Carl Zeiss fixed lens and bright 2" x 1" transmissive LCD screen, but increases the pixel count and adds vastly improved exposure controls.
Although the camera body proudly boasts the legend, '3.3 MEGAPIXELS', Sony's being a little economical with the truth - in practice, the maximum capture size is 2.62 megapixel with the shortfall being made up by software interpolation (a process of 'guessing' the extra pixels, best done in a decent paint package like Photoshop).
Photographs can be taken at 2240 x 1680 (interpolated), 1856 x 1392, 1856 x 1232 (3:2), 1280 x 960 and 640 x 480 pixel resolutions and there's also two movie modes for capturing short MPEG1 video clips with sound (320 x 240 - 15 seconds max., 160 x 112 - 60 seconds max).
Although these won't be good enough for filming your sci-fi blockbuster, they're more than adequate for web use or recording short visual notes. Short sound files can also be annotated to still images.
The exposure modes are comprehensive and versatile enough to meet most situations - Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Wide Focus Mode, Landscape, Night and Night Plus, and shutter speeds of 8 secs - 1/1000 allows for night trail effects and action freezing.
Exposures can be fine tuned via the onscreen tools for centre weighted and spot metering options, white balance adjustment (Auto, Indoor, Outdoor) and exposure compensation (+/-2.0EV in 0.5EV steps).
The camera comes with a F2.8 fixed lens (37mm, 35mm equiv, aperture range of F2.8 - F8.0.) but also boasts a 'digital zoom' which is best turned off as it looks crap - if you need a zoom feature, buy a camera that's got a proper optical zoom!
The focus range is 25cm - infinity in 'normal' mode with the 'macro' setting going down to 10cm - 25cm. Images can be saved in JPEG and TIFF formats with a GIF 'text' option for photographing high contrast text.
Most digital camera suffer from the twin evils of slow start up times and shutter lag, but the Sony fares better than most on this score: start up time was around 2 seconds and the shutter lag was acceptable - but definitely not suitable for sports or action fans.
The small onboard flash (with Auto, On, Off and Anti-Red-Eye modes) is fine for pictures of pub crawls and close ups of drunk mates, but if you're hoping to illuminate Tom Jones from the back row of the Albert Hall, forget it.
Like the earlier Cybershot DSC-F55E, the DSC-F55DX offers an excellent battery life, coupled with an intuitive control panel and a well rounded feature set.
Although more recent Sony models offer higher megapixel capture and smaller bodies, none of them can match the DSC-F55DX for size and flexibility - quite why Sony stopped making compact models with swivelling lens is anyone's guess, but for now I'm going to carry on using this baby!
(Note: the Sony DSC-F55DX is almost identical to the earlier DSC-F55V. Both models are discontinued.)
Rating (out of five): FIVE STARS
Pros: size, exposure controls, superb image quality, MPEG/sound recording, battery life
Cons: not a true 3.3 megapixel camera
» See examples of photos taken with this camera in the photo gallery.
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