Home » Opinions » Digital Cameras » Sony Cyber shot DSC-V1

Sony Cyber shot DSC-V1

Sony’s Cyber-shot DSC-V1 is a 5 megapixel pro-sumer digital camera with a 4X optical zoom and plenty of gadgetry. Unlike many of its rivals, it’s a completely new design and not based on any previous models, although it arguably succeeds the older S85 in Sony’s range. Costing £549.99 with 32MB of memory, the V1 is comfortably the cheapest of its nearest rivals, the Canon G5 and Nikon 5400.

While most of its pro-sumer competitors opt for black coats, the Sony V1 is finished in smart silver. Measuring just 99 x 65 x 57mm and weighing only 291g with battery, it’s also smaller and lighter than its rivals. Design-wise, it looks and feels smart, and despite not having much of a grip to speak of, can be held reasonably comfortably.

Images are composed using either the optical viewfinder or the sharp and clear 1.5in display; unlike its rivals from Canon, Nikon and Olympus though, the screen is fixed and cannot be flipped out. Also there’s no separate status display. On the upside, it’s the first Sony digital camera to be equipped with a proper hotshoe, designed for use with an optional Sony flashgun; there’s also an accessory port. The built-in flash pops up when required, but must manually be pushed back afterwards.

The camera’s powered by one of Sony’s cunning Infolithium batteries which uniquely tell you how many minutes of life are remaining on screen – an invaluable facility compared to its rivals. The battery is charged in-camera by the supplied recharger which handily doubles as an AC adapter. The DC, USB and AV ports are all neatly housed behind a single door; the V1 has a USB 2 port (which also works on older USB 1.1 systems), although when connected to a USB 2 port on a PC, you’ll only experience a slight increase in transfer speed.

The V1 features a 4X optical zoom lens with a 35mm equivalent range of 34-136mm. Its actual focal length is 7-28mm with an average focal ratio of f2.8~4. The lens extends around 1.6cm during a fairly quick 3.5 second power-up, and features an automatic sliding lens cover rather than the removeable caps of its rivals.

Manual focussing is fair, offering 14 preset distances to choose from. Auto-focus is a triumph though, especially in dark conditions where the V1’s laser AF assist (first seen on the Sony F717) actually allows the camera to focus in pitch darkness. Thanks to infra red illumination on Nightframing mode, you can also compose nearby subjects in absolute darkness, and in Nightshot mode even use infra red to record them for spooky military-style images.

Somewhat disappointingly, the closest focussing distance in macro mode is just 10cm – modest compared to its competition and predecessors, although being able to focus at mid-zoom produces fair close-up results. There’s no optional macro lens attachment, but a choice of two adapters multiply the range by 0.7X or 1.7X.

The V1 employs a (1/1.8in) 5 megapixel sensor which delivers 4:3 aspect ratio images with a maximum resolution of 2592 x 1944 pixels – sufficient to make a good-looking 13 x 10in colour inkjet print at 200 ppi. Four lower resolutions (one a cropped 3:2 mode) can be selected, and there are two levels of JPEG compression to choose from. There’s no RAW mode, but you can alternatively save images as uncompressed TIFFs.

Using the maximum resolution with the Fine and Standard compression modes delivered files measuring around 2.6MB and 1.4MB respectively. Like all Sony digital cameras (apart from the latest Cyber-shot 828), the V1 records onto Memory Stick storage only, although it is also compatible with the larger Pro sticks. Sony supplies the V1 with a 32MB stick which can store 12 or 23 images at maximum resolution using Fine and Standard compression respectively.

A nine-position mode dial selects between Play, Auto, Program, Manual, Aperture and Shutter Priority, along with entering the Setup menu, choosing one of six scene presets, or capturing movies. Movie mode offers 640 x 480 pixel video at 16 fps with mono sound and impressively keeps recording while you’ve still got memory remaining.

Shutter speeds run between 1/1000 and 30 seconds, but there’s no Bulb option for longer exposures. Sensitivity is rated between 100 and 800 ISO, and while images are quite noisy at 800 ISO, they’re no more so than the V1’s rivals at 400 ISO. A live histogram is offered during composition, but disappointingly like earlier Sony cameras, the full-resolution burst mode is still limited to firing-off just three consecutive shots at around 2fps. On the upside, this is the first Sony camera to offer adjustable contrast, sharpness and saturation, albeit with just three levels of each. There’s also Sony’s unique Clip-motion mode which can capture up to ten images and save them as an animated GIF.

The V1 may be one of the most gadget-packed cameras out there, but there’s also no denying its excellent image quality which is ranked among the best of its rivals. It’s also a great camera in-use and one of the few which can both compose and frame in complete darkness. Sony really needs to improve its burst mode to compete with the best models, but otherwise there’s little to fault.

Ultimately cameras like Canon’s PowerShot G5 and in particular Nikon’s Coolpix 5400, offer a wider range of photographic features, but the V1 delivers more than enough control for the vast majority, while crucially coming in £100 cheaper than its competition – and in a smaller, lighter body too. The most serious photographers may rule it out on certain features, but the vast majority will love the V1 and find it delivers terrific value.

Verdict

Sony’s Cyber-shot DSC-V1 is one of the smallest, lightest and cheapest 5 megapixel / 4X zoom cameras on the market. It may be missing some of the ultimate control of its pricier rivals, but offers more than enough facilities for most photographers and some unique features including imaging in complete darkness. Excellent value and highly recommended.

{table:sonyv1}

comments powered by Disqus