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The menu holds several other manual functions, including adjustable contrast, saturation and sharpness, sepia and monochrome settings, two levels of image compression, ISO settings from 100-400, five pre-set white balance options and manual white balance. The only grumble I could come up with is that the exposure compensation is also on the menu, which is inconvenient if you need to use it in a hurry. On the other hand, since the metering is so good you don’t need to compensate very often anyway.
The tiny main mode dial has just six settings. In full auto mode, only the drive mode is available from the menu, and all other options are left on automatic. In Program mode most menu functions are available. Manual mode, somewhat surprisingly, doesn’t mean manual exposure. All it means is that the only menu functions available are the manual ones.
Other mode settings include playback, a scene mode setting with nine choices and the movie mode. As is usual with Sony cameras the movie mode is outstanding, shooting 640 x 480 VGA mode movies at 30 frames per second, and recording in the high-quality MPEG VX Fine mode. Recording times are limited only by the size of the Memory Stick card.
Image quality is outstanding; I would judge it to be almost the equal of the Nikon 7900. The high quality Carl Zeiss lens produces excellent results with no visible lens distortion even at wide angle, and the Sony SuperHAD CCD sensor and Real Imaging processor produce bright vibrant colours with plenty of zoomable detail. Close-range flash performance is outstanding, producing a well-lit shot with no burned-out highlights even at a range of a couple of feet. Image noise is well controlled even at ISO 400, although there were some noticeable colour inconsistencies. There is some very slight purple fringing on very high-contrast edges, but it is virtually negligible and certainly much lower than some cameras with which the P200 is competing.
All in all, a very creditable performance, and outstanding value for money. If you’re looking to replace a mid-range compact digital camera with one that has more megapixels, especially if you already use Memory Sticks, then the P200 is just what you need.
In a crowded and highly competitive sector of the digital camera market the Sony P200 stands out as a very high quality camera for a comparatively low price. It has plenty of useful features, excellent build quality, good image quality and lightning-fast performance. If you’re considering a camera upgrade this year, you should certainly give it consideration.
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